If you ask average Americans about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in which the U.S. Ambassador in Libya was killed, they will likely say it was a terrorist attack as they believe most Middle Eastern attacks are.
Ask a Libyan, and they’ll say they lost a friend.
“You can’t imagine how it affected us because it’s our loss, we lost a friend,” Iman Bugaighis, an orthodontist-turned-spokesman for the Libyan Provisional Transitional National Council in Benghazi, said. “He believed in Libya. He believed in us. So, it’s not easy for us and now we know that we are losing from your side. And we need you.”
Bugaighis spoke, via Skype, to a Cabrini class taught by Vonya Womack, a business instructor, on Monday, Sept. 10.
Bugaighis stated that Libyans need the help of the West to help build and restructure the nation in its transition and change.
Dictators often create enemies to distract people from demanding their rights and freedoms, and this enemy is usually created through religion, she said.
Bugaighis explained that dictators instill fear in their people that Westerners will destroy their country and customs.
The latest example of this type of “enemy” was demonstrated in a film that blasphemed the Prophet Muhammad. and supposedly led to the attacks on the U.S. Consulate. The Libyan government believes the attacks were led by foreigners from neighboring countries.
In addition to the classroom Skype call, Womack held a Facebook conversation with Bugaighis to discuss the events occurring in Libya after the killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
“Oh Vonya, you cannot imagine how much I am proud of my people. We will not allow those minority to destroy what we have been building during the last year,” Bugaighis wrote.
“This is a message for the whole world. We are proud of being Muslims. Islam is about peace and prosperity and not about killing and destroying and those criminals do not represent Islam nor us.”
Bugaighis said that Libyans feel it is shameful they could not protect the late Ambassador and the failure to do so only displays that they have no control in their country. She said it was a wake-up call that they have to protect their revolution and protect those who helped fight for their freedom.
“We will not let these stupid people destroy our life and revolution,” Bugaighis wrote.
For the first time in over 40 years, the people are finally able to express their freedom but with weak security and no political experience, building the country from a below-zero level is proving to be too difficult for the newly liberated country.
“For us, it’s not just our burden or our responsibility,” Bugaighis said. “It’s the responsibility of the world. It’s in the strategic interest of the world to have a stable Libya. Without the help and support of the West and the States, Qaddafi couldn’t have dictated or shamed us the way he did if there was a pressure about human rights.”
Struggling to find a way to build a state of democracy and success in a country molded into submission after over 40 years of “systematic dysfunction,” the goal is to teach Libyans how to look beyond living day-to-day. Mummar Qaddafi manipulated and changed the rhythms of life constantly so he could remain in control, she said.
“The only picture that should be in our heads [when we think of Libya] is him and his family,” Bugaighis said. “He banned music, sports, art—anything that adds to a person. We don’t even have cinemas. He changed the name of Libya and insisted we had to use ‘Jamahiriya.’ We felt detached from our country. We were embarrassed to say we were from Libya. He stained us.”
As a dictator, Qaddafi showed no pride in his country, an unusual trait for a dictator. According to Bugaighis, he felt his people did not deserve him and felt anger they were only a country of 6 million. He felt he was “created to control nations.”
“Qaddafi, we weren’t his pride,” Bugaighis said. “And he is our shame.”
Trust in the government has been building since July when Libyans were able to participate in their first free election in decades but Bugaighis wants the U.S. government to put pressure on President Mohammed el-Megaref and other leaders to build security, forces and an army.
“We are the only country in the world without an army,” Bugaighis said. “It’s not on purpose that the leaders are not doing this; they just don’t know how to do it. We need capacity building, leadership classes and education.”
Womack traveled to Libya in January 2012 with Peace and Prosperity Alliance to provide training for The Leadership Institute. After her trip, her understanding of the Libyan culture and its people is crucial to the people trying to build a new life and future. Because of her time spent and relationship formed with Bugaighis, communication can be cross-continental and knowledge can be shared between two different cultures with much to teach and share.
Bugaighis Skyped with Womack’s “Global Leadership for the Masters of Science in Organizational Leadership,” class to reach out to students studying the tools and skills she hopes Americans can share with Libyans.
After listening to Bugaighis describe what life as a Libyan has been like and what the United States can do to help, the graduate students in the class asked questions about consulting, business and diplomacy.
“We want to live in democratic country accepts diversity, human rights. We want to adopt dialogue to solve our differences and not guns,” Bugaighis wrote to Womack. “There were many threats that the extremists will not let the peaceful protest go and that blood will be spilled. We are not scared anymore.”
When asked what she is most excited for in regards to the liberation, Bugaighsi replied, “Dignity and respect. That is what I want for my daughter, to live with dignity and respect.”