Brother: She never feared him

Libyan women's rights and democracy advocate Seham Sergiwa has been missing since July 17 after she critisized Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar in an interview. Her family in La Porte wants answers.

La PORTE — La Porte's Adam Sergiwa admires much about his sister, Seham.

A lawmaker in their native country of Libya, Seham Sergiwa has devoted her life to being an outspoken advocate for women's rights, peace and democracy. A psychologist with a doctorate from a London university, she is brilliant and driven, her brother said.

Another of her virtues is courage.

It was her bravery that allowed her to recently speak out against Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar, leader of the Libyan National Army militia. During a contentious TV interview with an Egyptian station that supports Haftar, Seham Sergiwa denounced the violence committed by both sides of the civil war currently raging in her country.

The Saturday before her appearance, the Sergiwa siblings spoke over the phone. Though Adam urged his sister to reconsider the interview, Seham insisted on going through with it.

"I hope I'm making a difference," she told him.

The call was the last time Adam Sergiwa heard from his younger sister before she disappeared — a disappearance the Sergiwa family blames on Haftar and his militia.

According to Adam Sergiwa, a group of 25-30 men entered Seham Sergiwa's home around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 17, and abducted the Libyan lawmaker. The alleged kidnapping took place just hours after the woman criticized Haftar during her TV interview, Adam Sergiwa said.

"She might be the only person who doesn't fear him," he said this week, surrounded by his family at their residence in La Porte. "She never feared him. She has always been outspoken against the violence."

Multiple people witnessed the lawmaker's abduction, which Benghazi police are investigating, Adam Sergiwa said. Though Haftar's proxies deny the LNA's involvement, both the UN-recognized Government of National Accord and the Libyan House of Representatives hold the warlord responsible for her abduction, Adam Sergiwa said.

With no word on her current status or whereabouts, Adam and his family are sharing Seham's story with U.S. media, lawmakers and the public at large. The family hopes that by shining a spotlight on her disappearance and Haftar's actions, America and other nations in the international community can pressure the warlord into safely releasing Seham.

Seham Sergiwa has been a forceful advocate for peace, women's rights and democracy since her return to Libya from the United Kingdom more than a decade ago, her brother said. 

In 2011, at the outset of the Arab Spring, Seham Sergiwa was among the first in the streets to protest the rule of Muammar Gaddafi. She rose to prominence for her work documenting the rape and sexual abuse of women during the 2011 Libyan Civil War.

In 2014, after Gaddafi's downfall, she successfully ran for the House of Representatives, where she represents Benghazi. Over the past several years, she has sought solutions to end the current Libyan civil war. She recently attended a conference in Cairo aimed at resolving the conflict, returning to her home in Benghazi before her TV interview this month.

"She wanted a peaceful solution to unite Libya, one that wouldn't leave anyone behind," said Nicole Sergiwa, Seham's niece. "She wouldn't compromise on anything that would betray her beliefs."

The lawmaker ultimately wanted to see Libya return to the property and freedom her country enjoyed before Gaddafi's rise to power, Adam Sergiwa said.

A well-respected doctor in La Porte, Adam Sergiwa has lived thousands of miles away from his sister and their home nation since moving to the U.S. in 1995. Despite the distance, he, his wife and their children have remained close with his sister, speaking to her several times a month via phone.

"We love her," Nicole said. "Every person in America we tell about her love her, too."

With Seham's abduction making the news across the country, many people, including those in La Porte, have rallied to family's side, the Sergiwas said. 

"We thought we were alone, but seeing this support has given us hope," Adam Sergiwa said.

Though, as of Thursday, they are still in the dark about her whereabouts, the family remains hopeful for Seham's safe return.

"Stay strong," Adam said when asked if he wanted to say anything to his sister. "You are not alone."

Those who want to help with the effort to rescue Seham Sergiwa can email saveseham@gmail.com. The family will reply to messages with instructions on how people can help, including sending a template for letters to national leaders.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.