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Libyan writer Essa Abdel-Qayoum

Essa Abdelqayoum

Sunday, 8 October, 2006

On The Phone With Mohammed Buisier From Tripoli

Essa Abdel-Qayoum

Translated by: Fadwa Buisier

In the first ever interview with a Libyan opposition activist speaking from inside Libya, Essa abdel-Qauom visited with Mohamed Buisier important issues of Libya's present and future.
The following is a summarized translation of the interview by : Fadwa S. Buisier.

"Immediately after announcing his plan to return to Libya on "El-Mostakela Satellite Channel" I held a two parts interview with Mohammed Buisier, the first was in London, the second was by phone from Boston. And now after his plan has materialized the third part of the interview was conducted by phone from inside Libya.

Mohammed Buisier

Essa: I dialed his number in Tripoli, upon his answer I said: Hello Mohammed, finally you are there in Libya, can we fulfill our promise to our readers and continue with our discussion?

Buisier: Yes we can. Happy Ramadan Issa, I hope next Ramadan we can be closer to a modern democratic state in Libya.

Essa: "What impressions have you collected since you arrived to Libya?"

Buisier: What I have perceived are transcends impressions, I am here for almost a month and have met people from different sects of the society such as intellectuals, syndicates activists, former political prisoners ,businessmen, government employees, professors, students, tribesmen, religious Imams and artists. Young and old, men and women, each of them expressed, in his own way, the pain of the plights of this era and his hope that a new era will compensate him and open the gates toward a future of prosperity.
I can assure you that a prosperous society became the only, ultimate and unchallengeable goal of every Libyan here; this is not an impression but a fact.

Essa: What is the reaction in the streets to the reform arguments which revealed lately?

Buisier: People are actually rallying around reform; moreover, they believe that reform is the only way out from three decades of impoverishment and exclusion without risking security and stability. They are no more only expressing their support for reform by whispering in dark corners, but they do that publicly with specific demands and clear views.
Read” Mohamed El- Allagi”(1) in "Libya Today"(2) focusing on the absent role of syndicates and the need for abrogate exceptional courts. With a candid call for a national dialogue with no exclusions, also read "Daw El Mansouri"(3) on the same site criticizing the illegal interferences of the peoples general secretarial, calling for free press and reform of the judiciary body. Those are only examples showing that Libyans active engagement with the new calls for reform has already started. The dialogue which was just born is growing and not going to die. This is the beginning of our pilgrim to the modern state. In the same time we should notice the doubts people have in the credibility of those calls. They can't be blamed for that, it is the regime that has to distract their doubts by tacking immediate steps of reform.

Essa: What did this trip add to Mohamed Buisier?

Buisier: Simply, from an enthusiastic émigré critic, I became an element in the domestic activity; it is a new stage with new task in new conditions. I am closer here, with my people that amazed me with their generous hospitality, to the Bridge I always dreamt of.

Essa: In your interview with "Juliana"(4) you said that unjustified violence was your main point of dispute with the regime. Based on that, let me ask you about the status of human rights in Libya now, this will lead me to ask you about your friend Fathi Al-Jahmi what happened in his case?

Buisier: I meant that there was no justification for violence among Libyans .Its effect was catastrophic on all sides. Instead of using Knowledge, logic and the power of the brain as tolls of the political dialogue, machineguns, gallows and prison cells lead to wasting the opportunity to develop. The result is what we have today.
There is improvement in the human rights status, at least with direct oppression and the conditions in prisons, but a lot has to be done with freedom restraining legislations and the role of the judiciary. As per my friend" Fathi Al-Jahmi"(5), and without going into details, I have a new initiative which was not rejected by the authorities to close this file in a reconciliatory way that will satisfy all parties. While I believe that" Fathi" should be with his family and able to practice his freedom of speech, I also believe that our Libyan dialogue should be objective, decant, based on mutual respect and includes no personal smearing.
Colonel Qadhafi has released before people who were accused with planning to assassinate him, so I won't be surprised, in this holly days, if he orders "Fathi's" release. Till this happen I will continue working hard for it.

Essa: You have met people in Tripoli the political capital of Libya and in Benghazi the cultural capital and I have heard about long talks with intellectual symbols, what was the nature of the dialogue? Is there any difference between thoughts of people inside and others outside Libya or it is only the time difference?

Buisier: Yes, I enjoy the great hospitality of Libyan intellectuals in Tripoli, Benghazi, Derna, and the green mountain .I know some of them since a long time, I feel as if I know others whom I just met since a long time too, their worries are identical to those in exile ,the experience is also similar, but the are more capable of being sarcastic towards their pains than those in exile when they talk about their years in "The Gulag archipelago" as if it was "Gulliver voyage to Lilliput, the land of midgets" .I feel petty for their oppressors.
A lot of discussions have taken place. I have learned a great deal. They are not finished yet, and they will never stop.

Mohammed Buisier (right) with Libya writer Ahmad al-Faituri

Essa: What about Qadhafi's speech on September first, some said it was confusing, how would you comment on it especially on the message he directed to you in this speech?

Buisier: Briefly, the event and the speech looked like a farewell party given by Qadhafi to the ruling group, It seems we are in the eve of a new era.
At the same time I am not sensitive towards any message he could have directed to me, Actually I see it positive if the criteria were importance or negligence. Difference in opinions without the use of violence is the foundation of democracy, and a sign of civilization. That’s why I would accept what he said without necessarily agreeing to it.

Essa: There is a lot of talk lately about the economical reform, as a preferred approach to comprehensive reform, what is the reaction to the idea of "economy first"?

Buisier: The private sector is fiercely engaged in the battle for prosperity .In all the towns and cities I visited so far, Business men form the front line in the struggle for reform. They, in spite of the unhelpful atmosphere, shape a new face for Libya, make signs of reform real in front of every body, and give them the chance to compare; The Public Stores(6) that bled ten billion Dinars from the peoples funds and bankrupted in three years under the management of the bureaucracy and the noise of slogans, are now flourishing under the management of young Libyan business men and women and as efficient as their counterparts north of the Mediterranean.
The seen in Sirt(7) is more symbolic, while the slogans factories are dead empty, the eye can't miss the action in the commercial streets established by the people of the city.
This is the nature of the moment Isaa. The will to build the society of prosperity is the strongest actor in the field; it is expressing itself economically and politically. I assure you it will shape the future.

Essa: Observing the Libyan media from my location here it seems that the idea for reform is not mature yet and the will needed to push it is not strong enough, am I right? or there is a better angle of observation?

Buisier: Reform in Libya is still an idea in the making. After every body found out that it is the necessary and only answer to the countries needs, initiatives of the rulers and the people have just started shaping it up.
The more we engage in the dialogue for reform the clearer the idea becomes; it is true that colonel Qadhafi , being the political center of gravity in Libya, is the only one who can unleash this dialogue, foster it and make use of it's out come. It is also true that Saif Al-Islam, being close to Qadhafi and belonging to a new generation of Libyans who have their dreams in the future and because he lived in a working democracy, is qualified to be in the front of the march towards the bridges, but it is inevitable that the Idea of reform which is necessary to cross the bridges is not going to develop without a comprehensive dialogue that involves all Libyans from east to west, and from north to south, a dialogue not monopolized by any body and doesn’t exclude any body.
What's important now Issa, is to initiate this dialogue and engage others in it, remembering that "the sky will never rain reform!"

Essa: Did the regime change? Is it the opposition who changed? Have they both changed?

Buisier: Just by answering your questions from my room in Al-Kabeer Hotel in Tripoli means that every body is changing. New water has flowed in the river in 2006, so it is no more the same river. Instead of just searching for the reasons we should mobelise all our energy to turn the wheel; it should turn in the direction of the modern democratic state, and we Libyans who can make this happen.

From left to right: Idriss Ibn-altaib (writer) and Mahmoud Shammam (journalist)

Essa: What about the government media, did it improve? Or still the same.

Buisier: There is a slight improvement of a microscopic magnitude. Media tools should be opened to all Libyans, simply because they are funded by our money, I would like to see "Mahmoud Shamam" (8) on Libyan TV, listen to "Idriss Ibn-altaib"(9) in Libyan Radio, and read a daily column by "Ahmad Alfaituri"(10) on Libyan Papers.
Introducing a legislation to grant the Libyan people freedom of expression is a priority in front Colonel Qadhafi .Why don’t we have a "first amendment" like the one American people added to their constitution in 1791 to protect freedom of speech ,why don’t we think of such wording for the amendment" It is prohibited for the authorities, all authorities, to prevent Libyan individuals and groups from expressing their opinions freely through all media tools, or stopping them from creating new media tools to practice their freedom of expression, all decrees and laws preventing them from that are overruled" Freedom of speech is not democracy, but there is no democracy without freedom of speech. We all want to strengthen the "authority of the people" but it can never function if the people are not practicing their right of free speech and without limits.


1. Mohamed Al-Allagi: is a Libyan lawyer and a former secretary of the lawyers union.
2. Libya Today: is an exiled Libyan web site.
3. Daw Almansoury: is a Libyan lawyer and a member of the human rights comitie.
4. Juliana: is a Libyan government web site.
5. Fathi Al-Jahmmi is a human rights activist who is detained since 2003.
6. The Public Stores: is a bankrupt government retail project.
7. Sirt: is the birth place of Colonel Qadhafi and the Ideological capital of the regime.
8. Mahmoud Shammam: is an outspoken Libyan exiled journalist.
9. Idriss Ibn-altaib: is a poet and a writer who was jailed for 12 years.
10. Ahmad Al-Faitury: is a novelist and a writer who spent 12 years in jail.

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