Libyan women oppose draft election law


By Sarah Sheffer:

Libyan women’s group rejects draft election law

21 January 2012

CAIRO: Libyan women’s group Women4Libya (W4L) has called for the modification of proposed draft election laws, citing shortcomings in the proposed law, which is set to be published on Sunday by the National Transitional Council’s (TNC) Electoral Commission.

Women in Libya, who were essential in the conflict that toppled the regime of former leader Muammar Ghaddafi earlier this fall, are concerned that their voices will not be heard in the formation of the country’s new government.

An initial 10 percent quota for women in the 200-seat General National Congress, a newly formed political body, has been omitted entirely in the pending electoral law.

The group had expressed too that even a 10 percent quota is “undeniably insulting, when more than half the population are female and participated equally in the revolution.”

In a press release, W4L expressed that they are “are shocked to discover that there is now no quota at all, leaving them at even greater risk of exclusion.”

“The drafting team of eight should have included women representatives and the whole process been more transparent,” said Sara Maziq, a founder of the group.

W4L proposed a minimum 40 percent quota for women in Congress.

“Libyan women, like men, aspire to a stable and democratic Libya with participation in all aspects of decision-making. The precedent for elections in post-conflict countries is minimum quotas for women of at least 30% – 40%. Even Iraq and Afghanistan had a minimum 25% quota for women,” she continued.

The group also called for the formation of clearly delineated electoral districts and the outlining of clear conditions for candidate qualification. They also called for more transparency and communication from within the TNC.

Abir Dajani Tuqan, another member of the women’s group, said that the proposed legislation “does not reflect the spirit of Islam.”

To combat the proposed election procedures, the W4L has circulated a petition that has accumulated more than 3,000 signatures against the bill.

Additionally, Libyan citizens are unhappy that voter eligibility excludes people who are living abroad.

“There is a risk now that those forced into exile during the regime will be ineligible to stand for office or vote just when Libya needs all the talent it can muster to rebuild a New Libya,” Sara Maziq of W4L explained.

See also here.

Libya‘s Nato-installed National Transitional Council was plunged into crisis on Sunday a day after hundreds of armed men forced leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil to scuttle out of the back of its Benghazi HQ: here.

UN concerns over Libya militias and secret detention: here.

Several detainees have died after being subjected to torture in Libya in recent weeks and months amid widespread torture and ill-treatment of suspected pro-al-Gaddafi fighters and loyalists, Amnesty International said today: here.

Detainees from Libya’s war held by fighters continue to be subjected to torture, says UN human-rights chief: here.

Libya prisoners make new torture allegations | BBC: here.

Residents of Bani Walid in Libya appointed their own local government today after driving out loyalists of the new Nato-backed regime in an armed uprising: here.

Authorities in and around Misrata are preventing thousands of people from returning to the villages of Tomina and Kararim and have failed to stop local militias from looting and burning homes there, Human Rights Watch said today: here.

The Libyan government should urgently increase security for the roughly 12,000 displaced people from Tawergha in western Libya, Human Rights Watch said today. Nearly a month after militias raided a Tawergha camp in Janzur, shooting dead one man, three women, and three children, that camp and others still lack adequate protection, Human Rights Watch said: here.

Zuma criticizes UN over war on Libya. By Abayomi Azikiwe Editor, Pan-African News Wire: here.

Pro-Kadhafi Prisoners ‘Beaten With Chains': here.

TORTURE! MURDER! & tens of thousands displaced in Cameron’s ‘free Libya’: here. And here.

Amnesty International demanded the release today of two British journalists and their Libyan colleagues held for over a week by a Misrata-based militia: here.

Two Libyans are to sue the former counter-terrorism director of British spy agency MI6, claiming he played a key role in their rendition to Moamer Kadhafi’s Libya, their lawyers said Tuesday: here.

Listen to BBC report on new legal action by Libyan rendition victims against ex-MI6 counter-terror chief Sir Mark Allen: here.

Authorities in and around Misrata are preventing thousands of people from returning to the villages of Tomina and Kararim and have failed to stop local militias from looting and burning homes there, Human Rights Watch said today: here.

The northeast Libyan town of Tawergha, formerly home to about 40,000 people, is now a “ghost town” after intense fighting last year ended in the city’s capture and the total displacement of its population: here.

More than 50 civilians have been killed in fighting between tribes this week in a remote region of southern Libya, witnesses reported on Tuesday: here.

Both pro- and anti-Qadhafi forces committed war crimes in Libya – UN panel: here.

Canada helped NATO enable ouster of Gadhafi from Libya: here.

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12 thoughts on “Libyan women oppose draft election law

  1. A report released last week by Middle East human rights groups presents extensive evidence of war crimes carried out in Libya by the United States, NATO and their proxy “rebel” forces during last year’s war, which brought down the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. The “Report of the Independent Civil Society Fact-Finding Mission to Libya” presents findings of an investigation carried out last November by the Arab Organization for Human Rights, together with the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and the International Legal Assistance Consortium.

    http://wsws.org/articles/2012/jan2012/pers-j23.shtml

  2. Muammar Gaddafi diehard supporters capture Libya town of Bani Walid: local official

    Agence France-Presse Jan 23, 2012 – 11:35 AM ET

    TRIPOLI — Diehard supporters of slain Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi seized control Monday of Bani Walid, his one-time bastion, after launching a brazen attack at a base there that killed five, officials told AFP.

    “The loyalists of Gaddafi took control of the entire city of Bani Walid,” said M’barek al-Fotmani, a former member of the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) in the desert oasis, 170 kilometres south of Tripoli.

    The assault on the base of ex-rebels was the first major offensive launched by Gaddafi loyalists since the “liberation” of Libya on October 23, shortly after the fall of Bani Walid.

    Fotmani said the daylight attack on the stronghold of men who helped oust Gaddafi’s regime last year killed “five thuwar (anti-Gaddafi revolutionaries), including a commander.” Around 30 ex-rebels were also injured, he said.
    Related

    Libya’s vice-president Abdel Hafiz Ghoga resigns amid protests against the ruling National Transitional Council

    Approval of trial for Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, expected from the ICC

    Mahmud Warfelli, spokesman of Bani Walid local council, said earlier that the attack was launched by “a group of remnants of the old regime,” and called for outside help against a feared “massacre.”

    “There are around 100 and 150 men armed with heavy weapons who are attacking. We have asked for the army to intervene, but the defence ministry and NTC have let us down,” he said.

    “(The gunmen) took control and hoisted the green flag on some districts, some important districts in the centre of the city,” Warfelli added.

    “We’re out of the frying pan into the fire. We’ve been warning about this for the past two months.”

    Fotmani, said the assailants had circled the former rebels’ base.

    “The compound of thuwar is surrounded on all sides by loyalists of Gaddafi who are attacking it with all kinds of weapons,” said Fotmani.

    “The attackers are carrying green flags,” symbol of the Gaddafi regime, he said from inside the base.

    Fotmani said the base belonged to the May 28 Brigade, a unit of former rebels attached to the defence ministry.

    “The attackers shouted ’Allah, Moamer, Libya and that’s it!,” he said, referring to a slogan popularised by Gaddafi loyalists during his rule.

    “Yesterday they had distributed leaflets saying “We will be back soon. We will take the rats out,’” Fotmani added.

    “I call upon Libya to save Bani Walid thuwar urgently. Their ammunition is almost over.”

    He also said ambulances were unable to evacuate those wounded because there were “snipers postioned on a school and a mosque in the vicinity” of the attack.

    Bani Walid was one of the last pro-Gaddafi bastions to fall in the bloody uprising against the former dictator’s rule.

    The capture of Bani Walid was followed days later by the fall of the longtime strongman’s hometown Sirte in a battle which also led to his killing and marked the “liberation” of Libya.

    Agence France-Presse

  3. Zwai-Tibu clashes go on unimpeded

    LIBYA: Kufra residents reported continuing intercommunal clashes at the weekend despite the deployment of Libyan troops, but there was no word on casualties.

    “The Tibu looted some houses and stole cars, we had to defend ourselves,” said Adelbari Idriss, a security official from the Zwai tribe. “The army hasn’t done anything.”

    The International Committee of the Red Cross evacuated 28 sick or severely wounded people from Kufra at the end of last week.

    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/115881

  4. Libya: ANHRI Urges Release of Detained Reporters

    26 February 2012

    press release

    Cairo — The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) urges the Libyan authorities to release reporters detained by armed groups in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

    The Iranian channel “Press TV” announced that armed men have detained two British reporters working for it, and are currently held in Tripoli. On its website, Press TV also said that Nicolas Davis, correspondent, Gareth Montgomery Johnson, cameraman, and two locals have been detained since 8 February 2012 by armed battalions in the coastal town of Misurata. Thus far, no reasons for the detentions are known. Contact with the detainees have been lost since 21 February.

    “The Libyan Transitional Council has to bear responsibility in securing and protecting local or foreign reporters. It has to immediately intervene to release the detained reporters” said ANHRI.

    “Few days following the first anniversary of the Libyan revolution, the authorities has an opportunity to prove its respect to human rights and freedom of opinion and expression in its peaceful form” added ANHRI.

    http://allafrica.com/stories/201202271654.html

  5. Libya “Close To Disintegration: Prime Minister

    http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_02_27/67016492/

    Russian Information Agency Novosti
    February 27, 2012

    Libya ‘close to disintegration’ – PM

    Speaking on the first anniversary of the anti-Gaddafi revolution in Misurata Monday, interim Libyan Prime Minister Mustafa Abdeljalil warned of complete national disintegration if the rival tribes and clans that had laid hands on Gaddafi’s arsenals continued to refuse to submit to the authority of the central government.

    The illegal firearms in circulation in Libya number in the tens of thousands.

  6. Pingback: Bahraini trade unionist interviewed | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  7. Mar 3, 2:27 PM EST

    Freed of Gadhafi, Libya’s instability only deepens

    By MAGGIE MICHAEL
    Associated Press

    BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — A large map of Libya hangs on the wall in the home of Idris al-Rahel, with a line down the middle dividing the country in half.

    Al-Rahel, a former army officer, leads a movement to declare semiautonomy in eastern Libya, where most of the country’s oil fields are located. The region’s top tribal leaders meet Tuesday in the east’s main city Benghazi to consider unilaterally announcing an eastern state, linked to the west only by a tenuous “federal union.”

    Opponents fear such a declaration could be the first step toward outright dividing the country. But some easterners say they are determined to end the domination and discrimination by the west that prevailed under dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

    Al-Rahel points to the capital Tripoli on the map, in the west. “All troubles came from here,” he said, “but we will not permit this to happen again.”

    The move shows how six months after Gadhafi’s fall, the central government in Libya has proved incapable of governing at all. Other countries that shed their leaders in the Arab Spring revolts – Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen – are going through rocky transitions, but none has seen a collapse of central authority like Libya. The collapse has only worsened as cities, towns, regions, militias and tribes all act on their own, setting up their independent power centers.

    After liberation from the rule of Gadhafi, Libyans dreamed their country of 6 million could become another Dubai – a state with a small population, flush with petro-dollars, that is a magnet for investment. Now they worry that it is turning more into another Somalia, a nation that has had no effective government for more than 20 years.

    Libya may not face literal fragmentation, but it could be doomed to years of instability as it recovers from four decades of rule under Gadhafi, who pitted neighbor against neighbor, town against town and tribe against tribe. The resentment and bitterness he incubated is now bursting forth in general lawlessness.

    “What Gadhafi left in Libya for 40 years is a very, very heavy heritage,” said Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, head of the National Transitional Council, which in theory rules Libya but doesn’t even hold sway in the capital Tripoli. “It’s … hard to get over it in one or two years or even five years.”

    Signs of the government’s weakness are everywhere.

    Tripoli remains under the control of various revolutionaries-turned-militiamen, who have resisted calls to integrate into a national army.

    Kufra, deep in the southern desert, is a battleground for two rival tribes, one Arab and one African, with dozens killed in two weeks of fighting last month.

    And Misrata, the country’s third-largest city and just two hours’ drive east of the capital, effectively rules itself, with its militias ignoring government pleas and exacting brutal revenge on anyone they believe to have supported Gadhafi.

    At a Misrata garage that militiamen have turned into a makeshift prison, one detainee, Abdel-Qader Abdel-Nabi, shows what remains of his left hand: The fingers have been cut off in a ragged line about halfway down. Abdel-Nabi said militiamen lashed his hand with a horse whip until the fingers were severed.

    “Then they threw me bleeding down the stairs,” he said. His interrogators were trying to get him to confess to working with Gadhafi’s forces during last year’s civil war and collaborating in the killing of rebel fighters. He refused, saying he was innocent.

    Around 800 other detainees are held in the same facility, which militiamen allowed The Associated Press to visit. The detainees are accused of involvement in killings, torture, rape and other crimes under Gadhafi. There are no courts at the moment capable of addressing the suspicions, so the detainees are entirely at the mercy of militiamen.

    Medics in a clinic set up in the garage said they have treated dozens tortured in interrogations. One medic said he had seen nine prisoners whose genitalia had been cut off, and others given electric shocks. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation by the militiamen.

    Misrata was one of the few major cities in the west to rise up against Gadhafi last year, and paid for it with a monthslong, devastating siege by regime forces. After repelling the assault, its militias joined the final march on Tripoli that captured the capital and brought down Gadhafi in August. It was Misrata militiamen who found Gadhafi in his final stronghold, his hometown of Sirte, and killed him in October.

    Now the city seems determined to decide its own fate, creating a de facto self-rule. Last month, it held its own elections for a new city council, after forcing out a self-appointed council formed in the uprising that came to be seen as corrupt and ineffective.

    In the isolated southeastern town of Kufra, 600 miles (990 kilometers) from Benghazi, fighters from the powerful Zwia Arab tribe have besieged the African Tabu tribe in a battle for the past two weeks.

    The Tabu, an ethnic minority indigenous to the area, were heavily suppressed under Gadhafi. After Gadhafi’s fall, the National Transitional Council assigned the Tabu to police the nearby borders with Chad and Sudan to stop smuggling – a trade dominated by the Zwia.

    The Tabu say fighting erupted Feb. 11, after a Zwia smuggler killed six Tabu border guards. The Zwia in turn say the Tabu attacked them in an attempt to declare their own state in the area, which the Tabu deny.

    Zwia, backed by tanks and armored vehicles, took control of the streets and entrances to the town of 70,000, battling with Tabu gunmen. They surrounded the main Tabu district, where an Associated Press reporter saw widespread damage to homes from rockets.

    The district’s tiny, three-room hospital was packed with the injured, with only one doctor and 15 nurses. Empty water bottles were being used as blood bags. The doctor, Tarek Abu Bakr, said he has recorded 54 people killed. One Tabu leader, Eissa Abdel-Majed, put the toll at more than 100.

    After two weeks of fighting, independent militias in the region finally mediated a tenuous truce. Authorities in Tripoli could do nothing, except bluster about sending troops to separate the sides.

    The violence highlights the weakness of the National Transitional Council, made up of representatives from around the country. The Council is overseeing the transition to democracy after Gadhafi’s fall, including the organizing of elections set for June. But besides having little ability to enforce decisions, it has been mired in its own divisions.

    NTC chief Abdul-Jalil, a former reform-minded justice minister under Gadhafi, was largely welcomed as a clean and well-intentioned figure. But many criticize him for being a weak leader.

    Mohammed Ali, a politician who works closely with Abdul-Jalil, described his style as that of a boxing referee. “He stands on the side watching to see who wins, then raises his hand to declare him victorious,” said Ali.

    A frustrated Abdul-Jalil admitted mistakes. “But democracy is the reason,” he told AP. “In every single decision, I have to get the vote” of 72 council members.

    The council’s attempts to put together a law governing the election are weeks behind schedule. It has put forward three drafts, each met by a storm of criticism from various factions that forced a rewrite. The election is to choose a 200-member assembly tasked with writing a new constitution and forming a government.

    The drafts allocate about 60 seats for the east, compared to 102 for the west, because the drafters say the breakdown reflects the larger population in the west. But for angry easterners, it smacks of the years of discrimination under Gadhafi, who focused development in the west while largely neglecting the east and its main city, Benghazi.

    The east was long a center of opposition to Gadhafi, the source of failed coups and assassination attempts against him – and Gadhafi punished it by depriving its cities of funds for services, health care and schools. However, the east, with its oil fields, is also the source of the vast majority of Libya’s revenue.

    “The westerners have been milking us like a cow,” said al-Rahel. “They built towers, airports and hotels while we were deprived of everything.”

    Benghazi was the first city to rise up against Gadhafi’s rule last year, and the entire east quickly followed. But after his death, the National Transitional Council moved from Benghazi to the capital, and formed an interim Cabinet dominated by figures from the west.

    The fight is also fueling a movement to revive a federal system that existed in Libya under the monarchy before it was toppled in the 1969 coup led by Gadhafi. Under that system, Libya was divided into three states, Tripolitania in the west, Fezzan in the southwest and Cyrenaica – or Barqa, as it was called in Arabic – which encompassed the eastern half of the country.

    Al-Rahel’s National Federal Union movement calls for a return to that system, giving each region its own capital, parliament, police and courts. Al-Rahel cites the American model of states and a federal government.

    On Tuesday, at a gathering of about 3,000 easterners in Benghazi, planners aim to announce the creation of Barqa state and call for other regions to follow in forming a federal system, said Abu Bakr Baaira, a co-founder of the group. He dismissed worries the move will break Libya apart and said Barqa would seek U.N. backing if Tripoli refuses.

    “Are the U.S., Switzerland and Germany divided?” he said. “We hope they don’t force us to a new war and new bloodshed. This is the last thing we look for.”

    Easterners have already formed their army, the Barqa Supreme Military Council, made up of revolutionary fighters who battled Gadhafi last year. A top commander and spokesman, Col. Hamid al-Hassi, said his forces are willing to fight if the efforts is rejected.

    “Even if we had to take over the oil fields by deploying our forces there or risk another war, we will not hesitate for the sake of Barqa,” he told AP.

    Tripoli-based government spokesman Ashur Shamis said the transitional council rejects the plan, and instead backs a decentralization that would give considerable authority to local city or district governments while preserving a strong central government.

    Even some easterners are worried. Fathi al-Fadhali, a prominent writer originally from Benghazi, says Libya isn’t ready for such a system. First, the country has to overcome the poisons of Gadhafi’s rule and establish a civil society where rights are respected.

    “We are all polluted by Gadhafi’s evil, violence, envy, terrorism, and conspiracies,” he said, “myself included.”

    Associated Press writer Rami al-Shaheibi in Kufra, Libya contributed to this report.

    © 2012 The Associated Press

  8. Muslim Brotherhood forms new party

    Sunday 04 March 2012

    by Our Foreign Desk

    Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood has formed the Justice and Development Party at a Tripoli meeting attended by over 1,400 delegates.

    The meeting at the weekend elected Mohamed Sowan, a former political prisoner, as the party’s leader.

    Mr Sowan is a resident of Misrata, which saw some of the bloodiest battles of last year’s civil war.

    Since the overthrow of former leader Muammar Gadaffi, Misrata has effectively ruled itself as an armed city-state which refuses to answer to the National Transitional Council (NTC) government in Tripoli.

    Brotherhood spokesman Mohamed Gaair said the organisation had more support across Libya than any of its rivals, with representation in 18 cities.

    Delegates at Saturday’s meeting committed themselves to build a “just and developed society based on religious values,” though Mr Gaair added: “That doesn’t mean the shallow meaning most people think of like banning women from leaving home.”

    The Muslim Brotherhood is a pan-Arab organisation which operates in many countries and won around half the seats in Egyptian parliamentary elections in January.

    But it operates separately in individual countries, with the Libyan wing funding itself. National Muslim Brotherhoods differ widely on their interpretations of Islamic law and how it should be applied.

    The NTC has already pledged to make sharia law “the main source of legislation,” scrapping a Gadaffi-era ban on polygamy and removing women’s right to retain property after a divorce.

    The Libyan government apologised today after a video was posted online showing people desecrating British and Italian war graves.
    The video uploaded onto social networking site Facebook showed men kicking headstones over and smashing tombs with sledgehammers.

    http://morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/116165

  9. Pingback: Eastern Libya, a breakaway oil monarchy? | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  10. Pingback: Elections, but no democracy, in Libya | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  11. UN womens bill prompts fatwa

    LIBYA: The country’s supreme religious cleric Mufti al-Sadiq al-Ghiryani called on Muslim nations today to reject a United Nations document on women’s rights, saying that it counters Islamic law.

    The cleric issued a fatwa against the document set to be signed at the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women this month.

    The fatwa criticises the document’s references to inheritance and its equating of men and women.

    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/130496

  12. Libya women face Islamist rise since Gadhafi fall

    By MAGGIE MICHAEL

    — Mar. 7 3:06 PM EST

    BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — On her way back from her job as a lecturer at a university near Tripoli, Libyan poet Aicha Almagrabi was stopped by a group of bearded militiamen. They kicked her car, beat up her driver and threatened to do the same to her. Her offense: being alone in a car with men without a male relative as a guardian.

    “You have violated the law of God,” the militiamen told her, Almagrabi said.

    “I said, I teach male students, so should I bring a male guardian with me to classroom?” she told The Associated Press.

    Not that the university is immune to increasingly bold conservatives’ views on the role of women. Almagrabi said one student recently told her she shouldn’t be giving lectures because a woman’s voice is “awra” — too intimate and shameful to be exposed in public.

    The incident in February, which ended with the militiamen allowing Almagrabi to drive home, underlined the bitter irony for women in post-revolution Libya. Women played a major role in the 8-month civil war against dictator Moammar Gadhafi, massing for protests against his regime, selling jewelry to fund rebels, smuggling weapons across enemy lines to rebels.

    But since Gadhafi’s fall more than 18 months ago, women have been rewarded by seeing their rights hemmed in and restricted.

    Women fear worse may yet to come. The country is soon to begin work drafting a new constitution, which activists fear will enshrine the relegation of women to second-class status, given the influence of hard-line Islamists.

    “What we aim for right now is not to lose what we had,” said Hanan al-Noussori, a lawyer in Libya’s second biggest city, Benghazi. “I don’t know which path we are heading in. But this is a matter of life or death for us.”

    Women can cite any number of worrying signs.

    Libya’s lawlessness is in part to blame. Islamist militiamen have grown more aggressive in unilaterally imposing their own rules on women. Militias, which were initially formed from rebel brigades that battled Gadhafi’s troops, hold sway in many cities. They operate with impunity because, with national police and the army in a shambles, the state relies on them as parallel security forces. The state funds a security body made up of militias, trying to keep them loyal, but that has only made them larger and bolder.

    More generally, the deeply conservative nature of much of Libyan society is being expressed more freely, often impinging on women. Powerful clerics speak out against the mixing of the sexes and Libya’s political leaders themselves have set the tone for a more conservative stance on women.

    Almagrabi says the opening salvo came right after Gadhafi’s fall in late 2011, in one of the first addresses by then-head of state Mustafa Abdul-Jalil. He declared invalid all laws not conforming to Shariah and specifically vowed to end limits on polygamy. Islamic law allows men to take up to four wives, if they are treated equally, but under Gadhafi men had to get court permission and often permission from their first wife to do so.

    “I felt like we were taken like spoils of war,” Almagrabi said. “This nation rose up for the sake of the supremacy of the law and now there is a plan to push women back into their homes.”

    In February, the Supreme Constitutional Court consecrated Abdul-Jalil’s announcement, formally ending any conditions on polygamy.

    In 2012, at a televised ceremony celebrating the transfer of power to a newly elected parliament, Abdul-Jalil ordered a young presenter, Sarah al-Massalati, to leave the hall because she was not wearing a headscarf.

    “We believe, respect and emphasize personal freedoms, but we are also a Muslim nation,” Abdul-Jalil said at the time, to cheers from the audience. “I hope everyone understands these words.”

    Al-Massalati broke into tears. “I felt I was slaughtered,” she later told Libyan media.

    More recently, militiamen stormed a conference on women’s rights and the constitution, held by Magdalene Ubaida and other women rights activists in Benghazi. The gunmen detained Ubaida and two of her colleagues. When they were released and heading to the airport to return to Tripoli, they were seized by more militiamen and beaten.

    The incident came after one of the top security officials in Benghazi, Wanis el-Sharif, accused Ubaida of “spoling women” and criticizing Libya’s top Muslim official, the grand mufti. The 25-year-old Ubaida, a co-founder of a rights organization called My Right, has since fled to Britain, saying she fears for her life.

    The mufti, Sheik Sadeq al-Gharyani, took a hardline on women in a speech he delivered a year ago to a conference titled “the role of Muslim women in reconstruction.”

    “The state must put an end to the mingling of the sexes in the university, to close this door, this big door for corruption,” he said. He urged school and university directors to start separating men and women without waiting for the state to order it.

    He also cited a warning by the Prophet Muhammad that women who wear revealing clothing or don’t cover their hair are “the people of hell.”

    Al-Gharyani is considered by some a hero of the revolution, since early on in the uprising against Gadhafi he issued a fatwa or religious edict permitting war against his regime.

    Under Gadhafi’s 42-year rule, women had a mixed bag.

    Gadhafi often presented himself as a defender of women rights and at times made a point of defying strict interpretations of Shariah, since Islamists were among his main enemies.

    Female lawyers say the country had one of the Arab world’s most pro-women personal status laws, covering marriage, divorce and family law. Unlike Egypt and some other Arab nations, there is no “house of obedience” law by which courts can force women who flee their husbands to return. Women have children’s custody rights after divorce.

    Libyan society is generally conservative and tribal, and the majority of women wear headscarves. But at the same time, women make up a significant proportion of the work force, run their own businesses and were part of the armed forces. More women are pursuing postgraduate decrees than men.

    But women lived under the same repressive regime as men under Gadhafi — and he often implicated women in regime abuses. He created a female security force of “nuns of the revolution,” members of which participated in hangings of opposition figures in public or in extractions of confessions aired on TV.

    Former aides have told lurid tales of Gadhafi’s private life, reporting in books and interviews that he had young women brought forcibly to his Tripoli compound as sex slaves.

    Women were prominent in the opposition to Gadhafi. For years, the mothers, sisters and wives of some 1,200 political prisoners massacred by the regime in the Abu Salim prison in 1996 held weekly protests at the security headquarters in Benghazi.

    That eventually provided the spark for the revolution in February 2011. When one of the women’s lawyers was arrested, they expanded their protest. When regime forces cracked down on them, the entire eastern half of Libya quickly rose up in revolt.

    Since Gadhafi’s fall, women’s rights activists have seen at least one reassuring point. In the first free parliament elections last July, a liberal-leaning coalition came out the victors. The Muslim Brotherhood finished second while a party founded by a prominent jihadi-turned-politician got no seats. Women won 33 of parliament’s 200 seats.

    Now comes the drafting of the constitution. Rights activists worry that few if any women will be in the 60-member drafting assembly, which will be chosen either by national elections or by parliament.

    There is also a consensus among all political parties, liberal and Islamist that the charter will enshrine Shariah as the main source of legislation and forbid any laws contradicting it. The last constitution Libya had — a 1951 charter that Gadhafi annulled — made no mention of Shariah.

    Salwa Bugaighis, a rights lawyer, said debate over a Shariah clause is out of the question. “Shariah is a big taboo in Libya.”

    But she places her hopes on getting other articles into the document explicitly guaranteeing women’s rights.

    “We are fearful. We are worried and we are watching,” she said.

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