The popular uprisings erupting across North Africa and the Middle East may seem a world away from the experiences of most people at Lehigh. But for some students, the events are much more personal.
Ali Elmozughi is one of those students. He was born and raised in Libya, and he came to the United States three years ago.
On Tuesday, Elmozughi spoke with a group of students about his experience living in Libya and his hopes for the country’s future.
The event was organized by Global Union, a coalition of more than 40 student clubs and organizations that promote global awareness and cultural understanding at Lehigh.
It was designed to give a personal perspective on an international problem, according to Bill Hunter, director of the Global Union.
“For five days we stood alone”
Before introducing Elmozughi, Hunter read a statement from Issa Menafi, a Lehigh alumnus from Libya who lives in Benghazi.
“Right now, the eastern part of Libya, where I live, is liberated from the government,” Menafi wrote. “But we do not know how the government [will take] revenge. ... There are really nervy moments, and an unknown future. However, this is life; we have to accept this. I have faith that it has been predestined by God, and we will be rewarded by him.”
Elmozughi is getting his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Lehigh. At 33, he has only ever known a Libya ruled by Moammar Gadhafi, who seized control of the country in 1969.
Elmozughi described Gadhafi as “the worst criminal in the world today.”
“All Libyans are scared of the weapons, especially the chemical ones, because we know that man,” Elmozughi added. “He is more than crazy.”
The uprising began on February 16, when opponents of Gadhafi’s rule began protesting in Benghazi and Tripoli, the nation’s capital, calling for Gadhafi to step down.
Gadhafi retaliated with violence. More than 1,000 people have been killed in the unrest and many more have fled to neighboring Tunisia and Egypt.
Still, the protests have spread to other cities, and Libya’s future is uncertain. But Elmozughi is sure of one thing: Libyans don’t need outside help to topple their government.
“This revolution started in Libya,” he says. “We want to lead this ourselves. For five days, we stood alone, while Gadhafi killed 300 people. Even in the free world, no one thought to stop him.”
Elmozughi is confident that the uprising will succeed, and he is hopeful about Libya’s future.
“We are an Islamic country—we keep our culture and customs in everything we do. But we are not extreme. We need to breathe freedom. If the people want to create a healthy system, they can. We can build a modern country.”