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View of the Old City in Tripoli, Libya.
4:15 p.m., Sept. 19, 2012--On July 7, 2012, Libyans took part in
their first parliamentary elections since the end of strongman Muammar
Qaddafis rule in October 2011. It was the first time in 60 years that
Libyans voted, resulting in the peaceful election of Prime Minister
Abdurrahim Abdulhafiz El-Keib.
Three Libyan students in the State Department-sponsored Middle East
Partnership Initiative (MEPI) at the University of Delaware had the
opportunity to vote in the election. A student mentor drove them to
Arlington, Va., where they voted in absentia.
They came back with the ink on their fingers, quite proud, said
James Magee, professor of political science and international relations
at UD, who conducted seminars on American politics for the MEPI
students. To me this is a sign of a promising future for the whole
region -- that young people are willing to vote and lose and say that I
lost -- that is moving in the right direction in the political
legitimacy of a new Libya.
The experience had a profound effect on Ahmed, a 2010 MEPI student from Tripoli.
It was a new experience to elect the people that you want and put
them in positions of power, to lead your country, said Ahmed, whose
past included spending 70 days in a Libyan prison, where he was
tortured. Everyone on that day was happy and smiling; it was like the
Eid [religious celebration] in Libya. When someone asked about my
opinion and he agreed with it, I felt like a real human whose opinion
Ahmed talks with enthusiasm about his classes at UD with Magee and
Audrey Helfman, associate professor in the School of Public Policy and
Administration. Influenced by Helfmans leadership class, he decided to
begin a project to get his fellow Libyans to give up their guns and hand
them over to the government.
Now in his last semester in mechanical engineering, Ahmed recently
started his own company and regularly volunteers in community service
projects, including a program focusing on challenges facing women.
I have one goal in this life that is to fix the world starting
with my own country. Someday, I hope to make this dream come true by
being in position of power.
It was the first time that Younes, a MEPI 2012 student from the city of Benghazi, voted.
It really meant a lot to me to participate as at that point only did
I become sure that all the people that died during the revolution
didn't die in vain and that Libyans were able to build on their
sacrifices towards building a better future for Libya.
Most of the courses enriched his knowledge in many areas, especially
the leadership class. It showed me how to enhance the skills I have and
to search and find the ones I dont have, put them into practice. I
believe that I and the rest of the Libyans need to always act with a
positive attitude. The most important thing, he says, is to be
patient because rebuilding a nation takes time and commitment.
I would like to see a Libya were Libyans are treated equally; I want
Libya to be a major and positive player in the Middle Eastern region.
One day, he says, I would like to see Libyans have the highest
standard of living.
Mohamed, a MEPI 2012 participant, is from Misrata but lives in
Tripoli. In better understanding through MEPI the history of the United
States and its wars, he said he became certain that Libya will one day
be one of the most civilized nations in the world.
Mohamed, who studies architecture and urban planning, said he was
elated to have been able to vote. Voting meant a lot for me. We have
suffered a lot to finally reach the right to choose, the right to
self-governance. The election of the national council was a very special
day for me.
He says his goal is to contribute in making the world a better place.
I want to be a leader in the development of Libya and make it into a
democratic and civilized state by achieving the highest scientific and
professional echelons in the field of architecture and planning.
Libyan MEPI students cast their votes
During the recent elections, Libyan students from across the country
who participated in the MEPI program -- 14 of 118 were from Libya
joined those from UD and gathered at the out-of-country voting center in
Arlington to vote for the first time in their lives.
The MEPI Student Leaders Exchange Program brings undergraduate
students from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to six
universities across the U.S. to develop their leadership skills, their
understanding of the American system of government and civil society and
to explore ways to enhance democratic participation in their home
Joann Kingsley, a UD alumna who was a teaching assistant for Magee in
the 1990s, worked closely with people on the ground between October
2011and June 2012. She was the country director for Libya and Tunisia
for the Danish Refugee Council.
On Election Day, she said, One of the young men who worked for me
wrote via Skype and told me he was so proud and excited to vote, that he
was overcome with emotion at the polling station and openly wept with
joy. This is the kind of story that makes me hopeful for Libya.
Note: Ahmed posted the following on Facebook the day after the
tragic events in Benghazi and the death of Ambassador Christopher
Stevens and three employees at the U.S. Consulate:
Attention Libyans: Protests to be held today in Libya against
yesterdays attacks & outcomes. 5:00pm #Tripoli: Algeria SQ and
#Benghazi: Shajara SQ. We ask that everyone wears either white or blue
to express our demand for the rule of law and security. Let us properly
represent the teachings of Islam. Please tag all those in Libya, so that
they condemn the act of violence, and loss of an innocent life.
Article by Fariba Amini
Photos by Joann Kingsley
Originally publsihed by UDaily.
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