Jaber Mazzida couldn’t believe it.
A graduate student studying education at USF and a Libyan native, Mazzida awoke Thursday morning to reports that former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi had possibly been killed. Around 10 a.m., Al Jazeera showed images of his corpse and by 2 p.m., U.S. officials confirmed Gadhafi’s death.
“I didn’t believe it in the beginning when one of my friends called me because we heard several times that he was dead and it wasn’t true,” said Mazzida, who came to the U.S. from the Libyan city of Nalut two years ago. “I was so happy when I came home and saw the videos.”
According to the AP, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, head of the National Transitional Council, which is acting as an interim government for Libya, “declared the country liberated” Sunday, and presented a plan to transition the nation to democracy within the next two years that draws from Islamic law.
Inspired by the revolutions that took place in Tunisia and Egypt, Libyan youth organized peaceful protest against Gadhafi’s rule in February 2011, according to the New York Times. Gadhafi responded with violence, ordering helicopter gunships and jet fighters to massacre protestors in Tripoli and hiring 5,000 mercenaries to fight protestors on the ground. The fighting continued until Aug. 23, when the rebels took hold of Tripoli.
Mazzida’s family in Libya was among the six million who celebrated the death of their former leader Thursday. His death is being investigated by NATO to determine whether the dictator, who was dragged from a drainage ditch “wounded, but alive” was executed “by his captors,” according to the AP, or during crossfire between rebel groups.
In a Thursday press conference after the announcement of Gadhafi’s death, Mohsen Milani, chairperson of the USF department of government and international affairs, said he is “cautiously optimistic” about what will come next for Libya. In Gadhafi’s 42-year rule he destroyed any political opposition and did not allow for the normal growth of a civil society, Milani said.
“All these new political parties, new political forces do not know how to cooperate with one another,” Milani said. “They don’t know how to operate under a democratic or a sort of representative environment, and that is why I say I am cautiously, cautiously optimistic.”
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Friday that NATO will begin to pull out of Libya, setting Oct. 31 as a preliminary end date for the mission, according to CNN. Yet Milani said he thinks international intervention in Libya, which began earlier this spring, should continue.
“I think it’s time for the international community to provide technical support, economic support and military support for the (Transitional National Council) so that they can push Libya towards some kind of representative and tolerant government,” he said.
Though he said he did not feel directly oppressed by Gadhafi, Mazzida said he always knew that he had no real freedom. He knew there was no democracy, and there were red lines he couldn’t cross if he wanted to live a comfortable life in Libya.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” he said. “I didn’t feel (oppressed) that much, but other people feel it – especially people in the press, people with (oppositional) political orientations and views and people who lost family trying to change the regime.”
Gadhafi’s death drew questions about what’s next for Libya. In a month, an interim government will be formed, within eight months a constitutional assembly will be elected and a year after that, parliament and a new president will be elected, according to the AP.
Yet, according to the AP, “critics said the gruesome spectacle of (Gadhafi’s) blood-streaked body laid out as a trophy for a third day of public viewing in a commercial freezer tests the new leadership’s commitment to the rule of law.”
Milani said he believes that the relationship between the U.S. and the new Libyan government will remain positive and continue to grow.
“Things can change quickly in Libya,” he said. “So far, the relationship between the U.S. government and the National Transitional Council has been fantastic, and I believe it will continue to be that way for months, and hopefully for years and decades to come.”
Mazzida also said he sees a “very good future” for the country.
“Democracy will start again in Libya,” he said. “It’s going to be rebuilt again on good foundations – democracy, honesty and understanding.”