Libyan Women Victims of Nine Years of War, Marginalization
The armed conflicts and wars that Libya has witnessed since the February 2011 revolution have left generations of women widowed and bereaved.
Organizations concerned with the affairs of women in Libya have reported that the damage caused to women has been enormous, despite the gains that they have made, including the rise in levels of education and entering the job market.
A spokesperson for the Initiative to Save Feminist Libya, Amina al-Hasya, has monitored the effect of war and armed conflict on women in the country. She says: “Libyan women have lost their husbands, sons, and brothers, and were humiliated during the displacement process with their children as a result of the ongoing war in the capital”.
The World Health Organization has stated that more than 200,000 displaced women in their reproductive age are in dire need of humanitarian aid. The Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations estimated that the number of those displaced as a result of the war in Tripoli is around 140,000, noting that many of them are women and children whose breadwinners were killed during the ongoing war or previous armed conflicts among the militias.
The suffering of Libyan women was made worse by the rise of extremist movements in the country. Hasya says that “a large segment of women have suffered from extremism after they had broken several restrictions that were imposed on them. Terrorist groups started to rise between 2015 and 2018 and many female activists were assassinated throughout the country, most prominently, the rights activist Salwa Bugaighis. Bugaighis was shot in the head in her home in Benghazi in July 2014. This happened as part of an effort to undermine Libyan women and force them to sit at home. More assassinations then followed and this led, according to Hasya, to an accumulation of crises for women.
Despite their suffering during these turbulences, women have been able to achieve large successes on several levels. At the beginning of this week, the Libyan Technocratic Assembly, a civil-political organization, promised to encourage women to run for the presidency of Libya.
Libyan political analyst Abdel Azeem al-Bashti sees that women have occupied a role at the “heart of the issue of murder, mutilation, wounding, and displacement” and pointed out the “mental damage that women have suffered due to forced displacement in addition to hundreds of them living in schools and abandoned factories with their children without any providers”.
In cities in West Libya, especially Tripoli and Misrata, the suffering of women has been worse during the period of instability caused by militias, in addition to battles that have killed tens of civilians every once in a while, from the “Libyan Dawn” militia wars in 2014 to the current situation that has pushed thousands of young men to fight in defense of Tripoli.
The women of Misrata are proud of being mothers to martyrs killed on the frontlines, whether before or during the current war in the capital. This suffering has not stopped many mourning women in Misrata from integrating with others through cooking food and preparing drinks for fighters on the frontline.