A letter to the hero not the victim

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This letter is a response by Arab Research & Advocacy Bureau executive Shatha Sbeta, who is a Libyan citizen and American resident, to last week’s horrific gang rape of a Libyan woman in front of her daughter by members of militia group Al-Awashr Brigade. The incident was videoed and has circulated social media websites.

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You are not alone, the whole Arab world is with you…

I do not know you, we do not know you, but we all know something about you. We know you are brave, strong. We know you are not only a survivor, you are a hero.

We know that this is not the only incident in which women fall victims to violence on all levels. And while you were a victim of violence and terror, we call you a hero. You are a hero because in the midst of the most horrifying incident one can ever experience, you were strong enough to still fight back, to protect yourself, to protect your daughter, and to protect millions of other girls and women.

Words may not change the past, protests may not change the facts, punishments may not take away the pain, but here is something we want you to know: that we are proud of you.

What happened to you, and many other girls and women in Libya and many other countries across the Arab world, is not acceptable.

At Arab Research & Advocacy Bureau, we condemn all actions that violate a human’s fundamental rights. We condemn the violations of your right to privacy and consent, and we will stand against any group that attempts to do that to you or anyone else.

The silence must be broken. We are not frightened, we are ready to stand strong.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “you gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face”… You did not only face fear, you experienced it. And for that, you are an example of strength, not shame.

It is not only Libyan women rights activists, Libyan civil society organisations and the general Libyan population that is supporting you, it is the Arab world as an entire entity.

We hope that by sharing this letter, we contribute to raising awareness to the horrific experiences many go through. But most importantly, we hope you realise that you must come back to society confident, proud, because you are not only a survivor, you are a hero.

On behalf of Arab Research & Advocacy Bureau, I take a bow for your strength and salute you, for you will always be a national hero.

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