Women form core of resistance in Libya
Summary of story from Radio Netherlands Worldwide, 28.2.2011
A group of women sit on the front-line of internal resistance to Muammar Gaddafi’s crumbling dictatorial regime in Libya.
Leading the charge is lawyer Salwa Bugaigis, who organised a sit-in at the Attorney General’s office in Benghazi, the first serious boost to the uprising by the country’s youth.
“We couldn’t believe that Benghazi fell into our hands after only four days of protest. The regime is brutal, but our determination was rock solid,” she said.
A mother of three, Bugaigis has played a prominent role in the revolution so far, managing the political side of the protest, but also co-ordinating practical help and assistance.
One minute she is organising food supplies arriving into Libya’s ports, the next she is briefing the press over the latest, often disputed, casualty figures.
She misses her three sons, but cannot see them for fear that links to her would make them targets for Gaddafi loyalists on the street.
“I have seen my three sons of 20, 19 and 17 only once in five days ago. They are out there in front of this building among the demonstrators, but they can’t come in here to see me. That would jeopardise their own safety.”
She is a target too, receiving threatening phone calls almost every day, and sleeping in a different place every night for fear of detection and recriminations.
It is a price that Bugaigis is willing to pay, however.
In setting a strong example, she has encouraged more and more women to emerge from the shadows and join in the resistance in a way that would previously have been unthinkable.
In the 1980s Gadaffi was touted as a leader of women’s rights in the middle-east, but in practical terms men remained the head of business and family as they always had done.
Bugaigis is hopeful that, after the revolution, women will play a more significant role in the country and says she “can see the new, free prosperous, human rights-respecting Libya.”
We can only hope that her vision becomes reality.