Serage Rahima received a phone call this past weekend he would never forget.
The voices on the other end were from his family in his native country of Libya, and they were overwhelmed with joy due to the recent death of Muammar Gadhafi, who for 42 years was a dictator of the North African country.
“I hear nothing but joy from them,” said Rahima, a Libyan-American activist who now resides in south surburban Orland Park. “They can finally sleep a little bit better at night. We’re free.”
Rahima shares that same feeling of freedom here in the states. His only regret is that his late father Mohammed Rahima, who was a rebel that opposed Gadhafi, isn’t around to see it. He died of natural causes.
“He’d be proud today,” Rahima said.
Although there is not a large Libyan community in the Chicagoland area, Abdulraoof Aduib, a 21-year-old student at the University of Illinois at Chicago says the ones that are here (Libyans estimate that there are fewer than 100 of them in the Chicago area) are close.
Support groups like the Council for American-Islamic Relations of Chicago, which focuses on civil rights and stresses community involvement, provides a common ground for people like Aduib to congregate.
Aduib recalled how he felt when reports started to come out of Gadhafi’s death on Oct. 20, and images on the internet of his face covered in blood. When he officially got the word from his family that everything confirmed was true, he couldn’t believe it.
“It was a surreal moment,” Aduib said. “I can’t think of a better moment in life right now. I just wish I was there to celebrate with my people.”
It’s especially liberating for Aduib because of what he has experienced in his native country. He recalls a time when he and his father, Mohammed Aduib, who was exiled from Libya under Gadhafi’s reign, took a trip there in 2006. Because his father was exiled, father and son had to sneak into the country with the help of his uncle, who manages the airport in the capital city of Tripoli. He remembers the plane being stopped in the middle of the runway after landing and he and his father being driven off the airport grounds by security under his uncle’s command.
“We won’t have to do that now,” Aduib said.
For Sanad Elfirjani, Libya’s freedom provides a different form of gratification. His father can now come back to Chicago.
His father recently went back to Libya to fight on the front lines of the rebellion against Gadhafi.
Elfirjani described his father, who returned home in the past few days, as happy but physically exhausted from his most recent trip. Elfirjani said his father’s dream had come true–to see Libya no longer under the rule of “an evil man.”
Libyans are now trying to establish a new government. Interim leader Mahmaoud Jibril had indicated that he will step down once Libya’s liberation is complete. They acknowledge the fight is far from over.
Aduib, who plans to return to Libya during school’s winter break, wants non-Libyans to know that Libyans aren’t celebrating the death of Gadhafi, but rather the freedom of their country. He also says the impact of Gadhafi’s death sends a message, not just to Libyans, but to people across the world that freedom may be costly, but worth fighting for.
“A lot of people died under Gadhafi’s reign, but the families of those who lost loved ones can finally say they died for something now that we are free,” Aduib said.
- Official: Moammar Gadhafi buried in secret location (ctv.ca)
- Nation of Islam Leader Slams Gadhafi’s Death (abcnews.go.com)