By Nafissa Assed.
Starting wars has often been brutal and rapid and needs determination, but maintaining peace . . .[restrict]is almost always untidy, long — maybe even measured in decades — and needs premeditated patience and endurance.
For many Libyans who live outside Libya, the concept of freedom is a common notion; it is the power to exercise your rights freely without fear of revocation; it also imposes restrictions for the sake of protecting others rights to enjoy their freedoms. As is said, your freedom ends where others’ freedom begins. But this was not the case in my native country where freedom is a relatively new thing to Libyans.
I asked myself a question: Are there limits to freedom? Or are many Libyans simply unsure what the concept entails? Do Libyans really understand what freedom is? This is a topic that sparked controversy with many I talked to in Tripoli during the first months after the revolution. The entity “Freedom” may mean very little to a large number of Libyans and thus its value has been misunderstood by many Libyans who seem to forget what the 17 February Revolution was about.
What is more distressing is when I see misinterpretation of the newly obtained freedom in Libya. It has made a lot of people wonder whether the revolution brought any social gain to Libya, or personal reward to those who were gravely affected by the happenings. Is it really going to make a difference, they wonder? And was it worth losing my son, brother or husband?
There are several factors that contribute to the doubts in people’s minds and to the lack of confidence about the success of the revolution. One of the reasons is because many thought it would take a lot less time and a lot less bloodshed before the end. Another reason is that the financial situation in Libya is still very bad; the economy has not recovered despite the resumption of oil production. Less than a month ago, the spokesman of the National Transitional Council, Mohamed Al-Hareizi, noted an increase in the reserve of money in banks. It has risen from LD 500 million at the fall of the regime to LD 1.5 billion today. However, Reda Hosni Bay, a prominent businessman in Libya, based in Benghazi, said: “The economy of Libya is not developing and it is still as it was in the era of Qaddafi and is now perhaps even worse”. He also added: “The corrupt system in Libya is still prevalent as it was in the absence of justice and it is difficult to put an end to those old tarnished practices.”
In fact, the revolutionaries have recently made violent protests and conflicts in many areas in Tripoli, especially in Abu Slim because of money that is allegedly being granted unfairly to some Libyans. Whatever the reason, violent protests and actions will never be the way to solve problems.
But again, many Libyans who have spent the past 42 years in Libya do not understand what “freedom” actually is, or why it is worth so much. Qaddafi’s total oppression was a part in Libya for decades. A large population does not know any different — and their ignorance is not their fault. We should not blame mentalities on individuals. Instead, all hatred should be directed at Qaddafi himself.
Since the fall of his oppressive and dictatorial rule, the freedom brought by Libya’s revolution has washed over the culture of fear that had, for too long, crippled the Libyan population in every aspect. Today, many Libyans use their right to communicate and express themselves freely and it is perfectly normal to see some who misunderstand the concept of freedom as the right to do anything without any responsibility. This is a natural reaction to the discovery of freedom after 42 years of fear and total tyranny. In fact, even people who live in free and democratic societies do not always understand the difference between personal freedom and the need to respect others.
We also must not forget that many societies that nowadays are democracies were not always as we see them today and that they had hundreds of years to get where they are now — and they are still working on it!
That does not mean we should fold our hands and wait for things to get sorted out: things will not get sorted out unless we Libyans work on the problems ourselves.
There is a lot we can do to solve this issue in Libya. We can arrange open discussion about the responsibilities that come with freedom and how important it is to consider freedom as a balance between a right and a duty and being able to practice individual rights without doing so at the expense of others. We can also plan and organize educational seminars and meetings to show what democracy and freedom of speech are really about. Attacking is not going to help do anything other than spoon-feeding people what they should think and say. It is a long, tough and gradual process. There is also a fundamental necessity to make those who cannot see that any instance of violence that occurs in the country because of money, tribal conflict or a protest against the interim government should be identified as a remnant of the dictatorship that long held complete dominance and has little to do with the freedom that we Libyans have obtained after suffering 42 years of oppression.
Our case demands we let go the state of mind that assigns collective guilt and focus on building a better future for Libya, for only our mentalities and actions will determine what road Libya will follow.
To every Libyan, single yourself out from the crowd and imagine what the revolution means for you. Not tomorrow, not in a couple of weeks’ time, but in a year or two — or three. A life is not a life if you can just eat, drink, sleep and work. Therefore, we must not doubt the revolution, we must doubt the past 42 years. We must not regret the revolution — though maybe we can regret we did not start it earlier.
We definitely must hope to return to normal, we must hope and assign ourselves to work for a better tomorrow with full determination and commitment.
Nafissa Assed has writes for numerous blogs and on-line publications. She is a former Libyan exile who was born and brought up in Morocco. Her father returned in 1990 but was murdered by the Qaddafi regime in Libya. After his death she lived with her grandfather, Mohamed Othman Assed, who was prime minister of Libya from 17 October 1960 to 19 March 1963. In 2010, she moved to Libya full-time, hoping to use her media skills for the cultural healing and rebuilding of my society.
After the Libyan revolution started, she wrote anonymously from Tripoli on what was going on inside the country.