Sunday, August 31, 2014

Open Letter to Safia Ishaq

Dear Safia,

We have never met, but I know you.

When you were gang-raped on the 13th of February 2011, I was in Tripoli, my father was stationed with the UN there at the time, and we arrived in Libya after we were evacuated from Egypt as the revolution there unfolded. 

We were escorted from our house as military barricades filled the streets of Cairo, taken to terminal four and put on a World Bank plane to Dubai. From Dubai, we came to Libya only for another revolution to unfold.

Five days after your life changed forever, the day you were arrested by the national security service as you were buying your art supplies and then subjected to a horrific gang-rape by three security men as they muffled your screams and beat you into forced submission…. the protests would start in Benghazi in Western Libya and we would again evacuate Libya just days before the airport was shut down.

The whole world was changing in February 2011, Safia, your world changed and my world changed as well.

Ten days later, I am in a cold country and my mother is hospitalized, I am scared and afraid of loss, I check my Facebook only to find a video circulated by a movement called Girifna. In the video, you are wearing a blue scarf and speaking about your rape.

You went through something unimaginable, but you were not broken, you spoke about rape in a conservative society where rape is a stigma and a rape victim is stigmatized. You spoke about it at great personal risk..... the video was filmed and you were in hiding. Your family refused to speak to you for days after February 13th, Safia, they just could not grasp what happened to you. 

Some of your friends were in detention from the protests and others were arrested by the police who wanted to blame them for your disappearance.

In the video, you are collected as you tell what happened to you in details, towards the end, you break down in tears as the emotional ordeal becomes too heavy on your heart then you explain why you did this things don't remain this way, so it doesn't happen to any girl again.

 So things get better.

So things get better...such a small sentence, Safia, but it has become my motto. A loaded phrase ….that gives me inspiration to continue to fight for human rights. I became an activist after watching your video and seeing how people reacted to it.

Too many things need to get better, Safia.

You shouldn't have been arrested or raped, because no-one deserves to be subjected to this. You shouldn't have been shunned by your family and called a liar by the government's propaganda because rape is serious and is a dangerous weapon ..... legitimatized by the mentality that makes it acceptable to fight wars over women's bodies and accept violence against women because they are active and taking part in resistance and protests . Because they exist in the public sphere.

I think of you many times, every year I remember you in the days leading up to February the 13th, I watch the video and I am touched by your message of hope against all adversity. 

Thank you Safia for touching my heart with your words and courage.

1 comment:

Osama Mahmoud said...

Excellent account. Thanks for sharing. Hat off to Safia. Words fail to describe her ordeal, crimes commented against her, and her courageous stand to the perpetrators by breaking the silence. This ordeal is replicated SYSTEMATICALLY throughout certain regions in Sudan.
Safia and her peers are victims of governmental policies as well as society neglect by turning the other way. I end on this note
قد صغرنا أمامك (يا صفية) الف قرنٍ وكبرتِ خلال شهراً قرونا