The day after the capture of the last of Col. Muammar el-Gaddafi’s sons, the Libyan ambassador to the United States and the executive director of the Libya Forum for Human and Political Development gave a presentation at the College of William and Mary’s School of Education.
The forum, “Libya’s Transition to Democracy,” was hosted by the College and Libya El Hurra Charity and was moderated by Vice Provost for International Affairs of the Wendy and Emery Reves Center for International Studies Steve Hanson.
“As Vice Provost for International Affairs, my goal is to get William and Mary students in touch with the events that are changing the world right now, and this event to me encapsulates exactly where we want to be as a university,” Hanson said.
His Excellency Ambassador Ali Aujali, the first panelist to speak, discussed the Libyan people’s desire for democracy.
“They all believe in democracy, which they [have not] practiced for a long time; human rights, which have been abused during Gaddafi’s term; freedom of press, they don’t enjoy it for a long time,” Aujali said. “And these people, I am really confident that they will guard this revolution to reach its end.”
Aly Abuzaakouk, executive director of the Libya Forum for Human and Political Development and vice president of the Minaret of Freedom Institute, attended grammar school with Gaddafi. After taking a moment of silence for those who lost their lives in pursuit of freedom, Abuzaakouk explained the human rights abuses of the Gaddafi regime and the Libyan people’s devotion to freedom.
“Libya, which has about 6.5 million [people], lost up to almost 50,000 people dead,” Abuzaakouk said about the revolution. “Somebody told me it’s like losing 4 million in America if we convert the maths. That is the price that the Libyan people paid for their freedom, but it is a worthy price because the people who did it have a debt upon our shoulders that we will never give our country and our freedom back again to any maniac, to anyone who can claim to be solving of the problems of the world while he couldn’t even solve the problems of his family.”
After the discussion, the speakers took photos and spoke individually with audience members.
“I think there’s a genuine desire in the country to form a civil society that isn’t a dictatorship anymore,” Charles McLeod ’14 said after hearing the presentation.
McLeod appreciated the benefit of hearing a first-hand account of Gaddafi’s regime.
“When you hear about these things on television and from reading about them, you know about it intellectually, but you don’t actually make the human connection that there’s actually people who honestly suffer,” he said.
Omar Khalifa, senior advisor for Libya El Hurra Charity, credited the success of the event to “a multitude of truly dedicated and fantastic staff and volunteers both at the university and through the charity itself.”
“Speaking from the point of a charity, it certainly is in our interest as partners in developing civil society and capacity building projects in Libya to engage with distinguished partners such as [the College], and to engage with them in dialogue and discussion to help promote these activities both in Libya and of course engaging in that discussion here in the States,” Khalifa said.
In addition to Aujali and Abuzaakouk, His Excellency Mr. Aburrahman Shalgham, the Libyan ambassador to the United Nations, was originally scheduled to speak at the event, but was ultimately unable to attend.