Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The untold truth about our culture!

Following is an excerpt from a press release by the Human Rights Watch, "Libya: Women, Girls Locked Up Indefinitely Without Charge," published February 27, 2006. You may read the full article in English or Arabic.

"Libyan authorities are holding many women and girls in these facilities who have committed no crime, or who have completed a sentence. Some are there for no reason other than that they were raped, and are now ostracized for 'staining their families' honor.' Officials transferred the majority of these women and girls to these facilities against their will, while those who came voluntarily did so because no genuine shelters for victims of violence exist in Libya."

The full report about this topic, "A Threat to Society?" is available in Arabic and English.

This horrendous report uncovers the truth about the status of women in Libya, and it refutes all claims that women in Libya are respected and have rights and all the rhetoric we hear about this topic. It's shocking, dreadful, and sad...


  • I think it is also interesting to read the official reply from the Libyan government, and ask oneself whether this is the reply of an agency that is part of the solution or part of the problem.

    Libyan Official Libyan Government Response

    In my opinion, the government reply raises more questions than it answers. It reflects quite faithfully the social and political propaganda of a denialist culture and a failed state, hiding behind frivolous generalities, ideological rhetoric, and avoiding tangible realities even for the purpose of supporting their own claims. You can read plenty about social "habits" and about "corrupted jeuviniles" being an unreliable source of information. But, not one bloody concrete fact can be found in the reply, not even statistical data to confirm the claims about the mission of these institutions or to gauge objectively the breadth of their success and failure. And, on top of all this, the government criticizes HRW on being vague in its reporting and not mentioning names and other specifics about the examples they presented. Give me a break! HRW would be foolish and irresponsible to identify the whistle blowers. After all, this is a country where the fingers of an anti-corruption journalist (Daif Ghazal) got chopped off as he was killed, and the government wrote it off immediately to his being of Egyptian origin, and a possible victim of a "crime of honor." Echoes of this denialist, displacive coverup can also be heard clearly in the government's reply to the HRW report.

    It should also be noted that the Libyan government reply came from its foreign ministry, and it says right in it that the women's detention centers are the responsibilities of the Social Security Administration! Shouldn't Social Security be writing the response? Of course, in a rational world they would be, but not in a state of denial.

    By Blogger Suliman, at February 28, 2006 12:01 PM  

  • Hanu , thank you for bringing this topic here to light. I saw it a couple of hours ago as a link on Khadijateri's blog and to be honest I was shocked. I knew that a women's penitentiary existed and I had an idea of what could possibly be taking place there, that is why it is preferable to avoid a police station like the plague.

    Do you or Suliman have any suggestion ?
    However, I always wondered where do the rape victims go, especially that the honour killings are not widespread in Libya. Well now sadly I know.

    I am very well aware of the judiciary system and the problems as my peers at Court tell me unbelievable stories.
    On one hand the rape victims do not deserve to be with the common criminals, and I'm surprised HRW got this far. On the other hand look at this way at least they got a place to stay apart from the street as cruel as this sound - and I know it is unacceptable.

    Allow me to counterargue though that women in Libya are respected and have rights but only until they cross the red line and find themsleves in such an institution..then I guess it is everywoman to herself..which does not necessarily mean I agree with it.

    By Blogger Highlander, at February 28, 2006 12:59 PM  

  • Oooh, and it makes me wonder...

    I despise what's going on in Guantanamo even if a fraction of the allegations is true (and I have no doubts).

    Why then is Guantanamo perhaps the most famous prison / detainee camp / military camp / whatever you want to call it in the world, while places like this one described by HRW don't even receive a fraction of a percentage point of the publicity Guantamo does?

    I'm stressing again: Guantanamo is a shame for the US and all those countries who don't give damn about having their citizens kept there, many with dubious charges and no access to court hearings.

    Western media can easily be criticized for double standards. A case where the claim surely is justified is always when Westerners don't treat human rights abuses by others as hard as those committed by other Westerners.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at February 28, 2006 2:15 PM  

  • one more thing Hanu at the risk of sounding an apologist ( which certainly I'm not) , what happens in female prisons or institutions throughout the world is quite similar to what the HRW has so far described . It happens in ME, NA, Far east Europe and Even America no one is immune to that and that is regretful too. This by no way excuses this behaviour or makes it less painfull to Libyan women.

    By Blogger Highlander, at February 28, 2006 2:23 PM  

  • Highlander,

    If you take women like you or me as examples of how far Libyan women could go or how much freedom, rights, and respect they have in Libya, you are wrong! We are in no way a measure of that. I myself know that I'm fortunate and privileged and so are most Libyan women in my circle of family and friends, but we make a small fraction of Libyan women. The others are simply not visible, not many people notice them. I have touched on this on one of our discussions before; we live a sheltered life from our surroundings, and take our life to be the norm for all Libyans, while it is not.

    As for the western media, I hear what you're saying, but I don't agree with you. Don't forget that places like Libya are not accessible to the media--I'm glad that HRW got there and got that far!

    Things happen in female prisons around the world, but not to this extent--virginity testing, and communicable diseases testing without their consent, let alone not having access to legal representation. For this to happen in a country that boasts about how the revolution has advanced women, and in a society that prides itself on the status women have reached in this society--pure hypocrisy and double-standard!

    BTW, I won't rule out honor killings in Libya; I believe they are still practiced, maybe in smaller numbers and in secrecy, but they are there.

    Highlander, the problem in Libya is so huge that only few might grasp it. It's not merely a corrupt government; it's the whole society with its values, culture, and traditions. Unfortunately, there's no simple solution to this. Facing the music takes a government that cares for its people, takes a society that admits its mistakes and flaws, and takes people that are willing to change themselves. Sadly, we have none of those!

    By Blogger Hannu, at February 28, 2006 3:08 PM  

  • Being a libyan , I assure you that the original report is mis-leading and the truth is that we in libya have the highest respect for women.. and they enjoy thier rights to the fullest. Besides enjoying living in the safest place on earth for women ..
    Thanks to our traditions, beliefs & life-style.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 26, 2006 9:20 PM  

  • Being a Libyan, I can assure you the original report did not even scratch the surface, not only of the abuses against women, but also of the thick layers of denial that characterize the Libyan culture. Libyans are quite accustomed to lying to themselves in broad daylight, so accustomed in fact that they do not feel the slightest inhibition or the slightest need to back up their claims. You don't have to believe me; just read the news and ask yourself: If the head of a state that's condemened repeatedly for crimes against humanity, has the audacity to declare it the sole democratic state in the world, then is it really any wonder what people say with their heads in the sand?

    By Blogger Suliman, at March 27, 2006 1:43 PM  

  • I have never seen in any country in the world, women treated like the way she is treated in Libya
    1-Civil rights
    2-Judicial rights
    3-Right to vote
    4-Right to choose a spouse
    5-Prevliage to hold a driver's license and drive
    6-Right to own property and make commerce.
    7-Right to divorce a husband(khal3) and alumni
    8-The right to board the Plane before any other man
    9-The right to be elected for office.
    10-The right to inheritance.
    And many more,
    Now let us be sensible and take things with simplicity.
    There is not society that does not suffer from injustices within it's boundaries towards females, if we are about to compare we can bring so many examples from what so called the free world i.e., America and Europe and see how woman actually live and is treated in those countries, let us divide the subject in two folds;
    A-How is she viewed by the system?
    B- How is she treated by the family, husband, and peers?
    Before proceeding I would like to make it clear that I am not apologizing for Libya or it's culture, Libya has it's undeniable problems that the officials are aware of and are doing their best within their capabilities to resolve.
    Let us take the subject from a state perspective SECTION (A):
    The state established refuge for woman who were abducted , raped or simply had an affair and was caught and had to deal with the aftermath of the affair that she was involved in, when looking at the issue from a cultural perspective one needs to identify with the facts about that culture, we can not compare another culture that does not recognize certain emotions that are born out of an action that is viewed from a collective binocular, what happens to a girl in a Libyan society can deeply affect the whole clan or tribe of the same, while the same in a different culture might not have any impact non what so ever.
    To be continued

    The best of the two worlds

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 08, 2006 12:35 PM  

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