War Opens Opportunities For Women in Libya


The war in Libya has given women opportunities they might never have had, says the New York Times. Fatima Bredan became a hairdresser after she mocked Muammar el-Gaddafi’s Green Book, the book of his musings that Libyans were required to read. After pro-Gaddafi doctors and nurses abandoned Matiga Hospital in Tripoli, Bredan has been tending to wounded rebel fighters, saying that “Now, everybody calls me Doctor.” Nabila Abdelrahman Abu Ras, a lawyer, helped to organized Tripoli’s first lawyers’ demonstration in February; while pregnant, she helped to print leaflets that women tossed from cars.

Also in February, female relatives of prisoners killed in a massacre in Abu Salim prison held a protest in the eastern city of Benghazi. They were joined by prominent female lawyers and, as the crowds grew, Gaddafi’s forces fired on them. Seeing the images on television stirred Hweida Shibadi, a family lawyer, to organize 100 colleagues, including about 20 women, to protest in Tripoli. She also helped NATO find airstrike targets:

..Ms. Shibadi, the lawyer who once thought herself too emotional to be a judge and who was forbidden by her family to study English abroad, was helping determine airstrike targets.

She collected weapons and information on troop locations from friends and family in the security forces and relayed the news to a female friend whose cousin, a fighter, passed it to rebel leaders who, she was told, passed it to NATO.

Twice, a female friend living in a high-rise near the airport spotted soldiers carting in heavy weapons. Twice, Ms. Shibadi reported it, and NATO bombs soon fell. She could not be sure it was because of her, but the possibility was thrilling.

Gaddafi thought himself a champion of women; his Green Book described the “sanctity of breastfeeding and female domesticity.” Gaddafi had created a law in which men had to seek his first wife’s permission before marrying a second wife. But the reality, as women interviewed by the New York Times note, was that women had little say or part in government; that “those Gaddafi] promoted, like his female bodyguards, were seen as cronies, sex objects or both.” In Tripoli, women drive cars and mix with men, but still say that their independence is “fragile.”

Libya’s 45-member Transitional National Council only has one woman on it and the NTC’s headquarters does not even have a restroom for women. But many women, emboldened by the new roles they have been able to take on during the war, are determined to continue working outside the home and making inroads into government.

Earlier today, a senior US official traveled to Tripoli to meet Libya’s new leaders, says the Guardian. US assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs Jeffrey Feltman is the first member of the Obama administration to visit the capital since it fell to the ex-rebels. Al-Arabiya journalist Zaid Benjamin claims that the leaders of Turkey, France and the UK, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron, could all be in Tripoli on Thursday. Gaddafi’s son Saadi has been effectively placed under house arrest in Niger, according to US State department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

Changes are afoot in Libya: Will women be able to preserve the gains they’ve made?

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Photo by Vhardy


Susan C.
Susan C6 years ago

Milton Allimadi, "Massacre of Blacks in Libya by NATO-backed Rebels: UN 'No Comment' on Ethnic Cleansing" (13 Sept)

"The Wall Street Journal reports that Black people have been emptied from the City of Tawergha in Libya, their homes razed, ... "slaves" and "negroes" scribbled on their abandoned buildings ... by NATO-backed rebels. The chilling account of ethnic-cleansing of Black people in Libya, ... appears under the headline "Revenge Feeds Instability in Libya."

These are the "liberators" that Pres. Obama, Pres. Sarkozy and PM Cameron helped install in Libya to replace Maummar al-Quathafi? They all rejected an African Union proposal that would have brought a ceasefire and the warring parties to a table to create a constitution and hold elections.

Meanwhile, the so-called "prime minister" of the "rebels" Mahmoud Jibril is quoted in the Journal, with respect to the fate of the Black citizens of Tawergha saying: "... my own viewpoint is that nobody has the right to interfere in this matter except the people of Misurata" .... Surely Jibril knows that he's inciting to further ethnic cleansing. ...

The White House has yet to issue a single statement condemning this ethnic cleansing .... Hillary Clinton's Dept. of State remains mute. The leaders of organizations that profess to protect the rights of Black people, ... the NAACP ... and the National Urban League ... have yet to make statements. Surely, someone must read The Wall Street Journal. This is the second article

Dianne Robertson
Dianne Robertson6 years ago

I LOVE their enthusiasm! I hope they use it well and prosper!

K P M.
K P M.6 years ago

The notion that women's rights were particularly 'fragile' under Qadhafi and should improve under rebel rule seems doubly misguided. Look at the other recent cases where more or less secular rulers have been removed -- as in Iraq, and now Egypt, possibly Tunisia -- and Islamist influences allowed to come to the fore. And we might mention the socialist government of Afghanistan before the US supported an Islamist takeover there!

Marjaana V.
marjaana v6 years ago


so the war is a wonderful way to advance suffrage?

are you out of your friggin' mind?

i haven't the foggiest about how people in libya live, but to glorify the dirty work these women have to do is just daft!

Marie W.
Marie W6 years ago

Won't last unless there is fundamental change.

Winn Adams
Winn A6 years ago

War is never the answer. However, I hope the women of this country are able to have many more freedoms than they now have.

Penny C.
penny C6 years ago


Caryll Faraldi
Caryll Faraldi6 years ago

As long as they are not black Libyans (about one third of the population) or black economic migrants, of whom both men and woman have suffered at the hands of the rebels, including torture, murder and rape.

Alicia N.
Alicia N6 years ago

noted and good luck to those women.

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons6 years ago

Sick article glorifying war. How long are these women going to have their opportunities before the extremist in the rebel party are in control and don't let them out of the house without a burka?