By Maha Ellawati.
Benghazi, 3 May:
One of Benghazi’s newest voters is Libya’s oldest person, 108-year-old Embarka Ali Saeed Al-Madani who lives in . . .[restrict]Benghazi’s Gwarsha District. A week ago, she went to her registration centre, no. 8, and there joined with others far younger than herself, waiting to sign up for a voting card.
She has seen invaders and regimes come and go but never before has she voted. Born in 1904 when Benghazi was then part of the Ottoman empire, she was just seven when the Italians invaded and captured the country. When she was married in 1924, the Italians were fighting Omar Mukhtar. Two decades later, when she was a grandmother, she then saw them and their German allies forced out like the Turks before them and the city come under British military administration. She saw it become part of the brief Emirate of Cyrenaica, then the co-capital of the Kingdom of Libya, after that the second city of the United Kingdom of Libya and then for 42 years stagnate and rot under the Qaddafi regime which so despised and resented it.
Women were able to vote and stand for elections in period of the kingdom but Embarka did neither. So now, at the age of 108, she is like so many others but some of them 90 years her junior, a first-time voter.
“I hope Libya will get better and better,” she said, back at home in Gwarsha, surrounded by five generations of her family. With all her ten children still alive but most in their seventies, and her offspring totaling some 70, she is very much the matriarch. At times a little confused with so much attention fossed on her as the absolute great-great-grandmother-of-all-voters, she says that for a long time she hoped that one day she would be able to participate in decision making and feel free in her own country and have a say in what goes on.
Despite her age, she decided when the elections were announced that she wanted to take part in the process and cast her vote.
All her family and her neighbours should to go out and cast their vote in the local elections, she insisted.
Benghazi’s local elections are on 5 May.