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March 08, 2011 8:34 am

Libyan student speaks out

Written by Ilene Olson

Though Nour Bagdadi left her home in Tripoli, Libya, only months ago, she finds it difficult even to imagine what things are like there now.

“I don’t know what it looks like — I’ve never been in a war before,” Bagdadi, a Northwest College student, said of her homeland.

She also worries about her people, some of whom have paid the ultimate price for their quest for freedom from a regime that has ruled in Libya for 42 years. During Libyans’ peaceful protests in recent weeks, their president, Muammar Gaddafi, repeatedly has turned guns on protesters rather than give up the power and wealth he is accustomed to.

“He’s killing his own people,” Bagdadi said. “Lots of people died — even kids died, and I’m sorry for them and their families … all the other governments don’t want them to die, and he’s killing his own people. It’s crazy.”

Libya is a large country, rich in oil and resources. But most people never benefit from those riches, Bagdadi said.

“He (Gaddafi) has taken the country’s money for 42 years,” she said. “We have the oil, and still people are suffering sometimes … People don’t feel like working or studying, because they can’t achieve anything.

“I started to hate my country, almost … I decided to go and live abroad, because I don’t feel like a Libyan anymore.”

But most of all, she said, she is proud of her people for standing up for freedom.

“I finally feel proud again to be a Libyan,” she said.

Bagdadi said she wants to help the fight for freedom in any way she can, and right now, she can do that best by speaking up.

“I feel, by doing this interview, I’m helping my country more,” she said. “If I were home, I don’t think I would be doing anything; I don’t think women are allowed to be out by themselves.

“This might get me into trouble, but this is the least thing I can do for my country.”

Bagdadi said her emotions since Libyans began their protests have ranged from nervousness and fear to excitement and pride. She tries to keep up on news of what’s happening at home so she can feel involved in those events.

“People are still scared,” she said. “They can’t know what’s going to happen next. They’re saying the president is giving people money; he wants to stay.”

Other reports say Gaddafi and his son are handing out guns to supporters.

“I think he’s in denial. I think he’s out of his mind. He has mental problems.

“I hope he gets out soon, because if he does, the country will be much, much better.”

Still, there are more questions than answers for the future in Libya, and for Bagdadi’s own future as well.

Bagdadi, whose parents both died, is here on a scholarship through the U.S. Embassy in Libya. That scholarship ends in May, and she will return to Tripoli.

She had planned to apply for another scholarship to return next year, but now she doesn’t know if that will happen.

“Now the American embassy is not working; I’m waiting until things get back to normal. I have no idea what I can do. Even the school I worked at is no longer there. It’s an international school, and all the foreign people have left.”

For now, though, thousands of miles separate her from her home, and from events there.

“Sometimes I feel so guilty, because sometimes I just wake up in the morning, go to classes, go to eat, go to work, go to chat with my friends, whatever — then when I go to sleep, I remember what’s happening in Libya, and I feel guilty. I feel, ‘Oh, I should be back in Libya, so I don’t forget about it.’”

Bagdadi said she is able to follow events in Libya through Facebook and reports on the Internet. She’s heard reports that in her city, residents can hear gunfire in the streets.

“They can’t go out at night,” she said. “You can’t know what’s going to happen next.”

That uncertainty is magnified by Gaddafi’s instability, she said. She recalled his accusations, also reported over the Internet, that Osama Bin Laden and al Qaida were to blame for the protests because they put drugs in the cream in people’s coffee.

“He’s crazy,” she said. “He’s the president of my country for 42 years; I feel so embarrassed. It’s such a shame.”

Bagdadi said she also has followed developments in Benghazi, where soldiers have sided with protesters.

“They’re saying Gaddafi is not president of Benghazi any more,” she said. “They don’t want the green flag anymore; they want the old one.”

The people’s message to Gaddafi: “What are you doing? Just get out,” she said.

Bagdadi said Libyans were emboldened by protests in Egypt and Tunisia, which also were broadcast over the Internet.

“They’re not afraid anymore. It gives me a good feeling inside,” she said.

Bagdadi said she believes the uprising would have occurred even without the Internet.

“They would see it on TV,” she said. “Even if there were no Facebook, people would still do the same.

“Hopefully, people keep trying,” she added, “because if they give up now, it’s going to be even worse.”

When the protests first began in Libya, “it kept me awake at night,” she said. “I had nightmares. But... speaking to people here makes me feel really better. I feel like I’m helping, in a way. It’s like I’m feeling; I’m not forgetting.”

Bagdadi said it’s possible that she is putting herself in danger by speaking out so publicly.

“They’re saying that the government in Libya are watching everyone who is not in Libya,” she said. “They might see the newspaper and take my name and ... find out when I come back. I might get in serious trouble, but I don’t really care. I have to let people know what’s going on. I have to speak my mind.”

6 comments

  • Comment Link March 08, 2011 4:59 pm posted by javiera

    I feel so proud of Bagdadi. I know it has not been easy for her. And i feel this is the best way to fight for what she thinks is unfair. What happened in Libia is such a mess, a horrible reality and I really hope people do not give up and stand by their rights. They need to know they are not alone, people all over the world are praying and supporting them.

  • Comment Link March 15, 2011 11:52 pm posted by Dalia

    I'm so proud of u ya Baghdadi :) one day we will look back at this terrible time and it will be as if Giddhafi never existed! He will get what he deserves and all we can do for now is Pray that our families and friends stay safe. I'm so happy u did this.. Inshallah we will both meet back in Libya SOON!!

  • Comment Link March 16, 2011 2:37 pm posted by Amira Rabia

    I really liked what you said, especially the ''I don't care'' part. Nice job Sister! we are all proud of you and we are all supporting you.

    I hope that one day Algeria too will wake up from this long sleep and make change.

  • Comment Link March 19, 2011 9:22 am posted by Anne

    Nour- you represent the future of Libya! I loved what you said about finding pride again in your country and your people- I admire Libyans for the sacrifices they are making right now, they are very brave. And so are you.

  • Comment Link March 19, 2011 9:21 pm posted by Silvana Paz Meza Palomino

    thanks for sharing this. you're very brave to speak out. I hope your family and friends are doing well. I'm sure most of people in the whole entire world are praying for peace in Lybia.
    Government and nation needs to learn more about caring about its people than about guns and war. Hurting between ourselves will just kill us.

    keep standing up for your civil rights.

  • Comment Link March 20, 2011 8:54 am posted by T. Bagdadi

    Way to go Nour! I'm super proud of you for speaking out. Libya will prevail.

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