Opinion: Unjustifiable, Unfair to Question the Loyalty of Libya’s Expatriates – by Mosbah Kushad 20/10/2012 13:04:00
The other day I received an email from a friend of mine that contained a poem questioning the loyalty of Libyans who had returned back to Libya during or after the revolution to serve their country.
This poem is not unique, several high ranking officials and people in academia voiced the same sentiment that those who have lived abroad did not suffer the tyranny of the deceased dictator as those that have stayed in the country and therefore are not worthy of being included in the system.
While it is true that we did not stand in line for a loaf of bread or received a government-handed bag full of useless clothing for Eid, our suffering was of a different kind; the kind that went straight into the heart and not into the stomach.
In fact, not every Libyan who had lived abroad was living the easy life. Many had struggled to find jobs and had to compete with natives of the country where they were living. Some had lived on donations and host country’s subsidy.
Undoubtedly, some were living under far worst conditions than those who had returned, but they were afraid for their lives if they went back. Also, let us not forget that the dictator’s greatest fear was from Libyans living abroad. For that he had formed assassination squads to hunt and eliminate many of them.
Should not these victims be considered worthy of being martyrs for the freedom of Libya as those who had died during 17 February revolution?
While it is true that many of us expats have missed certain suffering during the 42 years of Gaddafi's authoritarian rules, our suffering, however, was not much less.
Having being an expatriate for nearly forty years, I can speak for my own suffering and the suffering of my family. For years my parents lived in terror when Gaddafi's informants came knocking on our door asked where I was living and what I was doing.
My mother told me that she often told them I was living in a different city in Libya for fear for my life and for fear of reprisal against the rest of my family.
While those who were in Libya considered us to be lucky living abroad, we were not as lucky or as happy as you might think. There are many things that we have missed about being home in Libya that may mean little to those who did not have to go through the same experiences.
For myself, I missed getting up in the morning and greeting my parents or sharing meals with them. I missed seeing my two younger brothers - who were five and thirteen years old at the time when I left Libya - grow-up to become adults.
I missed my sister and her brood of eleven children. I missed my childhood friends that I used to hang out and play soccer with. I missed the wedding celebrations of my friends, neighbours and relatives. I even missed sharing in the sadness when someone I knew had died.
To this very day, I still live the sadness of not being there when my father passed away. I was deprived of seeing him for the eleven years before his death. I was not able to comfort him when he was sick and was not able to say my goodbyes to him when he died.
Even after twenty-two years since my father died, I still have tears in my eyes when I remember my brother telling me that the last word that my dad uttered before his death was my name.
I am sure many expats have similar if not sadder experiences. Please remember that our love and attachment to Libya goes deeper than not being physically present in the country and for that no one has the right to question our loyalty to our forever home our beautiful Libya, regardless of where we live.
To end it on a happier note, the happiest time of my life when my daughter recently married a young man from Libya.
May Allah bless and protect Libya and all Libyans.
(Mosbah Kushad is a professor at the University of Illinois in the USA)
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