Legal study during the Libyan revolution ... a personal account

Libyan law student, Aya Rida Luheshi gives an eye witness account of events leading up to the revolution in 2012, the subsequent overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi and the emergence of the new Libyan State.

My name is Aya Rida Luheshi. I am from Libya and I live in Tripoli, the capital. I study at the faculty of law and I am in my third year. My ambition is to be an ambassador for Libya in a European or Asian country. The main subject that I am going to write about in this  article, is how the Revolution affected life and my legal studies at that time.

First of all, both myself, my family and all Libyans experienced very difficult and tough days at the beginning of the Revolution. It first rose up in Benghazi and on the second day, Tripoli, the capital, raised her voice too. People were so excited that they were able to eliminate injustice and corruption, as Gaddafi did not understand the idea of a people’s coup. The people though, were divided into opposing sides. One section of the population was with the Revolution and the other, with Gaddafi.

At university, we did not know who were with the people and who were with Gaddafi. We could not express an opinion or share it with our friends because you just could not trust anyone in those days. You did not know who was a spy and who was not, but for most of students, you could tell from the joy in their faces that they were with the Revolution. A lot of boys also left their studying and joined the rebels to fight.

In the beginning, my college did not close. We continued to study as if nothing was happening. But going to university was one of the most dangerous things to do at that time, because of the kidnapping of the students. I knew I was risking myself, but I did not stop going to learn.

NATO intervention

When the decision was made for NATO to come and help us, this was the happiest night ever. In the middle of the lectures we would hear explosions and bullets. It was scary, but always our teachers were telling us to not worry and they continued their commentary for us.

The teachers who were on the side of the people only gave us the lectures for the subjects we studied and then they would leave to go home. However, the ones that were with Gaddafi were always talking about him, all of the time. They received their punishment from the students after the Revolution however, which was not being able to teach us again. They were also thrown out of the college.

When we took our exams in my second semester of that year, I only did half of my exams. I could not study for the other half because the country was going from worse to worse. With the increase in kidnappings and rape, my parents were afraid and so, we went to Tunisia. There, it was full of Libyans. We were all one big family together and we stayed there for nearly five months. After the country was liberated, we enjoyed a big celebration in Tunisia, before coming back to a free Libya.

Libya, after being freed, was so lovely. Seeing all the new flags, new faces and new smiles; people were much more friendly and kind.

From the day we arrived in Tripoli, we did not want to just stay at home and so we went all round Tripoli and all the Libyans were celebrating. We also went back to university, as well as painting the streets, painting flags with a lot of colourful paint. With my friends, we also did a lot of activities in the bazaars, again painting and the selling of flags. And, of course, we started back at university with our legal studies.

Pupil power

At first, the law exams for the students who had missed them during the Revolution, were completed. Afterwards, the students then held meetings where they decided to not let the teachers who were supporters of Gaddafi back to work again. We also changed all the members of the university’s debt management who were part of the Gaddafi regime and we had a number of celebrations within the college. All the students were very happy to be part of their free country.

Following the completion of the celebrations, we voted for a students’ union for our college. They were a group of students that we could depend upon and following that, myself and a group of friends established a group called “Start with yourself”.

Our idea is that we educate the young people in our college. We direct them towards the right path in the way that they deal with people, deal with the teachers and that they also come to lectures on time. It is all about how they change themselves first, before helping to change others around them. Support for them is always positive and not negative and the group supports how they express their opinions. We have actually found that there has now been a lot of interaction from our students and we are continuing to work hard on it.

Meantime, our law lectures became much more interesting. The teachers became more fun after the Revolution and they became more friendly towards the students.

The students can now speak up and share their opinions with the teachers at university without fear, because together, we shared a lot of days of pain and fear. They are now very happy to hear our voices. We also thank God that he has returned us to our national spirit and as a result, we all have become one hand to live together with our college and now make it a perfect faculty of law.

Well, our revolution began with a series of street demonstrations and protests and ended with victory and liberation. Of course, we lost lots of men, women and children and we feel sad about it, but I am sure we can move forwards and we are now trying to revive a new Libya and to live a new life.

Free Libya and it always will be.

This article was written by Aya Rida Luheshi, a third year Libyan law student in Tripoli, on invitation from David Hammond of 9 Bedford Row International following his recent instructions in Tripol.

Aya Rida Luheshi, law student, Tripoli

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