“The event shed light on the vibrant role civil society still plays in Benghazi, highlighting the resilience of the local community in Benghazi,” in the words of Zahra’ Langhi, co-founder and director of the Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace (LWPP), which teamed up with RNW Media's Huna Libya project to organise the festival on 8 March.
The aim of the gathering was to celebrate civil society movements in the war-torn city, to focus on efforts to strengthen civil society and spread awareness of the importance of upholding social and cultural life in times of war.
“Even though the city is abandoned by the international community, RNW Media insists on continuing its activities like this festival on the ground,” said Amrouni, RNW Media’s representative in Benghazi in his opening speech.
The role of Libyan women
The festival included debates on women’s political rights and the part young women can play in shaping the future of Libya. Should international conventions be implemented in a new Libyan constitution?, was one of the questions raised.
Other activities included the screening of two documentaries highlighting the Benghazi civil movement since 2011 as well as various cultural activities, such as a concert by Guys Underground, who had written a special song about women and peace for the occasion.
The activities went far beyond the borders of Benghazi as they were picked up by the online community. The hashtag #LyWomen4peace topped the trending list in Libya.
It even drew a tweet from Martin Kobler, Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), in which he acknowledged the important role of Libyan women in building their country:
Likewise, the US and UK embassies shared posts about the event from the Huna Libya Facebook page.
RNW Media coordinator Miftah Saeid sums up the mood: “For the people in Benghazi, the event was more than a joyful festivity: it was their first step towards civil peaceful activities and a move away from the exhaustion of war. ‘We deserve peace, our city deserves peace and joy, and we're going to make it happen, this is our message,’ were the upbeat words of one female visitor.”
“Don’t forget that many Benghazi residents feel let down by international organizations. They have been portrayed as troublemakers and left to their own devices, but now they have shown that their positive side: they have something to give and a voice to be heard. People feel thankful to RNW Media for giving them this opportunity; you can feel their appreciation in their social media posts.”
Photographs by Mohamed Badi