Women in Libya’s Civil War

7 Aug

{If you are sensitive to depictions of sexual assault and violence, please be careful about which links you click on.  In order to ‘see’ what you are going to, in some browsers, you can hold your mouse over a link without clicking and see what the name of the link is in the lower left of the window.}

In the history of the world, the civil war in Libya will undoubtedly be remembered as a male event.  A close friend of mine is Libyan, so I’ve been paying attention to the news and, like a cage fight, most of the media features men fighting men – Moammar Qaddafi and his agents fighting against rebellious (male) Libyans.  Even the refugees that the media speaks to are usually male.

But unlike many Middle Eastern countries, Libya is a fairly socially liberal Muslim nation.  Women are able to be educated and work and interact with men in everyday life.  So even more than a country like Egypt perhaps, there are women involved too, and not just passive victimsIman al-Beidi, for instance, risked her life to tell her story to the world.  Some are able to engage in creative rebellion.  Some are “fighting, organizing, feeding, and healing” the rebels.

There are a few particularly well-known and interesting women on each side, as well.  Perdita Nabbous, widow of Libyan journalist Mo Nabbous, is trying to keep his legacy alive, encouraging her fellow citizens to keep fighting.  Iman al-Obeidi risked her life to tell the world what was happening to women in Libya*.  On the other side are such reviled figures as “Huda the Executioner” and Gaddafi’s wife, women of arguable innocence who have no doubt benefited from Gaddafi’s oppressive regime.  Finally, there are women in the middle, like Oksana Balinskaya, who acted as nurse to Gaddafi for years but who ultimately has very little stake in the outcome of this civil war.

Women and their contributions are too often forgotten, dismissed, or ignored in the course of history, especially when it comes to war.  Let’s not forget these women.  No matter what they have done, and no matter what the outcome of this war, their contributions matter too.

*Iman left Libya to avoid the backlash against her and lived in several other countries for awhile, but luckily she has been granted asylum in the US.

{Another disclaimer: Most of what I have read on the issue has been from the rebel side.  While I’m more sympathetic to their side, I won’t pretend that they report circumstances impartially.}

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