Libya: Women, Writers and Artists

Apparently swine flu has not yet hit the Libyan blogosphere but I'm sure talking about the status of women would make a good icebreaker.

After exploring several Libyan blogs, Highlander who was
posting about Arab/Libyan writers and bloggers thinks that with
regards to writing it is preferable to use the blogosphere as a practicing space. There was no need to inform all to avoid trouble with the male half.

“I don't think that the Libyan males are against their sisters, mothers, wives etc. writing but more as social pressure and the 3ayb [ shame – dishonour] part – as in what cannot be seen then does not exist… or that the precious females maybe recognised and their ideas misinterpreted and God forbid their reputation ruined because Libyan dudes would be trolling their website/blog .[ref]

An oft forgotten aspect is that living outside Libya is not a guarantee of a different or similar attitude for that matter. Check what happened at the same event in London and Washington DC. Anglo Libyan who attended the London one is so frustrated he asks men to respect women.

“as I walked in the hotel I found most of the invited people standing outside the hall where the film was going to be screened as the doors were still closed, I noticed very few ladies there, they were standing with their partners, about 20 minutes later I saw a member of staff open one of the hall's doors slightly then suddenly from no where I saw a group of Libyan ladies, about 15 or 20 run past us and straight into the hall, it really was like a flash then the member of staff closed the door, obviously they were hidden somewhere out of sight until some body asked the organisers to open the door for them to keep them away from prying male Libyan eyes!!!! after the doors were open for the rest of us to go in the event hall, the first thing I noticed was how all the ladies were seated right at the back all in one group in a segregated section, I immediately looked at the few ladies I saw in the beginning who were standing with their partners, they all looked puzzled and confused, I am sure they wanted to sit with their families but eventually decided to segregate from their families and sat at back with the other ladies and they really did not look very happy” [source]

On the edge had a very controversial post about foreign women who marry Libyans and how some of them have unfortunately been treated. She says:

” I am constantly reading Libyan bloggers writing about how EASY my life as a foreigner married to a Libyan is here in Libya . […] What I do know for a fact is this …. our lives are dam hard . Real hard , harder than you can imagine at times . We don't have our mothers and fathers to protect us when our husbands and/ or their families decide to mistreat us like a Libyan woman would . Nor do we have a safe harbor to run to when things get bad or ugly . No place or no one there for us to go to , to listen to us and our problems . No helping hand to reach out in love , like a Libyan woman does . No , we just tough it out .We stick to it . We don't run away . We stand and fight for ourselves and our children for all we are worth , in whatever manner we have to defend ourselves by .
We do this because of love . Love , yes love . We love our husbands , even when we want to kill him . We love our kids , even when they disrespect us or are ashamed of us because we aren't Libyans , because we are different .Yes that happens to some of us . Love of our adopted home , Libya and all Her crazy , strange ,beautiful, wondrous , people , places ,and things .”

Needless to say this topic created such a hot debate that it prompted a follow up post.

On the other hand and on the topic of Libyan writers, Ghazi from Imtidad constantly astonishes us with translations of short stories by Libyan writers ( male and female). A published writer himself I think that Ghazi has good future before him. His latest translation is Omar Kikli's ” While drinking teawhich sent chills down my spine.

Shahrazad always the one to plug interesting Libyan things has put up a number of photos of paintings by a budding Libyan female artist.

” Here are a few paintings my sister took at a friends house. The painter is still in her beginning and has never had an exhibition. So I told her Id blog her paintings and see what the feedback would be.”

Personally I would buy one of the paintings if she can arrange a vernissage.

I'll conclude by posting Lostdubliner's experience as an Irish expat female in Libya. She has been here for about two months.

“armed with my camera I leave the hotel room in the hope of catching a bit of the local culture – this however turns from a fantastic idea to a disappointing reality. Practically every car that comes by with men in it horns or stops! I have numerous offers of a lift, phone numbers and friendship! Nervous and frustrated, halfway down the road I quickly turn on my heels and head straight back to the hotel.[…] Back at the hotel the staff are all extremely friendly and hospitable, everyone either knows my name or calls me “sister”. In general the Libyan people come across as a lot more warmer than in the West – they eminate a strong element of goodness and kindness which is very refreshing!” [source]

The above just shows that some Libyan lads are total losers and that others are lovely gentlemen.

Women in Libyan society are loved, respected and cared for as mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters and wives. The state guarantees freedom and equality between men and women but it still runs across cultural norms and traditions and here I don't mean religion. This post is not about feminism, it's just observations about anomalies plaguing our society and a reflection on how to deal with them.


  • […] 10, 2009 · No Comments Writing at Global Voices Online, Fozia Mohamed rounds up some comments from the Libyan blogosphere about gender in the country. One […]

  • Umm Salwan

    Don’t forget that this post is only about the english language blogs. There are many other Libyan female writers who blog in arabic about lots of subjects and their own ’emotions’ freely. So the limited number of blogs in english do not actually represent the general overview of female blogging in Libya.

  • hanan

    Interesting to read this since i myself am married to a libyan, and have to say, gentleman

  • i am agree with Umm Salwan,we Are So many girls writing in blogger from long times ago.
    i am an old blogging girl,i guess u also know me and u was writing about my simple libyan languish be4 .
    I myself have been a huge disappointment
    Stopped me from writing in my blog
    The reason is that some spam bots Libyans on Blogging stole some of the topics to be publish on my page
    And also to some of my photos that I took it.
    Now I’m back to writing. And I returned to the initial hobby of photography.

  • I will have to disagree passionately with the final paragraph – women in the Libyan society are not respected, and the state certainly does not, in any way shape or form, guarantee gender equality. (That is, if you can call it ‘the state’.)

    Society in Libya is extremely male dominant. And even in the 21 century, this ‘habit’ is reinforced everyday by the fathers, and sadly the mothers also.

    Obviously, in any society there will those who are different from the greater population, but generally speaking, this is very much remains the case.

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