Mariem arrived in Italy 17 months ago. She is 34 and comes from a city 60 km from Tripoli, in Libya. She holds a degree in classical languages and has experience as a high school teacher and journalist. "I wrote articles on moderate Islam, but in Libya there was no freedom of expression and so I started writing for other countries," she tells ANSA. During the regime of Muammar Ghaddafi, " our culture, our history, were taken from us. They changed our language". Libya was not only Ghaddafi and oil, "but music, books, Roman history".
The 2011 revolution "changed everything. I was happy, we had been waiting for change for a long time". Mariem began her cultural activity with an association working to defend women's rights. "We ran courses in computing, languages, craftsmanship" and organized activities promoting the recovery of the country's historical and cultural patrimony. "The first government after Ghaddafi helped the country a lot," but after a year conflict between the various factions and instability "changed everything. Our work became dangerous".
"They told me I shouldn't drive my car and that I should cover my head." Then the death threats started to arrive. "I thought nothing would ever happen, I found it hard to understand." She got on with her life, she wanted to resist. One day she left home for work to find that her car windows had been shot out. "I no longer felt free and I told myself that I couldn't live in that situation any more." Mariem took her passport and went to Tunisia where, with the help of two Italian associations that knew of her story, she asked for permission to travel to Italy.
A new life in Rome
"I started from scratch, it was really very difficult," she explains. "I felt like I was in a bottle: I didn't know the language, I couldn't communicate". If you flee from war and reach another country "you have peace, but you don't have friends, you don't know anyone. I had never felt like that: foreign, to society and to myself."
Mariem is studying Italian and in the future she would like to continues her studies of Italian language and culture at the university.
"It is hard living here, but it is possible to move forward by fighting. I have broken the bottle, I am injured but I am alright, I can do what I want. Being here is a big opportunity to pursue many plans."