Friday prayer had just ended. Taher Shanta, a mature University of New Brunswick computer science student, sat on his prayer mat, still praying with the remaining few.
Shanta’s country, Libya, has been in turmoil for the past nine months. The peaceful protests demanding leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi to step down turned into armed conflict.
But Gaddafi is now dead, killed by a wound he sustained during an ambush last Thursday.
After 42 years of Gaddafi’s rule, Shanta says he and millions of other Libyans are free.
“I am thrilled. I am very, very, very happy,” Shanta said.
Gaddafi was killed in the Libyan city of Sirte. According to the National Transitional Council of Libya, he was trying to escape through an underground tunnel when he was captured.
For Shanta, Gaddafi had to die for Libya to be fully liberated.
“There will always be problems caused by Gaddafi and Gaddafi loyalists no matter how few the number is. As long as he’s still alive, still out there, he’ll be causing trouble for the nation,” he said.
“So, it’s good to have him killed. So whoever is following him can stop bothering Libya.”
Now, the plan is to announce the liberation of Libya and begin the process of transition.
It will take time, and there are many challenges to face. Libya’s divided troops and army needs to sort out their differences and come together under the umbrella of the Libyan National Army, while the transitional government still has to get people back home and to work.
Politically, there’s the challenge of mentality. The fighter leaders all want their share of the cake. Because they feel they have contributed more to the revolution, they want to receive more power.
“This kind of Gaddafi thinking, you know…that’s the political challenge for the new [transitional] government; that this is not the way they should think, not the way the future Libya should be,” Shanta said.
Like many other Libyans, Shanta was directly affected by the conflict, even if he is far away from his home in Fredericton.
Shanta’s uncles and aunts were in Tripoli throughout the whole conflict. His hometown, Zintan, was seized for a few months.
Zintan is one of the cities where the protests against Gaddafi started. Shanta’s brother was captured and jailed for five months for precautionary measures simply because he is from Zintan.
“The most difficult part was from February to late June,” he said. “Being here with my family, I was safe, but my mind was always over there. It affected my studies, it affected my daily life.”
Despite all the challenges, Shanta is keeping his fingers crossed.
“Hopefully, we’re turning a new leaf. Inshallah (God willing),” he said.
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