I am a Libyan American professional who has been living here for over twenty-five years and who does not have any political affiliation with any group whatsoever. I am married to a devoted American Muslim for twenty years and have four happy and healthy teenage children. I read the letter by Saif Algathafi entitled "Welcome Back to Al-Jamahiriyah" posted in "Libya: Our Home" a few days ago with amazement and disbelief. I believe that I have a moral obligation to respond to the posting in the hopes of educating the young man about the Libyan American community and what issues are important to them.
Let me begin by saying that it is an insult to the intelligence of any thinking human being to claim that Libya under the rule of Gaddafi is a free or democratic country. To the contrary, Libya is known to be one of the most oppressive regimes that the entire human race has ever seen. Don't take my words for it, this oppression has been well documented by every human rights organization in the face of this earth. I don't know in what dreamland does the young man live. I personally know four good and decent people who have been imprisoned for political reasons and no one knows what their fate is. Let me remind him that this Jamahiriyah that he brags about has no constitution, no government, no political parties, no rule of law, no free press, no free judiciary, no free economy, no free banking, no free movement, no free thinking, no educational infrastructure, no health infrastructure, no accountability, no freedom of association, and most of all no sense of personal safety and security. Let me also remind him that the Jamahiriyah is the only country in modern history to have an official law for "collective punishment", not even Nazi Germany had such a law.
This Jamahiriyah under the guidance of the great leader has declared war on the most precious resource that it has, namely its people. It has chosen to use its wealth coupled with lies, denial, deception, terror, and intimidation to rule the people of Libya, force them into submission, and deny them a bright and prosperous future. To say that Libya under the leadership of the brother leader respects human rights is the most ominous lie. To further say that Libya is a democracy is a crime against humanity. As for the fleecing of the country and its economic devastation, I will not address them in this response; I will instead let others who are more knowledgeable than I address such issues. As for the so-called "rule of the masses", suffice to say that in my opinion, it is an exercise in intellectual masturbation. It is a chaotic form of government that the Libyan people never chose, have resisted every step of the way, don't understand, don't want, and will never accept. And if the great leader's son has any doubt about that, let him ask his great father to bring this issue to a vote to the Libyan people. And by the way, just to be sure that the results are not falsified, the vote should be internationally monitored.
When I read the shallow and nonsensical rhetoric by the young Gaddafi, it is clear to me that the Libyan leadership just does not get it! This is not the way to have a dialogue with the Libyans living abroad. To win the exiled Libyans over as the young man is trying to do, the Gaddafi regime must make peace with the Libyan people, not just with the American and European governments. This begins by facing reality through the acknowledgment and the correction of errors and excesses of the past, not by continuing to lie and to deny the facts. Indeed, the Libyan Americans can contribute and want to contribute to the development of Libya and its people, but the regime must introduce real political, democratic, and economical reforms. This can only be done by abandoning the current policies and introducing a well-recognized and well-known form of government that the rest of the world practices. A form of government that is based on the rule of law and a constitution that guarantees the rights of every citizen from tyranny and oppression. When this happens, I will be the first to serve my beloved homeland and I am sure others will too. For your information, the reason I chose to live here is not because of modern conveniences and economic benefits, as the regime likes to think. It is because this country gave me freedom, respect, and dignity as a human being that the Great Jamahiriyah refused to give me and is incapable of giving me. You see, here we are not labeled as "stray dogs" because we don't subscribe to a certain political ideology. We are free American citizens with all the rights and responsibilities, which we have earned because of our hard work, dedication, talent, and honesty. To be free means that you can believe in whatever you want and practice the life-style that you want without fear of oppression or persecution. Freedom is the ability to express your thoughts without restriction and without intimidation. It may be a very hard concept for you to grasp, since the definition of freedom in the Jamahiriyah is vastly different from the above. If Libya was indeed free as you claim, then I would feel secure to sign my real name, without fear of reprisal, but I wouldn't because I don't have that sense of security.
In conclusion, I would like to offer a free advice to the young leader. In politics, ideas can't be framed in absolute terms. It is ok to disagree in the matters of public polices and not be a traitor. Political ideas are subject to debate and modification, just watch the US presidential election on CNN with an open mind and you might learn a thing or two about civilized dialogues and debates. The success of public policies is measured by how much prosperity they bring to the populace, there are no final solutions in politics. It is an evolving process of competing ideas. This is what democracy is. Democracy is not a system that you jam through the throats of the people and brain-wash them into thinking that they are free, just like you do in the Great Jamahiriyah. Instead, democracy is realized only when the people experience genuine freedom in every aspect of their lives. Democracy is an opportunity for self-governance, economic opportunities, fair representation, and open debate. When you oppress people like the Jamahiriyah oppresses its people, that is called tyranny, not democracy.
Finally, remember that the worth of a country is not by its oil, but by its people.
Long live LIBYA and its people.
A Libyan American.