The political sphere has long been the playground for deeming everything fair, as expedient as it may be. As the current political scenario in India will also attest for, the space of politics does not necessarily uphold any ideals as non-negotiable. In the race for power, there aren’t any principles that are given, so to speak. When those hungry for power decide that there is another conquest to be made to either increase their power, or to keep it intact, the means to this end is rarely mulled over.
In such races for power, though, what soon happens is that insecurity seeps into the people who retain power. The result of such brewing insecurities is that nefarious ideas are encouraged by those who want to make sure that their authority is never questioned. For such a situation to arise there needs to be an ostentatious show of power, with the objective of scaring those very people from whom the power was gained (as in an electoral contest).
The other, more alarming, result of such insecurities is the cultivation of a skin so thick, on those blinded by the glamour of power, that empathy, compassion and sensitivity cannot even hover around them. This scenario becomes more egregious because it questions the morality and integrity of the people and the state. The need for conquest and unbridled power is something that, for instance, the Indian Territory has seen since the time of dynastic rulers and the Mughals.
In the Libyan Civil War of 2011 which was fought between Gaddafi’s government and those wanting to oust him, Sergiwa, based on her research work, estimated that almost 6000 women were raped, which included Gaddafi’s six women bodyguards.
Wars were waged in those days, sometimes with fair warning, and sometimes in ambush, to conquer land and its people. Almost five hundred years after the last Mughal emperor, and seventy two years after the British left the Indian subcontinent, one cannot but wonder at how little we have evolved as a race. To keep control over a land, even today, we do not employ the ideals of democracy, but instead use brute force and conspiracies to gain and regain power.
The motivation (and anger) for this rant stems from the abduction of a Libyan elected representative and lawmaker, Seham Sergiwa. Sergiwa was abducted on the night of 17th July, 2019 from her home in Benghazi by about twenty five to thirty armed men of the Libyan National Army. Her family members say that the abductors were working under the orders of the militia leader, Khalifa Haftar.
To provide a little context on the issue, Seham Sergiwa born and brought up in Libya, left for London in the 90s to pursue her doctorate in clinical psychology. During the Arab Spring, triggered by the atrocities inflicted by Muammar Gaddafi’s government which included complete curbing of the freedom of speech, tearing apart of private businesses and books and use of murder to propagate a particular idea of the state, Seham Sergiwa returned to Libya to fight against Gaddafi’s corrupt government.
Soon after the Arab Spring, which cost the lives of more than five hundred thousand people, Sergiwa noticed the uprising of Khalifa Haftar, a military man, who was trying to take advantage of the Libyan people’s lobby for a strong government. This trend was unnerving for Sergiwa, who then started speaking out against Haftar and the consequences of allowing a military leader to form a government.
In 2011, Seham Sergiwa also conducted a research on the use of rape as a weapon of war. In the Libyan Civil War of 2011 which was fought between Gaddafi’s government and those wanting to oust him, Sergiwa, based on her research work, estimated that almost 6000 women were raped, which included Gaddafi’s six women bodyguards. In order to conduct her research, Seham Sergiwa visited the refugee camps on the borders of Tunisia and Egypt and spoke to the women refugees there.
She also observed that Viagra and condoms were provided to pro-government soldiers during the War to encourage them to carry out these rapes. The incidents of rape included abductions and gang rapes by the government soldiers. Sergiwa’s investigation results were then provided to the International Criminal Court to aid in their investigation into the humanitarian crimes of the Libyan Civil War.
In 2014, Seham Sergiwa fought the Libyan parliamentary elections and was elected with a large majority. She is currently hailed as one of the forerunners of equal rights for women in Libya. She has fearlessly spoken up for women’s human rights in her time as parliamentarian too. The day she was abducted was also the day she spoke out against Haftar again, and the men who abducted her spray painted, “Don’t cross the line of the army” across one of the walls in her home. Her family members have expressed concerns about the torture she might be subjected to by her abductors. The United Nations has also released a statement reminding the Libyan people of the freedoms that the Arab Spring granted them, and also condemning the assault on freedom of speech that has been exhibited in this abduction of Seham Sergiwa.
In 2014, Seham Sergiwa fought the Libyan parliamentary elections and was elected with a large majority. She is currently hailed as one of the forerunners of equal rights for women in Libya. She has fearlessly spoken up for women’s human rights in her time as parliamentarian too.
In speaking on the current state of politics in the country, Christophe Jaffrelot writes about a government, “which does not try to build consensus but acts unilaterally in the name of efficacy.” The idea of the greater good, the bigger picture is nebulous, yet the clarion call is to struggle for that picture. India has also seen several politically motivated abductions—yet, mostly these were done to blackmail certain political figures by targeting those close to the political figures in question.
For instance, in 1989 Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, the then Home Minister of India under the V.P. Singh government, was kidnapped by members of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front. The demand made by JKLF was the release of thirteen terrorists. Similarly Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s brother-in-law was kidnapped in 1992, so that three members of terrorist group Al Umar could be released.
What is important to recognize here, is the deliberate curbing of people’s voices to forward certain almost imperialistic agendas of several leaders of states. While Sergiwa’s abduction has been widely condemned, by people all over the global community, the reality still is that even after twenty days, there is still no information about her. The day she was abducted, everyone present in her home was shot by the army personnel, including the husband.
Some reports state that her family members are also being held captive by the army. It is because Sergiwa was seen to be fearlessly speaking out against Haftar’s dictatorship, as well as asking for a unity in all parties, platforms and organizations to rise against the impending militarization of the government in Libya. The values of democracy, liberalism and human rights have been targeted with this abduction, and it is important to keep the conversation running, if there is to be any change in the scenario.
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