Libya’s Glorious Dawn
By Dr. Hasan Zillur Rahim
August 23, 2011
Four decades of darkness is finally surrendering to a glorious dawn in Libya. A ragtag band of rebels transformed itself into a fighting force in a mere six months and overran Moammar Gadhafi's last stronghold around Tripoli. Although pockets of resistance remain and snipers loyal to Gadhafi still abound, the swiftness with which the rebels captured most of the capital, coming as it did in the holy month of Ramadan, will surely become the stuff of legend one day. For now, however, freedom lovers everywhere can rejoice that a tyrant has fallen. A song of Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) sums up what captive Libyans must be feeling: "Morning has broken, like the first morning. Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird."
Moammar Gadhafi's fall is more momentous than that of Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian army saw the handwriting on the wall when Tahrir Square erupted with the unflinching resolve of ordinary Egyptians and so wisely acceded to most of their demands. The Nile revolution was peaceful. Not so the Libyan revolution. Gadhafi and his goons made sure of that. The dictator vowed to fight to the last drop of his blood to defend his throne. Of course it was the blood of his loyalists that he was willing to shed, not his or his sons'.
But as the rebels organized themselves and reclaimed their land inch by inch, aided by NATO bombing, naval blockade and American aerial surveillance, the tide began to turn. Gadhafi's initial roar dissolved into a pathetic whimper. When caught, he will most likely face justice at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Such will increasingly be the fate of despots. Such will be the inevitable fate of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.
The transformation of Muslim Middle East, though still incomplete, is the signature event of the twenty-first century. Its effect will define the course of history in ways that are beyond the comprehension of even the most astute observers. But few signposts can be discerned:
1. Dictatorship in all its forms and manifestations, even the ones under the guise of democracy, is doomed. People who cowered in fear have discovered freedom from fear, a discovery that has gone viral around the world. Today’s invincible autocrat is tomorrow’s cowering prisoner. "A man can be destroyed,” wrote Hemingway, “but not defeated." The architects of the Arab revolution have proven this with their blood.
2. People in power can no longer use religion for political ends, at least not with the ease they were able to in the past. It is a fact that the overwhelming majority of Muslims killed since the Second World War have died at the hands of other Muslims. Invoking bogus threats to torture dissidents and perpetuate dynastic power will no longer work. A significant corollary of this is that more and more Muslims, particularly in the Middle East, will demand the separation of mosque and state.
3. Israel will be forced to confront reality and coexist with Palestinians in a two-state solution. The Muslim Middle East will go through yet more convulsions - tribal and sectarian conflicts will probably raise their ugly heads - before the democratic rule of law, transparency, accountability and enlightened governance take hold. When that happens, and it surely will, Israel will have to recognize that it is a part of the Middle East and not an outpost of "Western Civilization" transplanted in the middle of an alien and backward region. Likewise, extremist organizations from both sides will be marginalized as the benefits of good governance and the moral high ground become evident. In September, Palestinians will seek statehood at the United Nations. The United States will dutifully cast its veto to “protect” Israel. Such myopic policies will be much harder to justify in the transformed political landscape of the Middle East. In the coming months, the United States will recognize, as it has never recognized before, that “business as usual” in the Middle East will be too detrimental to its interests to be sustainable.
It is not just in the Middle East where the wind of change is blowing. People are rising up everywhere against corruption, injustice and state-sponsored violence. Consider how Anna Hazare, a little-known 74-year-old ascetic and Gandhi-disciple has catalyzed Indians to launch massive protests against corruption in the "world's largest democracy." We are witnessing such scenes everyday, thanks to the Internet, and feel empowered to take our own stand against injustice and oppression.
The world’s epicenter of courage and commitment is now at the Green Square of Tripoli, aptly renamed Martyrs’ Square. Libyans are determined to rebuild their shattered nation on their own terms. They have made possible what was unthinkable only six months ago. Even though their dawn is tinged with the red of blood, there is no doubt that their land will soon be bathed in the bright sunshine of freedom.
Libya and Libyans indeed deserved to be freed from the tyrant
By Dr. Hasanat Husain MBE
I had the opportunity to teach in a Libyan University. In my five years’ of stay I have watched even the university teachers, students and staff fearful of saying anything just and fair for sheer fear of antagonism. Libya was ruled by a revengeful and ruthless dictator, his family, his tribe, his family members and his paid henchmen.
People and the nation lost its self-respect and forgot to trust themselves, let alone any one else. In a Muslim country, no one, no one spoke the truth. There was uncertainty in everything. There were no names of any roads anywhere, no house numbers, no private telephones. For daily mails etc. everyone had to have a Post office number from where to collect the letters! For one international call, one needed to go to the post office and line up for hours! Planes did not fly on time, buses did not move on time in anywhere in Libya.
Ordinary people were treated like animals; running, fighting and searching against each others, for the basics of livelihood! In an oil-rich country, the poverty and the craving for basic households such as clothing, meat, fish, fruits and vegetables etc. in Libya were almost manifested everywhere in its shabby looking dusty shops and market places! People’s morale and self-esteem had been systematically crushed and ruined over the decades. Nothing, absolutely nothing, in Libya worked if one did not have a ‘Wastaa,’ meaning if one did not have the blessing from someone in Ghadafi’s tribe or group.
For me it was heartbreakingly good to see the same people and their children rise up after 40 years of abuse to the call for freedom and democracy. Young Libyans are brave and courageous. They deserved this well earned victory that they themselves snatched.
Libya will be for Libyans again. May God bless this nation who suffered so much in the hand of one single oppressor.
Dr. Hasanat Husain MBE
Former Professor and Head of Solar Energy Division,
University of Sebha, Libya
Convenor, Voice For Justice World Forum