MMW Contributor Yusra Tekbali was in Libya during the outbreak of the February 17 Revolution. She was evacuated to Malta, and now speaks to us from The United Arab Emirates, where she is attending Insight Dubai, a conference on Muslim Women’s issues sponsored by Dubai Women’s College. Krista and Azra interview her about her experiences.
MMW: Yusra, we’re so glad you are safe. How was it being in Libya during the beginning of the people’s movement?
Yusra: In one word: Stressful! It tested our patience and took a toll on my mental health–just being in Libya in the middle of uncertainty, censorship, and the beginning of a violent crackdown was extremely trying. Thankfully, I got out before all hell broke loose, but I still think about Libya constantly.
MMW: We noticed you tweeting constantly. What can you tell us about the voices of women in Libya’s Revolution in social media and on the ground in Libya? For instance, when we see photographs and video of protests, it’s still uncommon to see significant numbers of women in the shot (unless it is a special collection of “women protestors”). Are women protesting in other, less media-visible forms in addition to going out to the street?
Yusra: I can tell you when I was in Tripoli, and news that Gaddafi was in Venezuela was circulating, I saw women from balconies cheering. I know Libyan women who encouraged their husbands and sons to join the protests. In Benghazi some women actually did. Generally, Libyan women play a less public role in the revolution, but that’s not to say it’s not as important. Who do you think tends to the men’s funerals, washes their wounds, cooks them warm meals, comforts children, an boosts morale? Women have been killed, wounded and scarred by Gaddafi forces. Women play an extremely important role in Libya’s revolution, and the high death toll (nearly 9,000 reported dead as of this interview) means they’ve lost husbands, and sons and brothers.