Why one Libyan mother joined the rebels
Nayla Mohammed El Farisi, a diminutive, fully veiled woman who lost a brother to Qaddafi's regime, works 10-hour days writing articles for a newspaper critical of Libya's dictator.
Libyan rebels may have gotten a reprieve from the United Nations Security Council resolution passed last night, but the stakes are still high for those who willingly defy Muammar Qaddafi's nearly 42-year rule.Skip to next paragraph
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More than a few have lost relatives or friends at the hands of the regime, which is notorious for torturing and killing its own citizens. But for people like Nayla Mohammed El Farisi, a fully veiled woman who stands barely five feet tall, that is precisely why they have joined the fight against Mr. Qaddafi.
"I'm torn apart," says Mrs. Farisi, a writer and charity worker whose brother was killed in prison 15 years ago. "I’m not doing this for personal revenge. I’m doing this because this is the sound of conscience. This revolution is the right revolution.”
On a typical evening in the midst of Libya’s uprising, Mrs. Farisi is found hustling around a makeshift newsroom in the North Benghazi Courthouse wrapping up 10-hour days writing articles for a newspaper created to criticize Qaddafi.
“Before I couldn’t do anything. I was repressed,” she says. “And now I feel like I can do everything.”
Like the rest of Libya’s 6.5 million citizens, Farisi has never before been able to speak out against the government, which has caused her family hardships for decades. She and her family are doing all they can to help put an end to the dictator’s regime.
“Just because I’m dressed like this doesn’t mean I can’t do anything,” says Farisi, who wears a long, dark dress and her face is fully veiled, her hands hidden by gloves as a sign of religious piety. “I know how to use a gun, I volunteered at the beginning of the revolution as a medical assistant in the hospital, and now I’m working with a charity.”
A brother detained as 'too religious'
In the judges’ breakroom-turned-news bureau where Farisi is playing her part in the rebellion, she sat on a recent evening with a picture of her brother, Said Mohammad El Farisi, hanging from a string around her neck. The electrical engineer was killed when he was 32 years old.
The family’s struggles began in December 1988 when the Libyan secret service stormed Farisi's home. She was just 22 years old as she watched agents destroy Said’s room and raid his Islamic book collection. They stole a picture of the young man, who was in Turkey at the time buying furniture for his soon-to-be bride.
Two days later, Farisi’s father received a call informing him that Said was arrested at the airport for being too religious, prompting her sister to have a psychological breakdown. “They didn’t find guns with him,” says Farisi. “It wasn’t because he belonged to a certain group. It was just because he was religious.”
For years Said remained in prison without any way to contact his family. But he wasn’t the only one who faced trouble at the hands of authorities. “My two brothers are arrested at least once a month. They are arrested and released, arrested and released.” This has been happening since 1989.