Women march in Benghazi, Libya on International Women’s Day
JIHAN HAFIZ (VOICE-OVER), REPORTER: Shots fired in the air are now a common occurrence in Benghazi, but it doesn’t prevent parents from taking their children and babies to demonstrations.
PROTESTER (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): This is my first time coming out to support the 17th of February Movement. I’m not afraid at all. I’m not afraid at all. Even when we leave, I will die a martyr.
HAFIZ: This protest was organized especially for children. The event seems like a school fair–singing, dancing, finger painting, and picture taking.
UNIDENTIFIED: We’re showing the children that even if they’re not going out to fight, that they can be heard, as simple as that; they have a voice, they can be heard. It has nothing to do with the whole we’re hurting how they’re thinking and we’re endangering it, no, because they understand and they’re seeing everybody around them. So they have to play a role.
CROWD (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): There is only one God. Martyrs are dear to God.
HAFIZ: Later in the day, the women took to the streets. The organizers are a group of young women called the Daughters of Omar Mukhtar, the revolutionary leader who fought for Libya’s independence from Italy.
CROWD (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Free Libya! Muammar step down!
HAFIZ: They expected dozens of women. The turnout was in the thousands. Such a scene would never be posssible under the government of Muammar al-Gaddafi. Almost all of these women here are protesting for the very first time in their lives. The liberation and the revolution of Libya has given them a new sense of freedom. Some of these women have family members who were murdered in the notorious 1996 massacre at Abu Salim Prison. Others lost their fathers, brothers, or sons during the popular uprising that began last month, when government security forces gunned down hundreds of people in this city.
PROTESTER (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): A martyr was killed on February 17, Mohammed Salem Moujena. They shot him with live ammunition and destroyed all of his insides. Three hours later, my brother died. God willing, one day Muammar the oppressor leaves this country. Your end is near, Muammar! My brother’s blood was not wasted in vain!
HAFIZ: They sang: their men are prepared to fight and ready to die. They demand the international community impose a no-fly zone to halt Gaddafi’s constant air strikes.
PROTESTER: Do something for our people. They’re dying out there. My brothers in Az Zawiyah and Abu Salim and Tripoli, they are dying. Do something, please. For anyone who has authority–I’m talking to every single president, anyone, Egypt at Cairo, Kuwait, Qatar, anyone who has authority, please do something. Stop wasting blood. It’s enough!
HAFIZ: Gaddafi has accused his opponents of being terrorists and drug addicts. The women ridicule these accusations.
PROTESTER: The role of women for us at the revolution was nothing. No women couldn’t go out. No one couldn’t speak. But now, when we started making groups, women wanted to go out and join with us. So it’s amazing what we’re seeing here. It’s–’cause we never thought women will actually go out in Libya.
HAFIZ: The women shouted “God is great” when they heard the news the rebels had retaken the town of Ben Jawad. But reports from the front lines also indicate the air attacks were still pounding rebel positions.
PROTESTER (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Tonight, God willing, they will take his life. These are mothers and women that are here on their volition. Their call will be answered, God willing.
CROWD (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): There is only one God. Martyrs are dear to God!
HAFIZ: As the women finish their march in front of the old courthouse, the meeting place for Gaddafi’s opponents, they look forward to a massive march planned this coming Friday with women, children, and men. Jihan Hafiz for The Real News in Benghazi, Libya.