Liberating Libya

March 31, 2011

Former ambassador to the U.S. from Libya says Gaddafi must go in GW speech.

Ali Aujali has a dream—he told a standing-room-only crowd at GW’s Jack Morton Auditorium Monday—“that Libya is free and Gaddafi is not there.”

Until last month Mr. Aujali was the ambassador to the U.S. from the North African nation. A longtime diplomat, he has served in England, Malaysia and Argentina.

But after more than 40 years working for the Libyan government, Mr. Aujali resigned in February. He said that he had tried for decades to “change Libya from the inside but it wasn’t possible.”

According to Mr. Aujali, many Libyans who criticized the government disappeared or were killed. “There were young people from universities who were hanged in the street.”

The recent uprising across the Arab world spurred him to break with the government. “I stood up with many Libyans citizens and said this regime must go,” said Mr. Aujali, who attended President Obama’s national address on Libya later that evening.

“Gaddafi must go,” he said. “If Gaddafi stays, we will never be able to change our lives.”

Mr. Aujali said he was grateful to the United States, President Obama and the American people who have supported Libya “at the right time.”

He urged Americans to help Libyans transition from dictatorship to democracy. “Your support is needed, your companies are needed, your experts are needed to help the Libyan people establish their government,” he said.

“We were desperate for the last 42 years, but this is the time for us to make history,” he said. “Now is our chance.”

Following Mr. Aujali’s remarks, Fadel Lamen, president of the American-Libyan Council, spoke, making the case for international support for regime change in Libya.

“What do Libyans want, and why should we help them?” he asked. “They want what everyone else wants: They want dignity, freedom, the right of self-determination.”

He cautioned that the road to freedom for Libya will be “full of bumps” and said that Libyans “are looking to the U.S. and other democratic countries for inspiration, for guidance, for support, for expertise.”

A third speaker, GW alumnus Hafed Al-Ghwell, also gave brief remarks.

“This is a great intervention, it’s welcomed by the population, by the region,” said Mr. Al-Ghwell, who is from Libya and works as a senior official at the World Bank. “It is for the benefit of peace and security around the world.”

The event, which concluded with a question-and-answer session, was sponsored by the International Affairs Society, a student organization.

“We were happy with the outcome Monday night. We had a full room and three amazing speakers,” said Aria Varasteh, an International Affairs Society board member and junior in the Elliott School.

For Mr. Varasteh, the highlight of the event was the question-and-answer session and the many questions the audience asked. “You have to appreciate GW students’ thirst for knowledge.”

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Fadel Lamen

Hafed al Ghwell