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"Democracy without women is hypocrisy"

Hibaaq Osman, Founder and CEO, Karama

IN THE NEWS

Libya: from 17th february 2011 until 2017 – No regrets for toppling Ghadafi regime and diverse ideas for the future

Libyan Women Peace Platform 2011

Gadhafi was toppled 6 years ago. When recalling that period I feel the smell of multiple cigarettes being inhaled at lightning speed and (prepaid) Nokia phones ringing constantly. Women and girls were  constantly searching for Gaddafi-tanks who were being moved and hidden, printing leaflets and organising demonstrations. By the same token most women became DIY search and rescue teams  “Have you seen Khadisha? She left for Misrata but we didn’t hear of her since?” “Damn, where is Fatiha, she was supposed to call in before 7 PM”.  I was strolling through liberated Tripoli a few months afterwards: the streets filled with celebrating people and pick-up trucks with machine guns. However: the atmosphere at that time wasn’t aggressive but joyful. The walls were covered with posters from new political movements, concerts and the announcement of newly established radio stations. 

I stayed in touch with a lot of people that helped topple Gaddafi. After 6 years I am asking several of them:

  1. Was the revolution worth it? Don’t you regret being part of a movement that helped topple Gaddafi? 
  2. What do you think of the current situation?
  3. How do you envisage the future? 

Zahra Langhi, Chair of the Libyan Women Peace Platform

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Zahra Langhi, Libya 2011

Zahra, your entire family was deeply involved in the opposition against the regime. Just as countless other Libyans you have suffered many losses after the revolution, including the assassination of your friend and LWPP co-founder Salwa Bugaighis. Libya is now in a turnmoil, was the revolution worth it?

Of course it’s was worth it. It is always worth getting rid of despotism and dictatorship. Yes, the price is high. Of course there have been many mistakes, there is a lot of criticism and doubts about the many things that went wrong. The debate and self-criticism is healthy. Please understand: the current situation is not the end state. What happened since 2011 is a movement of social empowerment that cannot be reversed. The revolution is still taking place, it is still unfinished . It will be finished someday in the future.

What should happen now? A political solution?

What is needed today is much, much more than a political solution. The UN process and road maps always focus on political solutions in a top-down way. But we need to work in a bottom-up way, from the grassroots. We need to work on social, economical and cultural aspects too; political solutions are much too focused on institutions only. The elements that fuelled the revolution were much more diverse, it included the feeling of alienation, of estrangement, the lack of dignity, feelings of anxiety and anger. So we need to work on all of these aspects simultaneously and especially: collectively. Bottom-up, not top-down.

 

Hala Bugaighis 

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Hala Bugaighis, Libya

Dear Hala, you live in Libya and you were part of the movement that helped topple Gaddafi 6 years ago. What do you think of the current Libya? Was it worth it?  Although many may disagree but I definitely think it was worth it. before the revolution Libyans had the fate of Sisyphus, we were doomed to live in absurdity. But the revolution gave us the chance to rebel against that fate, the chance to make change happens. So despite the fact that we live in a difficult times with the political division, insecurity and the economic crises but still we have the freedoms of speech, cultural movement, the raise of civil society and most importantly the hope of correcting all the wrongs and build the nation we dreamed of. 

How do you see the near future of Libya? 

In five years Libyans will realise that war is not the answer and will work to achieve the reconciliation and national healing, and start the effective development process in the country. 

What should be done in your view?

Its time we all admit that the political agreement has failed, and start to make realistic solutions to end the political division and security issues in Libya. 

 

Younes Nagem

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Younes Nagem, Benghazi 2011

Younes Nagem is an engineer living in Libya, he is the Chair of Bokra Foundation and Project Manager of LWPP. 

You were part of the movement that helped topple Gaddafi 6 years ago, what do you think of the current Libya? Was it worth it?As one the people who was there participating in the toppling of Gaddafi regime, I wasn’t really have that long term vision of what going to happen when you success in the revolution. The real answer became clear to me and some other people after a year or less, where we were clearly seeing that the real is about to start and it’s about building a nation & country not just removing a bad regime. What’s happening right now in Libya is something expectable when the authorities and the role of rule are not effective yet. It’s something worth to fight for, It takes a lot of time and sacrifices to have the country that we dream about.

What do you think of the current situation?

The near future of Libya is not predictable, but we can see that it needs a lot of work from our side as Libyans, and the process must includes a lot of missing elements and factors (such a / fighting corruption and nepotism, human rights and peacebuilding, and openness with others experiences).

What should be done in your view?

What should be done in my small experience and the base that i’m connected to it through the works that I’m doing on the ground. It can be summed up in three major titles: ending the impunity and empower the rule of law ASAP, starting a nation building process on clear national constants, and get rid of violence and extremism by soft intervention ways not just the hard ones.

Shahrazad Kablan

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Shahrazad Kablan, Libya 2011

What do you think of the current Libya? Was it worth it?  John F. Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” I truly believe that Gaddafi knew that and was determined to turn the Libyan people’s desire to reclaim their country in a peaceful manner impossible. The Libyan people were oppressed and living under constant restrictions of free thought and free speech and those are the most dangerous of all subversions. Libyans lived in terror, oppression, and suppression under Gaddafi. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people and the collapse of the regime was because its brutality and corruption. It was not made somewhere; it came because it was born from the past evil that engulfed Libya for 40 plus years. Was it worth it? Of course it was. 

 
How do you see the near future of Libya? 
Today, Libyans are living with chaos, lawlessness and most importantly terror. Of course, there is an ongoing mess everywhere. The country’s infrastructure is in complete ruin. Cities are unable to provide basic services. Garbage is everywhere, many roads are ruined and not maintained any more, government services are worse than before, internet is barely usable, inflation is dreadful, electricity cuts for days are the norm now. Worse, some government entities are being robbed and destroyed by different militias and their resources are taken across border. All that shouldn’t be surprising for a Post-Revolution country, especially a violent one. But the question is: with an inexperienced youth, a corrupt government, a terrible infrastructure; what’s the natural evolution/progress in this situation and what’s the very likely outcome? What happens after “widespread social chaos” is difficult to predict as it often depends on local conditions combined with regional and international considerations. 
 
What should be done in your view? 
There are often two requirements that a nation needs to fulfil after any internal disorder, those being economic sufficiency and a need to establish a system of just governance. In many cases, particularly after very violent confrontations, people trade the elements of the latter requirement for the former and promote the rule of a strong leader. 
With that being said, I think the following should be done: Libyans should restore the monarchy in and call for Prince Mohammed El Senussi as the King to unite Libya again. This should be done with adopting the Libyan constitution of 1951 and a call to ratify it.  Educate people and the option of adopting a constitutional monarchy as the system of government that combines a monarch head of state with a parliamentary system.
Embrace a federal system that gives power to local government such as counties or regions to act as executive power to provide services to local populations. Local governments can elect officials, enact taxes, and do many other things that a national government would do, just on a smaller scale. Local government is consistently rated most favorably by citizens.
The above solutions can only be accomplished by supporting women and youth in leading a high-level conversation on peace and stability. It is also important to identify spoilers or stabilizers and empower women and youth again to provide support for the stabilizers and weaken the spoilers
 
Ayat Mneina, renowned member of Al-Shabab Libya, the Libyan youth movement
Ayat Libya

Dear Ayat, we first met in 2011, you are  a member of the influential Al Shabaab Libya movement ; the Libyan youth movement that played a crucial role in toppling Gaddafi 6 years ago. What do you think of the current Libya? Was it worth it?

As a young Libyan who engaged in toppling the regime six years ago, my hopes were for real change and a better future for Libyans. Today, Libya has not fulfilled the expectations that many had hope for.

Nonetheless, a dictator with a history of violence, corruption, and injustice that spanned over four decades and impacted the lives of several generations, is no longer in power. Libyans have to look deep within themselves if they are to reclaim their country and face the difficult task of putting it back together and building a Libya that is mindful of its history and committed to a future that is stronger for its unity and diversity.

How do you see the near future of Libya? What should be done in your view?

The near future of Libya will continue to see the struggles that have plagued it for the past few year, security will remain one of the foremost concerns as long as militias rule and weapons are the currency of power. A peaceful political solution cannot be reached without considering how to guarantee safety and security for all Libyans. Demilitarization efforts must take place.

Political players that have failed to seriously act to help the country move forward must stop stalling and know that the country has already put forth a mandate for what they’d like to see in Libya: all Libyans want guaranteed safety to live, to work, to pursue education, rights to basic personal freedoms. Libyans have already demonstrated immense resilience and talent, they merely need a country that reflects their best qualities.

 

 

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Wall in Tripoli, 2011 Elisabeth van der Steenhoven

. _____________________ Elisabeth van der Steenhoven  Director KARAMA Europe

The world must protect human rights defenders like Ali Al-Dailami

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Ali Al-Dailami (far right) with members of the Karama delegation to the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, Geneva in 2014

Karama and its partners have called for greater protection for human rights defenders after the brutal assault and detention of Yemeni activist Ali Al-Dailami.  A widely-recognised advocate for human rights, Al-Dailami was subjected to a vicious ordeal as he passed through a checkpoint by Yemen’s Ministry of Interior in Sana’a on 25 January.

This is not the first time that Al-Dailami has faced harassment as a result of his work. As the head of Yemen’s Organization for Defending Democratic Rights and Freedoms, he has faced arrest and detention on numerous occasions, and survived an assassination attempt in August 2014 when gunmen shot at his car.

Karama CEO Hibaaq Osman called Ali Al-Dailami and his commitment to human rights an inspiration to to the world. Despite the conflict in Yemen, Al-Dailami chose to stay in the country and continue to report on human rights violations. Karama has been campaigning for greater protection of human rights defenders for a number of years, raising the matter with, among others, the then President of the UN General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft in 2015.

Ali Al-Dailami leads a workshop in Yemen

Ali Al-Dailami leads a Karama workshop in Yemen

Following the assault of Ali Al-Dailami, Hibaaq Osman, founder and CEO of Karama, said:

“It has been a great honour and privilege to work with Ali Al-Dailami, he is a true inspiration to the world. His fight for fundamental rights is a fight for the dignity of all the people of Yemen. The world owes Ali and people like him a debt of gratitude; more than that it owes them all the protection it can possibly provide.

“I wish Ali a quick recovery, and hope that the world will pay attention to his plight. We have lost far too many brave human rights defenders already, we must protect those who continue this essential work.”

 

 

Women, peace and security will be essential for development in the Arab region – UN told

Women leaders from across the Arab region used the launch of the Arab Human Development Report in Beirut to highlight the importance of the women, peace and security agenda. A panel of experts told the launch that the region will not be able to build peace and achieve global development goals if it continues to exclude and marginalise women in political and diplomatic processes.

Published by the UNDP yesterday, the Arab Human Development Report paints a startling picture of a region experiencing unprecedented levels of conflict. Despite being home to just five percent of the world’s population, nearly half of all terror attacks target people in the region. The Arab world hosts almost half of the world’s internally displaced, well over half of the world’s refugees and nearly 7 out of 10 of the world’s battle deaths in 2014 occurred there.

From left to right, Saadia Wadah (Morocco), Jamila Ali Rajaa (Yemen) and Hibaaq Osman (Somalia) attended the discussion.

From left to right, Saadia Wadah (Morocco), Jamila Ali Rajaa (Yemen) and Hibaaq Osman (Somalia) attended the discussion.

In perhaps its most worrying section, the report suggests that if current trends continue, in 30 years three quarters of the region’s entire population could be living in a country affected by conflict.

The report notes that the level of conflict and instability in the region is having a disproportionate impact on women and girls. Wars and political instability can lead to the increase of early marriage, gender-based violence, and the marginalisation of women in public life. While the UN and its member states are committed to addressing such issues through the Women, Peace and Security agenda, implementation remains a problem – with only two Arab states having published National Action Plans stating how they will implement the agenda.

The panel discussion brought together expertise and insight from leading activists and professionals from Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Somalia and Yemen. The session also heard from young women from Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Tunisia, who were able to talk about how their lives had been affected by the 2011 revolutions.

Hibaaq Osman, founder and CEO of Karama, the civil society organisation that led the session, said:

“As the UNDP report notes, women in the Arab region currently face unprecedented levels of violence and instability. The opportunities apparently presented by the revolutions in 2011 quickly closed up, as the forces of reaction rose against youth and women’s movements. The women who spoke today in Beirut all brought invaluable experience of how women in the region have first suffered from conflict and instability

“I was even more proud to see young women from the region being given the time to talk about the struggles they face in striving toward equality. It is  

Zahra’ Langhi, co-founder and director of the Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace, said:

Zahra' Langhi of the LWPP talks about the breakdown of security in Libya.

Zahra’ Langhi of the LWPP talks about the breakdown of security in Libya.

“I was happy to see the report addressing the prospects of Youth & development  in the Arab region with an emphasis on peace & security and with a gender lens as well. The report highlights the tremendous effects of armed conflicts and militarisation on the prospects of young women and young men in our region. The numbers provided are alarming. Policy makers need to listen cautiously to these numbers and design their policies accordingly. There will be no sustainable development if there is no sustainable peace and in turn there will be no sustainable peace if there is no social equality.”

 

Ghida Anani, Founder & Director of ABAAD in Lebanon said:

Ghida Anani of ABAAD discussed the institutional inequality faced by women in the region.

Ghida Anani of ABAAD discussed the institutional inequality faced by women in the region.

“Women and Girls suffer today more than ever from the cost of war in the region. The number of women being affected by various forms of gender based violence, forced prostitution, child marriage, trafficking, domestic violence among other is highly visible. UNSCR 1325 and the women, peace and security agenda were meant to ensure the prevention of conflict, the protection of women, and women’s participation during time of conflict, however it is effectively invisible in gender-based violence programming during humanitarian crisis”.

Jamila Ali Rajaa, a member of Yemen’s National Dialogue, said:

“While this report is significant in its findings, I’m afraid it does not reflect enough on the appalling circumstances many women it in the region face. The crisis in Yemen sees 21 million people are reliant on humanitarian aid, while the country’s health system has completely collapsed, affecting women disproportionately. At the same time women and women’s needs are simply not part of the peace process.

“That it is why it was so important to hear perspectives from women involved in the region’s peace processes, and to give a platform for young women from across the region to share their experience.”

“If you’re not at the table, you are on the menu”

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“The course of history is sometimes changed overnight, but usually it takes a lot longer” – Harry van Bommel

Dutch politician Harry van Bommel has been striving for peace and security in the Arab region for many years. A member of the influential Foreign Affairs Committee, Van Bommel taught as a lecturer before entering the Dutch House of Representatives in 1998. At the start of the 16 Days of Activism to end violence against women, we wanted to talk to Harry about his longstanding interest in the Middle East and North Africa, and what he sees as the role of women in building peace and security in the region,

First we wanted to know what originally motivated his interest in the region. “It began with indignation about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians,” Harry told us. “This automatically led to a hunger for knowledge about the entire Middle East and Northern Africa. I travelled to many countries in the region and talked to many activists and politicians. This still gives me confidence that one day there will be peace and prosperity in this troubled region.”

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Harry and parliamentary colleagues listen to activists from the Arab region in October 2016.

While Harry remains positive about the potential of people in the region, he also recognises the difficulties they race. He puts much of this down to fundamental issues dating back to the last century.

“The borders of many countries in this region are drawn by colonial rulers while ignoring natural, tribal and ethnic boundaries,” he notes. “This fact is still one of the main problems. In some countries democratic development has largely been absent and dictatorships were formed.  Another problem is the fact that western countries have hardly shown real interest in the developments in this region. Western leaders preferred stable dictatorships over unstable democracies.”

In order to address the region’s problems, Harry views the work of civil society as absolutely essential. “Civil society is of the utmost importance to promote women’s rights and human rights more generally.” Within this, he emphasises the role that women have to play, “women must participate in the democratic process because if you are not at the table, you are on the menu. When new constitutions are written, women must be at the table. When new political bodies are formed, women must be part of it.”

In his recent work, Harry has noted that governments are have drawn anti-terrorism powers so broadly that they can be used to stifle the work of civil society organisations. Harry warned that such a move would ultimately be self-defeating and dangerous, “the abuse of anti-terrorism laws to crack down on the work of civil groups will lead to self censorship and the discouragement of changemakers. The result will be a society that does not include all groups and interests and therefore create instability.”

“Civil society is of the utmost importance to promote women’s rights and human rights more generally."

“Civil society is of the utmost importance to promote women’s rights and human rights more generally.”

On the start of the 16 Days of Activism to Eliminate Violence Against Women, Harry wanted to give a message to all the region’s activists.

“The course of history is sometimes changed overnight, but usually it takes a lot longer. Rely on your own strength but do look for partners in the region and elsewhere. Make sure that all over the world you voices are heard through social media and other forms of communications. Be aware of the fact that we are always here to listen to what you have to say.”  

___

Follow Harry on Twitter here.

After Years Of Being Sidelined, Syrian Women Aim To Make History At Peace Talks

This article was original published on Huffington Post on March 17, 2016. 

HuffPologoFor five years, women have protested, fought, delivered aid, brokered peace and documented atrocities on the ground in Syria.

Yet, when Syrians tried to end the war, women were sidelined. They have been largely absent from the negotiating table in rounds of failed talks since 2012.

Fresh United Nations-brokered peace talks kicked off in Geneva this week, and many hope that a mostly observed cessation of hostilities and partial withdrawal of Russian troops are signs that the negotiations will be more successful than those of the past. 

One aspect of the talks has already inspired some cautious optimism: More women are involved than ever before, but it remains to be seen how much influence they will wield over the discussions.

Last month, the U.N. announced the formation of the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board — a group of 12 Syrian women from different professional, political and religious backgrounds to advise the U.N. special envoy overseeing the peace talks. The formation of the group, which is the first-ever formal women’s advisory board to a U.N. envoy, is a “historic moment,” said U.N. Women. 

On the eve of the talks, Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. special envoy on Syria, made a point of meeting with the women’s board.

“I strongly believe that this is a golden opportunity for Syrian women,” Mouna Ghanem, founder of the Syrian Women’s Forum for Peace and a member of the advisory board, told The WorldPost. Now it’s crucial for the board to be able to influence all parties at the peace talks, and bring the women’s agenda to the table, she said.

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Advisor to Syria peace talks: Women should be at table

This article was originally published on Yahoo! News.

UNITED NATIONS (AP)(March 15, 2016) — An activist who is on the board of women advising the United Nations special envoy for Syria on peace talks said Tuesday that women should be at the table actively taking part in negotiations.

Mouna Ghanem, one of 12 members of the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board that advises Staffan de Mistura, said at a news conference at the U.N. that the board is a reflection of the U.N.’s commitment to women. But she said more women should be at negotiating tables in Syria and across the Middle East taking part in peace talks and formulating the future of their countries.

“We are not only aspiring for participation, we are aspiring to be decision makers and we have a long way to go,” she said.

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Not Enough Women At the Peace Table, Say Arab Activists

This article was originally published on IPS News online.

image001UNITED NATIONS, Mar 17 2016 (IPS) – “When it comes to peace talks, women have a special stake,” said Gloria Steinem while discussing current peace talks in the Middle East.

Steinem, a prominent activist, joined the 60th annual session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) as part of Donor Direct Action, an NGO connecting women’s rights activists to donors.

Partnering with Karama, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) focused on violence against women in the Arab region, the two organisations highlighted the need to include women not only in politics, but also in peace processes in conflict nations.

“Women should not be in the corridor, but actually at the table,” Karama founder Hibaaq Osman told delegates.

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