The revolutionary spirit spreading throughout the Arab world has spread to Libya. Unfortunately, unlike the situation in Egypt and Tunisia, where the dictatorships fell with relative swiftness, Moammar Gadhafi has chosen the path of outright violence in order to hold onto power. The bloodshed that has followed is a tragic example of a government attempting to violently suppress the freedom of their people.
The Libyan community worldwide has been shocked and saddened by these terrible events. On Feb. 23, I had the opportunity to sit down with U of M student Tarek Bader, who was born in Libya, to discuss his thoughts and feelings on what is happening in his homeland. The conversation that followed was very illuminating.
I started by asking Tarek what his thoughts were on what is happening in Libya. “It is very sad,” Tarek said. “Genocide is being committed against the people; I’m not happy with the international response.”
The issue of how the international community should respond is one with large consequences either way. I asked Tarek what he felt should be done. He said that the international community should “stop Gadhafi from murdering his own people, do whatever is necessary, even by force. As a Libyan, the use of force would be acceptable, or else the killing will continue; he [Gadhafi] will stay until he dies.”
Tarek had mentioned that Gadhafi’s son was once seen as a possible successor and was hoped to be a moderate, democratic leader. Tarek made clear that his perception of Gadhafi’s son had changed dramatically. “His son appeared to be nice, wanted to help Libya be accepted into the world community, but this was just a mask. Him and his father’s ugly face has been revealed,” Tarek said. He also mentioned that Gadhafi may be more entrenched then people think, saying: “He was prepared for this day; he controls separate armies, and others are also controlled by his son’s followers.”
I asked Tarek what his hopes were for Libya, as it struggles through a very difficult time. “Stop the massacre as soon as possible,” he said. “There is always a price to freedom. The cost has been heavier in Libya.” Tarek also described the terrible violence of Gadhafi’s regime that he witnessed as a child. “When I was around age 11 [or] 12, I saw bodies hung in the public square; the bodies were left there for hours, so it created a lot of fear. Gadhafi has killed many people. He hung people from 1976 to the 1980s; in 1996, he killed 1,200 political prisoners. After all this, we never imagined we would be a free country. We have not had freedom for 42 years. Can you imagine a president killing his own people?”
To close, I asked Tarek what he would say to Canadians about what is happening in Libya. “Libyans have suffered and need emotional and financial support. Everything helps, even praying for people, speak out on their behalf.”
It is very clear that Gadhafi has lost any authority he had to govern. The people of Libya deserve the same freedom as every human being on this Earth, and they deserve the right to choose their leaders.
Spencer Fernando is the International Comment Coordinator for the Manitoban and Tarek Bader hopes that the people of Libya will succeed in achieving their rightful freedom.