Film Festival Opens Human Rights Dialogue in Libya

National Awareness Movement film festival
The National Awareness Movement hosted a four-day documentary film festival for over 1,000 Libyans on the importance of human rights.
Grappling with post-revolution transition
The film festival "broke new ground culturally, politically, and socially.”

What does “human rights” mean? More importantly, what does it mean to me?

These questions are being posed by groups like the National Awareness Movement (NAM), a Tripoli-based group of young activists that encourages debate and dialogue on the importance of human rights and the role it must play in Libya’s transition. Using film as a creative medium to bring people together, NAM screened six films on human rights to over 1,000 viewers in Tripoli, November 1-4, 2012.

Opening night of the festival was a full house, attended by foreign embassy officials as well as representatives of the Libyan Government and General National Congress. The audience of the first screening gave positive feedback and requested an encore showing of “A Man’s Shadow,” one of the featured films about women speaking their minds. The event, supported by USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives, was highly publicized and covered by about two dozen media outlets including Al Jazeera, Reuters and The Associated Press.

The Economist reported in 2012 that the film festival "broke new ground culturally, politically and socially.”

The festival launched with documentaries on Libya, but also included films on human rights in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Italy. The films personalized the issue of human rights and sparked open conversation on global human rights in a safe environment. In a peaceful dialogue on the second day, participants discussed methods to ensure basic human rights are protected in Libya.

On the third day, activists and experts led discussions on women’s rights and the rights of the disabled. Libyan Minister of Justice Salah Almarghany served as a panelist, acknowledging the presence of human rights abuses in Libya, saying it is “what is stalling the victory of the Libyan revolution.”

The event was the first of growing efforts to raise awareness on the importance of human rights in Libya. Many participants in the film festival said that the event helped them to identify a violation of human rights when they see one, to realize that the language of human rights is universal, and to learn from others as the first step to finding a solution for Libya.

Last updated: September 26, 2013

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