General: Libya: Nadine Al-Farsi & other human rights activists targeted by Haftar’s Militia
Since the removal of the former president Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the conflict in Libya has ensued for the last 11 years, dividing the country between the East and West. Since Gaddafi’s death, fighting and violence has been persistent with the Eastern part of the country and city of Benghazi falling under the control of Khalifa Haftar. Haftar previously served in Gaddafi’s military before turning on him, and now rules the East of the country with an iron fist, similarly to Gaddafi. Under his rule, Libya remains highly unstable with other proxy actors further destabilizing the country, including Russia and Turkey. Free speech remains extremely limited due to threats targeting journalists and human rights activists, as they continue to be targeted by Haftar’s militia forces.
Nadine Al-Farsi & Family Targeted
Nadine Al-Farsi is a Libyan human rights activist from Benghazi who is continuously targeted by Haftar’s forces due to speaking out against criminal acts committed by the state, including sexual violence with women’s issues remaining a highly sensitive issue within Libya. Al-Farsi’s works on documenting cases of kidnapping and extrajudicial killings for the United Nations along with other international human rights organizations. Through her work, she aims to enhance the participation of women within the Libyan political sphere and report on human rights abuses against women in order to contribute towards the rebuilding of the state.
However, Al-Farsi was forced to flee Benghazi and seek safety in Turkey due to her outspoken posts on social media networks, including her Facebook page, and her work in human rights. Not only were warrants issued for Nadine’s arrest, but her father, Saeed Al-Farsi, who served as a former colonel in the Libyan army, was kidnapped by Haftar’s forces in 2018 and later released. But in August 2022, Al-Farsi’s sister, Nada Al-Farsi, along with her infant children were kidnapped by militia forces associated with Haftar. Al-Farsi explained that militia forces only allowed Nada to speak with her family over the phone after her father posted a video that went viral regarding her kidnapping. Their reasoning for kidnapping Nada was to silence Nadine, demanding that she close her Facebook page where she regularly posts her opposition to militia forces controlling the country. To date, there have been no reports regarding Nada and her children’s release.
Libyan Women Attacked by Militia Forces
Nada is among many women that have been abducted and targeted by Haftar’s militia forces. Following a series of arrests and murders that targeted women with prominent political views in 2014, Al-Farsi began speaking out against acts of sexual violence committed against Libyan women by the state. In November 2020, Hanan Al-Barasi, a human rights activist and lawyer, was killed in broad daylight in a public area by Haftar’s militia forces sending a clear message to activists throughout the country. In July 2019, Siham Sergewa, a member of Parliament, was abducted after the Libyan National Army militia (loyal to Haftar) attacked her home due to her speaking out against Haftar. She has since not been found with the United Nations demanding information regarding her kidnapping and for her release.
Sexual violence against women
Al-Farsi has also reported on countless other women that have been subjected to sexual violence or murder by Haftar’s forces, including Iftikhar Boudraa, who was imprisoned for three years and tortured with her hands and face suffering burns. Foreign women living in Libya have also been victims of heinous crimes with numerous Sudanese women being found in garbage bins after being murdered.
All of Al-Farsi’s activism work has taken its toll on her psychologically and has greatly impacted her family’s safety. Women in Libya that are brave enough to speak out against the tyranny and violence within their country continue to be targeted by the state with no end in sight. Libyan women continue to face abductions, kidnapping, sexual violence, and murder even in 2022, yet it seems that the world has forgotten about the crisis in Libya.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) calls on authorities in Libya to:
- Release all imprisoned human rights activists and their family members, including Nada Al-Farsi and her children;
- Halt all abductions, attacks, or any form of targeting against human rights activists and their families for speaking out against human rights violations including for Nadine Al-Farsi;
- Protect freedom of expression for all citizens including human rights activists and journalists who have to execute their legitimate work without fear of persecution;
- Enforce punishments against militia’s committing violence against women and targeting women with prominent political views;
- Allow for free and democratic elections in Libya;
- Guarantee in all circumstances that journalists, media workers and all human rights defenders in Libya are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment