Are Women The Key To Solving The Crisis In Libya?

Almost 10 years have passed since the death of Muammar Qaddafi, yet the situation in Libya remains defined by instability and violent conflict. According to Bethan McKernan of The Guardian, “…attempts to build a democratic state after Gaddafi fell disintegrated into a new civil war between rival governments in 2014… [today] armed groups, including extremists such as Islamic State, have proliferated and the lawless country has also become a principal transit point for people from across Africa who want to reach Europe.” Foreign actors, including the United Nations (UN) and numerous states, are involved in the conflict to achieve their own strategic and economic interests in Northern Africa. The Libyan conflict is extremely complex with no clear end in sight. 

The humanitarian situation in Libya is dire. The ongoing civil war destroyed the economy and worsened the standard of living for all Libyans. According to the CIA World Factbook, there are nearly 300,000 internally displaced peoples living within Libya and over a million people who require humanitarian assistance. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimated that there are also nearly 650,000 migrants and refugees within Libya’s borders – primarily from sub-Saharan Africa. The presence of refugees in Libya further complicates the conflict as the Libyan government cannot adequately support their needs. 

One of the most detrimental consequences of the Libyan Civil War is the increase in violence against civilians, specifically against women. The Libyan war has cost women both their human and political rights. For example, in 2012, a Libyan human rights activist named Magdulein Abaida was participating in a workshop on women’s rights when she was arrested by a group of armed men. According to UN News, Ms. Abaida was subject to harassment, physical beatings, and death threats. After her release, Ms. Abaida was forced to seek asylum in the United Kingdom due to the immense amount of death threats and hate she received from the Libyan public. On 7 April 2021, the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women accused Libya of failing to investigate the arrest, harassment, and torture of Ms. Abaida and violated her human rights. The fate of Ms. Abaida is only one example of the consistent pattern of violence against women in Libya. According to the Atlantic Council, “…wartime rate, trafficking, forced prostitution, and violence targeting women is frequently used as a strategy of war [in the Libyan conflict].” 

To resolve this issue, Libyan women must be included in the peace process. According to the Atlantic Council, women have been excluded from the peace process because “…the ‘Libyan actors’ are against women’s political participation.” A resolution to the civil war is impossible without the valuable input and representation of women and their interests. Women play an important role in negotiation and conflict mediation and may be exactly what the Libyan conflict needs. Women deserve a seat at the negotiation table and Libya deserves the ideas, opinions, and solutions women can offer.