From Professor D.S.Sheriff, Benghazi University
The news in Hindu regarding our Indian academics in Libya is very tragic and personal for everyone in . . .[restrict] India. The state of our Indian colleagues in Libya is very alarming and reflects the crisis in the country.
Most Libyans, including academics do not subscribe to the violence. Nevertheless, they bear the full brunt of the chaos, confusion and violence in the country.
Every day in the name of liberation, they lose their kith and kin to bombs, bullets and barbarism.
Many Indian academics from very famous institutions all over the world have worked in Libya, not just for income but because they wished to be useful in a place where they were wanted.
Many professors of medicine, dentistry and engineering from the Postgraduate institute of Medical Sciences, Chandigarh, JIPMER, Madras Medical College and all the faculties from the Manipal Academy of Sciences have served Libya.
There is no doubt Libyans have been excellent hosts to our Indian academics and had no problems with their money transfers including their gratuity. Many even had accounts in UK and USA which now is a remote possibility.
When they were under dictatorship, Libyans, including the government, gave respect to education and recruited Indian professionals whom they regarded better than any other nationalities. There was no racial nor regional discrimination based on qualification (whether you are from USA, UK or India).
The professors in the universities were respected and regarded. Even now the students whom we taught years ago remember and respect us with deeds and decorum.
During the period of dictatorship Libyans suffered but they did not allow that suffering affect the expatriates. At that time one had to stand in queues to get your groceries and luxuries along with Libyans.
There were few universities such as Al-Fateh University, Tripoli and Garyounis University, Benghazi. Over the years other universities were established such as in Sirte and Misrata.
Indians occupied key positions in these universities. Libyans did suffer because of so many restrictions in their social movement. Indians adapted to the situation as the monetary benefits outweighed the social restrictions.
Besides that, the Mediterranean climate for instance in Benghazi, was very healthy and remained free from pollution apart from sand storms. Many Indians who joined faculties in 1980s still wanted to stay behind for they loved the place for its serenity, tranquillity and the sense of being wanted.
The reppression under the dictatorship was brewing like the pressure inside a pressure cooker. Ultimately after forty years it broke the silence and tolerance of Libyans. All were united to fight dictatorship to live in a free country. Freedom is one of the luxuries they wanted.
However, they did not have the political wisdom or acumen which others had gained from longstanding political struggles as in other countries. All political struggles have a leader to follow or a symbol to fight or a constitution to rely on or a security force which was beyond political or opportunistic leaders or groups from outside. There were no Nelson Mandelas nor Dr. Abdul Kalams nor any other charismatic leader or military commander to guide and protect Libyans.
There were no single challengers to Qaddafi, either in or outside the country. With his death the security collapsed. Revolutionary fighters formed small groups based on area or tribe. They had full access to a large number of weapons with youngsters wielding automatic AK47s.
In the sunshine of freedom many elders relaxed, leaving the mantle to the young people who they thought had fought and died for the country. But the youngsters did not have diplomacy nor charisma nor political agenda to unite the country.
Libya became fragmented. Local security personnel sprouted with liberal or fundamentalist beliefs and brought the country to the present chaos and bloodshed. They have made Libya one of the most unstable and volatile places in the world.
This is the situation which was existing from 2012-2013 onwards with the Indian Embassy warning Indians to retire and return back home. Many Indians could not leave immediately for they had debts to repay and dignity to bring to their families.
Returning would have made many resort to suicide or more social ostracism. Yet the warning was there and many had left Libya by summer of 2014 with considerable difficulty. Those who remained stayed at their own risk for they have commitments to resolve and family to care for.
In such a situation falling into the web of fundamentalists or any other group with any other name was always highly likely. In the bombardments, machine gun fire, air-strikes and other attacks many have lost everything they have earned during their lifetime excepting their lives.
Sometimes that life is weighed by the amount of material assets you have – even by your own family. That is why so many Indians prefer to stay rather to be killed every day by debt, bank loans and social disrespect.
My heart goes out to the Indian families for their personal agony which soon will be abated by our Foreign Ministry, which is functioning so efficiently, because they value Indian lives more than anything.
That is why I am proud to be an Indian, whatever economic or academic advancement I could get from other countries. I love my country for it gave me a name and place to serve. The medical university at Benghazi gave me friends, money and academic standing in my life.
I pray that everybody understands that once you take up an assignment you need to understand the place you are going, the money you will receive and the mode of transfer, the security of your life and your personal family life in India. It is best to weigh your options and decide.
I pray that sanity dawns on every Libyan to bring peace to the country and that our fellow brothers appreciate the value of freedom which sometimes we do not understand and respect.
Professor, Faculty of Medicine
Benghazi University, Benghazi, Libya [/restrict]