Have you heard of freedom fighter Bint al-Muqwas?
Written by: SafaAlharathy
The Libyan people have a history of fierce resistance against foreign intervention. Heroic stories of men and woman symbolized in Sheikh of martyrs Omar al-Mukhtar set a great inspiration to the rest of the world and a school for Libyan generation to come.
Amongst them was a spirited woman who demonstrated remarkable bravery in resisting the Italian invaders in her own unique way.
Salima Bint al-Muqwas, a woman from the Nuwayl tribe in southern Libya in Fezzan region, was well known to the Europeans and French in particular as Joan of Arc of the Arabs.
She became famous in February 1912 after her legendary participation in the battle of Gargarish against the Italian fascists. Her courageous performance in the battle had amazed the French reporter Paul Tristan of French newspaper La Marseille, who was struck by her character that he presented her a sword.
From her small town in the south, she made her way to Tripoli, trekking for miles through a large arid desert and under the scorching sun. She was forced to walk half the journey with 12 other women who set off with her to heed the nation’s call to fight the Italian occupiers.
Armed with a long stick and firm belief, she attended all battles against the Italian occupation in Tripoli, moving around the battle ground to instill courage among the Mujahidin and put fear into the heart of the enemy, chanting and singing with an enthusiastic spirit, reminding resistance fighters of the immutable truth taught by history that victory and independence always belong to the right holders.
Alan Ostler, an English journalist, mentioned her in his book “The Arabs in Tripoli.” He told how she would run in the direction of the battle in a hurry to advance the men. At one time she was hit by a fragment of cannon on her hand; she kept on waving it while blood ran out in all directions, calling men into the battle. He described her as an African war goddess.
She was always keen on being in the right place at the right time during the colonial period, which made her a model of commitment and dedication.