Rima Nasir Tarazi
Rima Nasir Tarazi is a musician, an activist, a community leader and, above all, a humanist and a loving grandmother. Rima is the president of the administrative board of the General Union of Palestinian Women in Palestine, and the co-founder and chairperson of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music. A dedicated volunteer, Rima is a founding member of the Board of Trustees of Birzeit University, and she serves on the executive committee of Inaash El-Usra as well.
Due to the emerging needs of the community, after the Israeli occupation in 1967, Rima became involved in several organizations and activities. She chaired the human rights committee at the YWCA of Jerusalem (1982-1991), and served as the NGO coordinator for the Beijing Women’s International Conference. She was elected president of the YWCA of Ramallah for two terms, after which she was elected National President of the YWCA of Palestine (1996-1999). She continues to be very vocal on the inalienable rights of the Palestinians and the need for a just solution based on UN resolutions.
Rima was born in Jaffa in March 1932 and spent her early childhood in Ramleh. She went to school as a boarder at Birzeit College (a high school at the time) before she was seven years old. One of her eight aunts, who was living with the family in Ramleh at the time, found Rima very receptive to learning languages and mathematics at an early age, so when it was time to go to school she was admitted to grade three and was the class valedictorian when she graduated from high school at the age of 15. Her father, the late Musa Nasir had to make a special request to the American Junior College in Beirut to have her admitted to the freshman class because she was under age. Rima again excelled at the College, not only academically but in music and drama and other activities. At the end of the two years she was awarded the Torch, the highest award of the College for exemplary students.
In 1949 she left to Paris to pursue her studies in music. She had started playing the piano in her early days at school under the tutelage of Palestinian musician Salvador Arnita. In Paris she studied piano and composition. But Rima had to interrupt her studies in 1951 and return home at the request of her dying aunt Nabiha, the founder of Birzeit College, who wanted to see Rima before she passed away.
That was a turning point in her life, as she never returned to Paris after the death of her aunt. Instead, she taught music and other subjects at Birzeit College. In 1952 she pursued her university education at the American University of Beirut and got a BA in psychology with a minor in Arabic, while pursuing her music at the same time. Her involvement in university life, her activism, her caring for issues and for people were certainly positive factors that led to her election as head of the Women Student Organization at the AUB.
After graduation in 1954 she returned to teach at Birzeit, which had already started developing as a college of higher education, and was hosting a teachers’ training course for UNRWA. With her qualifications she was very much needed for the new course. Rima played a very important role in developing the music programme at Birzeit College. For two years she worked closely with the renowned musician Yousef El-Batrouni, training a choir of around 80 students. She, El-Batrouni and Amin Nasir alternated in writing music to the poetry of Kamal Nasir and other poets. In 1956 the choir had a performance accompanied by an orchestra directed by El-Batrouni, with Rima at the piano.
In 1956 she married Dr. Antone Tarazi and left with him to Canada where he was specializing in neurosurgery. They returned home in 1960 and Rima became involved again in the musical life of Birzeit College on a part-time basis, as she was busy bringing up her family of four boys.
After 1967, Rima started writing the lyrics for her compositions. Through those songs she actually documents the inhumane daily events taking place under the military occupation. She expresses the voice of Palestinian mothers, prisoners and children who all yearn for freedom, dignity and peace. Although Rima’s songs are about a dispossessed and suffering people, yet they are full of hope as they communicate the dreams and aspirations of the Palestinian people.
Rima’s songs have been performed locally by several choirs. With Tania Tamari Nasir as soloist, they were also performed in Paris, Dubai and Amman. A CD of Rima’s songs and lyrics performed by Tania will come out later this year.