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Monday, 12 January, 2009

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Mohamed Eljahmi’s remarks at the Winsor school’s
4th annual Jamnesty event, January 9, 2009, Boston, Massachusetts

Good evening, thank you for inviting me to speak and thank you for your efforts and work on behalf of my brother Fathi.

Tonight, I will talk about peaceful dissent and the right to participate in government. I hope to make the case that respect for human rights in faraway countries like Libya is important to our security. In America we enjoy the right to peaceful dissent, because it has a positive effect on our society. We will soon celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King. And we all know about his positive contribution to our society.

In Libya though, peaceful dissent is illegal. Belonging to/or creating a political party or independent trade union are crimes punishable by death. The fulfillments of needs of all Libyans depend on their loyalty to the Qadhafi family. 10-20% of Libyans work in surveillance. To get ahead, you must be loyal to the regime.

Fathi Eljahmi spoke out publicly for dissent and the right to participate in government. He was led straight to prison in October 2002. Thanks to the efforts of then Sen. Biden. He was released in March 2004. Fathi refused to shut up, though so he was abducted by Libyan State Security and put in incommunicado. Since 2004, he spent most of his time isolated from the outside world. No TV, newspaper, radio, family visits and medicine for ailments. In April he will be 68 years old. Despite his age, he was tortured and continues to be. For two years, the regime banned medications. That led to weakness and the inability to perform basic functions, so his bed became his bathroom. Once, he fell on his way to the bathroom and asked for help from the guards, who stand outside his cell. They came rushing and cursing profanity at him, “You son of … we want to physically liquidate you.” They laughed and snickered as they watched him crawl on his stomach. But that wasn’t enough to break Fathi’s will. He wrote a letter to Qadhafi telling him, “You are a cruel dictator. One day, you will be held responsible.” Physical liquidation is Qadhafi’s method to deal with dissent.

Fathi’s situation is dire but there is improvement. Thanks to your efforts and others. He is lucky to be alive. Other Libyan dissidents though have not been so lucky.

Mansour Kikhia was a former Libyan Foreign Minister. He was a peaceful man. In the early 90s and about one month before receiving his US citizenship, he was kidnapped in Cairo and then taken to Libya to be executed. He left two small children and a wife – all are US citizens. Imagine the trauma of the Kikhia children to grow up waiting for their dad to come home and then to find out that he is not.

Colonel Qadhafi’s victims are not only Libyans, like the Kikhia children they are Americans or Africans. Qadhafi is responsible for the bombing of Pan Am 103, which claimed many American lives.

Last month, I met Grace Akallo. She is a former child soldier from Uganda. She was kidnapped and forced into war by militias. She told me some of the girls in her camp were rumored to have been taken to Libya for training. I wasn’t surprised, because in the 1990s, Qadhafi funded a civil war in Liberia and Sierra León. The war claimed 75,000 civilian lives. Like Grace’s case, children were also kidnapped by militias and forced to fight. A Liberian tribal elder met with Qadhafi for help in ending the war. He told the dictator, “Mr. Leader, we must stop Charles Taylor from killing your fellow Muslims.” But Qadhafi replied, “This is a revolutionary not religious war.”

As you see, Qadhafi a narcissist. He believes to have solutions to all mankind’s problems and that he was created to rule all people. In Libya he has a death squad called the Revolutionary Committees. These committees run many hidden prisons. You see, in Libya political prisoners can be locked up in prisons we know about and prisons we don’t know about and these are called hidden prisons. It is normal for people to involuntary disappear in Libya. That was true for Libyan journalist Daif al-Ghazal. During the first week of June, 2005 the Revolutionary Committees kidnapped, killed and mutilated his body, because he wrote an Internet article about the abuse of power under Qadhafi.

Qadhafi is clearly an evil man. He abuses his people and is a source of misery elsewhere, but he listens when he knows the world is watching. Your efforts are much appreciated. Please continue your work to help save the lives of Libyan dissidents like my brother.

Thank you.

Mohamed Eljahmi

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