Asma Khalifa was born in the coastal town of Zuwara, one of the most culturally distinct towns and is of Amazigh (Berber) origins. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law and a Master’s in Peace and Conflict Studies. She was born at a time when political corruption, human rights violation, unemployment, poverty and sectarianism were at its highest point in Libya. She witnesses the discrimination against the non-Arab Libyans, the violation of the human rights of her people and the sexual harassment of Libyan women during the period of Gaddafi’s regime.
Because Libya’s de facto leader Gaddafi considered the Amazigh a threat to his vision for a United Arab nation, he placed a ban on them. It became illegal to teach Tamazight in schools, illegal to give children Tamazight names or speak Tamazight in public.
“I can’t remember how many times my cousin was arrested for singing Amazigh songs in public.” says Asma Khalifa
But when push turned to shove, Khalifa lends her voice and becomes a human rights activist.
“… all we hear is words, even in the draft constitution there’s no mention of the Amazigh, and then people say things like you should just be grateful that the constitution doesn’t say we’re a Libyan Arab Republic.” She observes.
[Tweet “On 25th May, 2016, Khalifa was awarded the Luxembourg Peace Prize”]
On 25th May, 2016, Khalifa was awarded the Luxembourg Peace Prize by the Schengen Peace Foundation as the Outstanding Youth Peace Maker. The Luxembourg Peace Prize is a recognition of Khalifa’s contributions in the world as a key player to support peace-building, promoting peace and conflict resolution!
[Tweet “In 2017, Asma Khalifa was named one of the 100 Most Influential Young Africans by the Africa Youth Awards”]
In 2017, she was named one of the 100 Most Influential Young Africans by the Africa Youth Awards. Khalifa earned her title owing to her bravery in the fight against the sexual harassment of women during Gaddafi’s reign, for her non-violent way of protesting for the rights of women in Africa and inspiring young people.
A CRUSADER FOR THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN IN LIBYA
Her work in Libya has included improving women’s participation in local government and fighting against gender-based violence.
In 2015, she co-founded the Tamazight Women Movement with the aim to research, report and advocate on Tamazight women issues in Libya and North Africa. Their core values being equality, social justice, and diversity.
SHE MAKES HER PROTEST PEACEFUL AND INFORMATIVE
In early 2010, the civil protests, demonstrations and revolt, resulted in the death and overthrow of Gaddafi. However, the unveiling of Libya’s transitional government causes the Berbers to rise in protest at the under-representation of Libya’s largest ethnic minority, the Amazigh. The Amazigh as a result suspends relations with Libya’s national government and withdraws its representative to the National Transitional Council (NTC).
Khalifa however, isn’t convinced that suspending relations with the National Transitional Council is the best way forward. She says, “I think it’s a bit extreme, they [the Arabs and the Amazigh] should probably sort these things out between each other and not stop talking to each other”.
[Tweet “If I want to see hope in Libya again, I have to work for it – @AsmaKhalifa89”]
A WOMAN OF GOODWILL AND TENACIOUS SPIRIT
Possessing a tenacious spirit, Khalifa hasn’t given up. Now, she travels around Libya to educate people on women’s rights and teach communities methods of nonviolent resistance. Her organization continues to work towards civil progress and good governance in Libya. “If I want to see hope in Libya again, I have to work for it” she says
Asma Khalifa is one of the 30 Extraordinary Voices featured in the Women’s Month Series by AWLO. Click on your favorite social media button below to share if you have been inspired by Asma Khalifa.