The recipient of a 2016 Luxembourg Peace Prize travels around her country to promote women’s rights and train local communities in non-violent resistance: “That’s how we build the foundation of a country”
LIBYAN WOMEN WAVE THEIR NEW NATIONAL FLAG (R) AND THE FLAG OF THE BERBER DURING AN AMAZIGH FESTIVAL IN TRIPOLI. (KARIM SAHIB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Asma Khalifa grew up wearing a military uniform at her school, as was the dress code for all high school kids in Libya during Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s regime, from 1969 to 2011. They were raised to be his soldiers — to learn his political philosophy from what is famously known as the “green book,” and were tested on their understanding of their country’s military. Today, 27-year-old Asma is cynical about Qaddafi’s regime, about the revolution that replaced him, and about Western intervention in her land. So she undertakes what she believes is most needed in Libya — personal action. The recipient of a 2016 Luxembourg Peace Prize, as “Outstanding Youth Peaceworker,” travels around the country to promote women’s rights and train local communities in non-violent resistance. “That’s how we build the foundation of a country,” Asma explains.
Asma is not one of the Arabs who make up most of the country’s population, but an Amazigh, the indigenous people who survived various civilizations that crossed the land, most recently Arabs. Amazigh, (one of many ethnic groups, along with the Berber), means “free humans,” and Asma takes this definition to heart.