My Name is Hala and this is my Story- a Message from Benghazi

Saturday 14 September 201903:08 pm

In light of Libya's civil war and social and regional problems, many other problems are swept under the carpet and not discussed as they are considered tabooer than killing, homelessness and rape. Many will accept the existence of a murderer or rapist, but they will not accept a homosexual.

Here, in this space, I tried to talk to a girl with striking features and an inexplicable look in her eyes,  as soon as I wrote to her and showed my interest in her, she asked me to communicate with her via the secure Telegram app.

The quality of the calls you can make on the app is poor and we kept failing in our attempts to contact each other for two days but continued to try as the sensitivity of the situation demanded it.

“Let's try one last time,” she told me and we did so I could hear her story.

Name: Hala Ahmed

Age: 24 years old

Nationality: Libyan- I live in Benghazi

Education: Medical student

Sexual Orientation: Lesbian

Hala (a pseudonym) is a young Libyan woman whose life is rife with problems as she lives in a country considered to be one of the worst in the world in terms of freedom of expression and personal freedoms and in a family and social environment that does not accept homosexuals.

Hala pursues a number of cultural activities in an attempt to distract herself in this environment marred by wars and conflicts, and believes that love, beauty and art are the only way to transcend the current crisis in the country. "Everyone must accept the other with all that is beautiful and ugly. And if that is their perspective then why do we hurt each other, we don’t accept each other's different bodies, features and ideas?”

From this standpoint, Hala began to tell her story and I retell it here in the manner she had wished to express it.

“I felt very attracted to girls from a young age, I was very eager to read about the attributes of the body and the nature of the attraction of the sexes to one another and aged 10 I understood clearly what penetration and sexual relations between the sexes were and I was very surprised to discover descriptions of my orientation and that it existed globally and across history as I had been worried that I was an exception and abnormal as they say.

It wouldn’t be fair for someone to say “Hala is a lesbian” and leave it at that, because being a lesbian is one of my characteristics and not my defining one.
The Libyan state criminalizes homosexual practices - it fears open and visible love - even though homosexuality in Libya is very common but not public, many young people have sex with their peers without talking about it.

It wouldn’t be fair for someone to say “Hala is a lesbian” and leave it at that, because being a lesbian is one of my characteristics and not my defining one.

I am very well aware of when I am happiest and most satisfied in my relationship with someone, a mental connection, exchange of thoughts and harmony between two mindsets is what gratifies me more than anything, which is why I mention this relationship as it was just a sort of relaxed courtship. I did not initiate it and neither did she, there was a chemistry between us that was balanced and led the way for our relationship.

At a young age, a person can distinguish between those who hurt him and those who can protect him from all the filth of the world and I felt that way. She and I communicated intuitively, in a way more refined than other relationships which are defined by material interests.

Today most of my relationships both in Benghazi and Tripoli, are largely in the elite circles - as they call them, which do not make absurd judgments about you because of your appearance, interests, or individual choices which is in direct contradiction to the homophobic hate speech I have to regularly confront even from the people closest to me (my sister) who seems to solely advocate for hate rather than love and has often expressed her disgust at homosexuals and their way of life.

On the street, there is no lack of bullies "You like like a girl, but you are a boy" a passer-by told me.

But at home, although my family can be considered conservative, they are gentle. No-one has ever abused or beat me while my mother is afraid of confronting the issue and talking about it directly but she senses in some way that I am not a typical Libyan girl.  This is what happened when I took off the hijab after wearing it for six years, and although I abandoned the hijab, my mother did not ask me why for fear of hearing something she wouldn’t like to hear

Amid the torrent of modern ideas, I live in a bubble that I have created for myself: I am a very neutral person, I do not try to highlight or even hide my personality! I am lesbian, and this is something that describes a part of me but it is not the only thing that people know about me or of me because first and foremost I am a person with interests, relationships, causes that I fight for and activities that I pursue. It wouldn’t be fair for someone to say “Hala is a lesbian” and leave it at that, because being a lesbian is one of my characteristics and not my defining one.

I often act normally with everyone but the dogmatism that people judge me with bothers me, because I unite female and male traits within me, because the masculine personality alone does not represent me nor does the feminine. I wear makeup and cut my hair in different ways according to my mood during the year and nothing more, even my clothes tend to be quite classic and representative of my nature and my personal taste rather than my sexual identity.

As for the state, it criminalizes homosexual sexual practices - it fears open and visible love - even though homosexuality in Libya is very common but not public, many young people have sex with their peers without talking about it.

“Faggot, freak, Lesbo …” These are insults that we frequently hear on the street and in public places not to mention the death threats and calls to get rid of us permanently as we threaten “public morality,” even though we are a peaceful group in society. We are not making a fuss on the political scene or in the public sphere where there is so much ferocious competition in Libya.

As I have already said, I am a truly neutral person who defends human rights and the oppressed in this country. I even defend animals and I hope that all these stereotypes & limitations will be abolished and that everyone will live as they wish without harming others. "

Hala concluded her message with a final chuckle as she talked about how to achieve gay rights under the Libyan constitution- a goal that seems impossible to even dream of. I asked her “How would you achieve it?” she responded “I just want peace, nothing more”.

Show the comments
Website by WhiteBeard