Haj Ghaith Saif Al-Nasr
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The good name and reputation of the Saif Al-Nasr family in Libya make any introduction to this family and its members redundant. The first generation of this family bravely performed the honourable duty of defending the homeland against foreign occupation and repeatedly sacrificed their lives and possessions. They fought along with their other brothers under the banner of the Senussi movement.
Following independence, the Libyan state acknowledged the loyalty and steadfastness of this family of freedom fighters by conferring on its second generation high honorary and political positions. Haj Ghaith Saif Al-Nasr was among the members of this family who assumed these high positions. He was appointed as the Wali of the province of Fezzan and later as its governor after the abolition of the federal system of government in 1963. Further, Haj Ghaith had been appointed as the Libyan ambassador to Chad and remained in this position until the usurping of power by the military in their coup d’etat of 1st September 1969.
Another member of the family, Mr. Saif Al-Nasr Abdul-Jalil Saif Al-Nasr was appointed a minister of defence in various successive governments.
I spent most of the month of July and the last days of June 1982 in the Moroccan capital, Rabat. This period coincided with the holy month of Ramadan. I spent most of the fasting month and Eid El-Fitr in one of the historical city’s hotels with the exception of a few days when I made a quick visit back to Britain during which I met Mr Abdulhamid Albakoush who visited me at my home in Manchester.(1)
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The star of the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL) at that time was rising very fast and Rabat was one of the main centres of this organisation’s growing activities. No other group or organisation could attain this level of activity.
It was not difficult to notice the presence of the numerous leaders and members of NFSL in the Moroccan capital. Moreover, it was equally easy for the organisers of the NFSL to obtain personal information about Libyans in that country, be they residents or visitors.
One day I received a phone call from Haj Ghaith Saif Al-Nasr whom I had neither met nor known beforehand. He expressed his desire to meet me in the hotel where I was staying(2). As well as being one of the notable members of the Saif Al-Nasr family, Haj Ghaith was also one of the founders and the prominent leaders of the NFSL, and its deputy general secretary.
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Haj Ghaith arrived at the hotel at the set time, soon after Asr Prayers. I received him in the entrance hall and we moved to an empty and quiet corner in the hotel foyer to discuss the subject for which my guest took the trouble of coming to visit me on that memorable day.
I immediately noticed the pragmatic manner that my honourable guest was observing in dealing with me. He did not waste his time in the customary Libyan protocols of courtesies, civilities or the lengthy conviviality. Haj Ghaith went straight to the subject that he came to address without any delay or hesitation.
Haj Ghaith told me in an apparent temper and disquiet(3) that he could neither understand nor appreciate the reasoning behind my adopting a diverse approach to the one agreed upon by everybody else. For, he continued, my founding of the Libyan Constitutional Union was, in his opinion, disbanding the efforts and dispersing the potential power to change.
Furthermore, he continued, I should join this mass movement as represented by the NFSL which was supported by the big powers and enjoyed the help of the influential countries in the Arab World. Moreover, he added, the NFSL was not only supported by most of the Libyan people but also by rich and politically influential Libyan personalities. Therefore, my insistence on being outside this social accord, cohesiveness and collaboration, which had been achieved by the NFSL through its structure as an opposition organisation, would make me out of step with everybody else.
In reference to the call of the LCU for unity around the person of the King and the renewal of allegiance to him, Haj Ghaith Saif Al-Nasr said, that they, the members of the Saif Al-Nasr family, were Senussis by nature and that the Senussi ethos ran in their blood and if it had happened that a vein under the skin of any of them was found without this type of blood then it would be cut off. He continued, that they did not accept, under any circumstances, anybody to lecture them on their family’s loyalty to the Senussi movement in general and to King Idris in particular.
Haj Ghaith continued by saying that, in this regard, there was a firm intention to honour King Idris after the liberation of Libya from the oppressive Qaddafi regime. Therefore, there was no need to unite around him, for this would not make any difference.
I listened to my visitor’s speech throughout, which was saturated with severe criticism of my stance and perspective that was different to that of the NFSL system of ideas and organisational approach. This lasted all the time between his arrival just after Asr prayers till just before Maghrib (sunset).
After he had finished all he had to say and was about to leave I said to Haj Ghaith Saif Al-Nasr, that I had , in summary, four points I wanted to tell him very quickly as a reply to his previous address:
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- Firstly, honouring the King, in essence, should not take place after the liberation of Libya with ceremonial speeches and a memorial medal. True honouring, for those who understand its meaning, should take place during his harsh exile and bitter isolation, alone and away from home through restoring the esteem which is due to him and showing respect and appreciation by rallying around his person.
- Secondly, in the absence of undertaking such a step, his reference to the non-acceptance of the Saif Al-Nasr family of anybody to discuss their loyalty to the Senussi movement in general and King Idris in particular by describing this loyalty with the blood running in their veins, remains mere rhetoric. The extent of somebody’s loyalty could only be measured according to their actions during the period of history in which they live. And that is what is consequential in this regard. However, one could not depend on stances of the forebears in previous history to absolve the individuals of their current duties and present responsibilities in proving and showing the extent of loyalty which they claimed they had proved and were consequently proud of.
What is meant here is that the judgement and the evaluation of individuals vis-à-vis their moral and ethical stances during successive historical periods could only be made within the context of their contemporary events and political circumstances.
The previous historical periods to these events and circumstances have no bearing on these judgements and evaluations.
Therefore, for the description that he mentioned- concerning the flow of the Senussi blood in the veins of the members of the Saif Al-Nasr family to be credible he would have to go to King Idris and renew his allegiance to him. This renewal of allegiance was due to King Idris for he was the representative of the constitutional legitimacy as the entire Libyan nation honoured him to be.
Furthermore, the above mentioned metaphor had been adopted from a saying by his uncle Mohammad Saif Al-Nasr, who said when he was oppressively and wrongly incarcerated by the dictatorial regime, “If I had a vein not pulsating with Senussi ethos I would slash it.” He meant every word he said. Moreover, he restricted what he said to himself and did not include any other member of the Saif Al-Nasr family. He - may Allah bestow His mercy on him and make paradise his abode- never retracted from this belief in spite of the pressures and the bargaining of his jailers to set him free. He preferred death in prison to renouncing his principles. He was true to his principles because of his determination, his strong faith, his courage, his fortitude and firmness in what is right.
- Thirdly, I added that he might not agree with me on this at this moment in time due to our diverging points of view; in spite of all the huge resources and the immense support that the NFSL has received to liberate the country from Gaddafi’s rule, the whole enterprise is doomed to inevitable failure. The dream of toppling Gaddafi’s regime would not be realised through this specific means.
I told him not to be fooled by the support from the great powers for the NFSL at that present time and bear in mind, with certainty, that these countries had their own plans, aims and interests without any consideration for the interests of the Libyan people and their bitter suffering under the rule of this corrupt regime. I added that time would show how true and accurate this analysis would be.
I continued to say if this proves to be true – as I was sure it was – he was more than welcome to join the Libyan Constitutional Union. For the LCU is suited for members of the illustrious Saif Al-Nasr family to be at the forefront of it. The bright history they attained by way of their fighting alongside the Senussi movement and their loyalty to it made them most eligible to assume leadership positions in the Libyan Constitutional Union(4).
- The final point can be deduced from a simple question of two parts: Why do some of you go to so much trouble in your attempts to criticise my political orientation and to persuade me to abandon it? Is it really the case that the major obstacle to your efforts for the national cause lies in my political orientation?
The answer to this question is in what they said and in their criticism of me. For these critics said on more than one occasion that their approach to the struggle would not face failure and its success would be certain. The elements of the certainty of this success come from the absolute support their idea gets from the international, Arab and regional powers. Add to this, success according to these critics, could also be attributed to the power of money, men and equipment that their ideas, methods and orientation of the struggle attracted from the beginning.
Therefore, no impediment existed for their achieving the success that they were aspiring to under any consideration and my political orientation would not change this fact at all. So I requested they leave me alone as there would be no fear that I or my orientation would have any detrimental effect on the realisation of their goals.
And so ended my encounter with Haj Ghaith Saif Al-Nasr, who did not like my reply as evidenced by the angry expression on his face. Maghrib was about to arrive so I insisted that he accepted my invitation to break our fast together in the restaurant at the hotel where I was staying. * * *
However, he refused my invitation and muttered as he turned away towards the door of the hotel waving his hand that his Iftar (breaking of his fast) was awaiting him at his house.
As I said earlier, I spent most of the month of Ramadan and Eid El-fitr in the Moroccan capital where many of the members of the NFSL had their homes or were staying in its hotels. I knew some of these members personally; however, I did not see any of them.
My only contact with any of the Libyans in that country at that time was with Mr Mohammad Othman Essaid who from time to time would invite me to break the fast with him at his home.
Mr. Saif Al-Nasr Abduljalil Saif Al-Nasr
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It was only natural that Mr. Saif Al-Nasr Abduljalil Saif Al-Nasr be among the list of Libyan dignitaries (of the wise and influential category) whom the LCU approached to try to attain support of its patriotic mission. He was of a distinguished status in the Libyan society both politically and socially.
I had a warm and cordial relationship with Mr. Saif Al-Nasr Abduljalil which dated back a few years. This made it easy to initially contact him and thereafter set up a meeting in the winter of 1982. He welcomed me very warmly in his flat in Cairo where he lived permanently. As we entered the sitting room I was attracted by a very impressive portrait of His Majesty King Idris which was hung on the wall. It was a very beautiful photograph mounted on a magnificent frame, which showed King Idris in his full glory.
After chatting briefly about past memories and the present ordeal and tribulations of the homeland under the repressive and corrupt regime, we began discussing the idea of the LCU. I was anxious to assess Saif Al-Nasr’s view and stand on the establishment of the LCU and its proposed direction.
Saif Al-Nasr’s full knowledge of the details of the LCU’s Idea, motives and aims spared me the exertion of explaining and elaborating, for he had had a good look at all the publications by the LCU prior to that meeting(5).
I asked Saif Al-Nasr about his view and standpoint on the LCU’s idea, which called for the consolidation around the King as a first step towards restoring to Libya the usurped constitutional legitimacy. With King Idris as the focal point of this constitutional legitimacy, as he was the undisputed choice of the entire nation which elected him as its leader and national symbol of this constitutional legitimacy in accordance with the nation’s constitution which it formulated on the eve of independence.
I further clarified by expressing my sincere wish that he would take the lead in realizing the objective of rallying around the king, which would go a long way to supporting the effort along the road of the task of restoring the country’s lost constitutional legitimacy.
At that point Saif Al-Nasr objected to my appeal to him to rally around the King. He saw that as an insult to him and to members of his family who never ceased to be loyal and were whole heartedly devoted to the Senussi movement since its emergence in the late 18th century.
He added that loyalty to King Idris was a duty and an obligation on every single member of the Saif Al-Nasr family and that they do not need anybody to persuade them to illustrate or prove it.
He passionately went on, in a show of his devotion and loyalty to King Idris, by saying that the necks of the Saif Al-Nasr’s family never obeyed or yielded to anybody but this man, placing the edge of his palm on the back of his neck while pointing to the photo of King Idris with his other hand.
I immediately conceded to his objection which was consistent with my own firm knowledge of his family’s long and honourable history in serving the Senussi movement and devotion to its masters. I further said to him that we were both in agreement in this regard and therefore there should be no problem which would prevent him from using his considerable prestige and influence to gather a group of likewise Libyan notables from émigrés in Egypt and other countries, and lead them to the King to offer their support to him and renew their allegiance to his Majesty.
I further clarified that what was consequential here was the level of success achieved in serving the national cause, and that did not mean having a monopoly on the means that lead to achieving it.
In other words, the LCU does not demand from others to come under its wing in order to achieve the common national interest, but strongly promotes a variety of channels that will eventually lead to realising the goals aspired to by the Libyan people.
That is to say that Mr. Saif Al-Nasr did not need the LCU at all to express his loyalty and support to the King. The field was open to him and to others to rectify the inverted image of our country’s case, which would never be rectified without rallying around the King and consolidating behind him as a first step towards retrieving our country’s plundered constitutional legitimacy.
I went a step further in my attempt to secure the goal of my visit by offering to arrange a meeting for Mr. Saif Al-Nasr with the King where he could visit his Majesty accompanied by a group of Libyan dignitaries. He thanked me profusely and told me that he did not need my intercession, for his path to visiting the King is wide open.
Hence, I parted company with Saif Al-Nasr fully content that I would soon hear that he had paid His Majesty a visit accompanied by a number of prominent Libyans to declare their loyalty and support. Instead, I heard not long afterwards, that he had joined Mr. Abdulhamedd Al-Bakoosh’s organisation. The rest is well known history. King Idris passed away without this visit ever materialising.
To be continued
Mohamed Ben Ghalbon
17th November 2006
(Many thanks to Mustafa for translating this document from Arabic)
(1) Details of this meeting with Mr. Abdulhamedd Al-Bakoosh are in part four of this series.
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(2) When Mr. Gaith Saif Al-Nasr told me on the phone he wanted to see me I thought that he wanted to invite me to have “Iftar” at his house.
(3) I thought that Haj. Gaith Saif Al-Nasr was talking to me in this temper and rough pitch because he either was under the influence of the fast in that hot summer day which often makes people tense and irritable; or that he was a naturally bad tempered person and that was how he usually communicated with people. I found out later that I was wrong on both accounts.
(4) All my expectations in this regard have unfortunately turned out to be true.
(5) As I did with other Libyan notables, I sent by post copies of the LCU’s publications to Mr. Saif Al-Nasr Abduljalil Saif Al-Nasr followed by a personal letter. In that letter (copy enclosed below) I asked him to forward copies of the said publications to Haj. Ghaith whose address I couldn’t attain. I was eager for him to be familiar with the call and aims of the LCU, in the hope that we could gain his sympathy and support. I wrongly referred to Haj Ghaith in that as Saif Al-Nasr’s brother. When I met the latter he corrected me that Ghaith is in fact his nephew not his brother.
Copy of the LCU’s letter to Mr.Saif Al-Nasr Abdul-Jalil dated 5th February 1982
Translation of the LCU’s letter to Mr. Saif Al-Nasr Abdul-Jalil dated 5th February 1982
In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful
The esteemed Mr. Saif Al-Nasr Abdul-Jalil
Following a long search and enquiries I managed to obtain your address to write to you.
I hope that you received the LCU’s booklets, which detailed its aims and political orientation. I also hope that there will be an opportunity of cooperation between us, and convergence of our ideas to serve our country and fly its flag amongst nations.
I would be delighted and honoured, and so would all members of the Libyan Constitutional Union, if you would cooperate with it to raise the banner of the national struggle together. For the deep-rooted Saif Al-Nasr family, which is synonymous in Libyan history with defending the country and fighting for the homeland, should be in the forefront every time Libya calls for giving and sacrifice.
I hope that you would also pass a copy of this letter to your brother Mr. Ghaith Abdul-Jalil, whose address I am still trying to obtain. And that there would be a chance of cooperation with him too, as well as all of your noble family.
Waiting for your reply, please accept the respect and appreciation of the chairman and members of the Libyan Constitutional Union.
Mohamed Abdu Ben Ghalbon