By Libya Herald journalist.
Tunis, 8 March 2015:
Today, to mark International Women’s Day, Libya Herald reached out to a number of Libyan . . .[restrict]women activists to gage their views on the occasion and on where women’s rights stand in Libya – four years after the revolution. Some saw the glass half full. Others were less optimistic. Some objected to the idea of one day to remember women’s rights.
Political activist Maysoon Tugar said that ‘’when we started the revolution in 2011 as part of the so called Arab Spring, we thought that we were calling for the rule of law, democracy and freedom. But unfortunately, we as women, have seen our rights deteriorate slowly but surely’’.
‘‘We see it in the change of laws, for example, the case against having women judges has been brought to the courts. The segregation of the sexes in schools under the banner of morals and Islamic teachings. So all in all, our rights as liberal democratic people have been diminishing’’.
Civil society activist Najah Dawaji told this newspaper that ‘’every day, but especially today, we remember and salute all the brave Libyan women who stood courageously in the face of patriarchy, misogyny, violence and ignorance. Brave Libyan women who never gave up on freedom and dignity achieved through peaceful means’’.
‘’While we mourn those we have lost, we must equally celebrate their achievements – their cry for civil rights and social justice’’.
‘’I am hopeful that this will soon become a reality through roads they’ve paved, glimmers of which we’re seeing through the recent Ambassadorial appointments of powerful intelligent Libyan women to the EU the UN and of course to the U.S. We all recognize this as no small feat and will have tremendous positive ramifications’’.
Amel Jerary, Media Office Director of former Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s government, said that she could not ‘make up her mind ”about International Women’s Day. If we need a day in the year to honour women, then I think we have a serious problem as far as Libyan women are concerned. As with men, basic rights in Libya are on the line. Today in Libya no one has rights except those with weapons imposing their rights on others with terror”.
”With a ‘‘women’s day’’, I just wonder: Are we indirectly insinuating that the rest of the days of the year are “men’s days”?
A professional Libyan woman from Tripoli, known to Libya Herald said, on condition of anonymity that while ‘‘in 2011, Libyans were fighting for freedom and democracy not women’s rights, thinking that it was the same for both men and women”.
”However, four years on the circle of the rights guaranteed under Islam from the time of the Prophet (PBUH) who was a great supporter of women in addition to the civil rights acquired during the past decades under the previous regime are slowly decreasing under the many crisis experienced by Libyans and which are tearing the network of the society apart! It is very sad and slightly alarming to feel fear as a woman in Libya”.
Another women activist, known by this publication, again speaking anonymously, was even more pessimistic. “I feel that the International Community, although they say they are working to help women all over the world, have actually deserted Libyan women. I fear that our end will not be too far from what many Afghani women have suffered, and if we are lucky Iranian women’’.
‘’When we are fighting for our lives we tend to be selfish and can mostly only think of ourselves. So I hope that this year the international community can forgive me my bitterness in not openly celebrating the day. Today I am even more sad than other days, as I look at the international plight of women and see just how alone we are. May God help us and have mercy on us. We got rid of one devil only to have opened up the doors of hell. Yet we must find the faith and strength to keep going.”
Fatima Hamroush was former Health Minister under Prime Minister Abdurrahim Al-Kib from November 2011 until the 2012 July GNC elections gave birth to the new Ali Zeidan government.
Hamroush knows how it feels like being a woman in power and in a government, parliament and society dominated by men. She had been threatened and attacked during her tenure in office. But she fought back against her critics.
‘‘The mere existence of an ‘’International Women’s Day” is in itself an admission of the existence of discrimination. There is no such a thing as “International Men’s Day”. However, considering that the world admits this fact and, in the remembrance of all women who fought their way for their rights and the rights of others, I salute all who have persevered, persisted and chose not to remain silent and let evil grow”.
Activist Ayat Mneina said that ‘‘despite the ever increasing difficulty and danger women face in Libya they have demonstrated that they are part and parcel of its path forward. To the best of their ability, women have remained in the forefront of Libya’s civil society and are working hard to ensure their rights are enshrined in the constitution. While we have lost some of our most prominent women this past year, among them Intisar, Salwa and Fariha, their successors continue to persevere’’.
Activist Nafissa Assed, commenting on the occasion said that ‘‘a women’s day is every day. As a Libyan, today is a day to reward every Libyan lady for her strong spirit and resilience in keeping up her hope for what she can’t control’’.
‘‘Today is a day to remind every Libyan man that the strength of a Libyan woman is not measured by the impact or size of her hardships in life; instead it’s measured by her determined refusal to allow anyone to dictate her life and who she becomes’’.
”Today is a day to give sound appreciation to every Libyan woman who had to give up her life for what she stood for; and to every living Libyan woman who courageously keeps her head up, carrying a thicker skin and a louder voice than a man – to get her better opinions and ideas heard by the world’’.
‘‘Today is a day to remind Libyans that a woman can never be a man and a man can never be a woman. Most importantly, today is not a day for Libyan women to give a sound to an outdated problem like crying for help, equality, or trying to prove that they commonly suffer more pain, illness and misery than any Libyan war hero ever does’’.
‘‘However, today is a day to remind every Libyan woman and man of what Susan Sontag once said: “what is the most beautiful in virile men is something feminine; what is most beautiful in feminine women is something masculine”.