Watheq Al-Obaidi, Sheikh of the Islamic Center of Tucson, gives the “Jummah” or Friday speech at the ICT. Al-Obaidi said he wished Gadhafi had been captured, tried in court and punished in front of his people. (Photograph by Amer Taleb)
By Amer Taleb
Ammar Gwesha’s mother couldn’t stop crying from joy when she heard the news. After more than 40 years in power, Moammar Gadhafi is dead.
Gwesha, a mechanical engineering graduate student from Tripoli, said his mother was overwhelmed with emotion when they spoke over the phone. Most of Gwesha’s family began protesting against Gadhafi’s government when the revolution started in mid-February. Two of his brothers survived being shot.
“Till now I can’t believe it! As if I’m dreaming,” he said. “It’s a turning point in Libya’s history. The dictator that thought he owned his people is gone.”
Gadhafi was killed in Sirte, his hometown where battles have been raging for the last month, said Leila Hudson, an associate professor of Middle East history and anthropology and director of the Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle East Conflicts.
Details of his death are still emerging.
According to the last reports she read, French fighters and maybe American drones hit Gadhafi’s convoy from the air. Gadhafi might have been alive when he reached the hospital, but died of gunshot wounds, possibly to the stomach.
“It’s still very unclear and we don’t know how reliable all these accounts are,” she said. “But it’s the end of an era, marked by the death of Gadhafi. And it gives a sense of closure to one of the nastier episodes of the Arab Spring.”
Aman Tekbali, a history senior and Libyan-American, said he woke up to a dozen texts telling him to turn on the TV.
“I was excited but kind of disturbed. Everyone was happy about a man’s death,” Tekbali said. “I know he was evil, but he was a man nonetheless.”
Gwesha said he wanted Gadhafi to be tried in court, but that he has to be held responsible for his own demise.
Brian Noble, a veteran and Near Eastern studies senior whose wife participated in the Libyan Revolution as a member of the U.S. Air Force, said he hoped Gaddafi’s death would put an end to the Libyan people’s suffering and that their days under an autocratic government are over.
The Air Force veteran said the U.S. military’s involvement throughout the conflict seems to have been successful because it contributed to removing Gadhafi from power.
“Had the effort failed, it could have been a huge blow to the current administration, although the long-term success is still unknown,” Noble said.
Hudson emphasized the significance of establishing institutions of justice throughout Libya, and said Gadhafi’s death highlighted their necessity.
“Gadhafi’s death was kind of a mob scene and it showed a lack of the rule of law. That’s a greater concern than whoever pulled the trigger or joystick,” she said. “As with the execution of Saddam Hussein which was captured on cellphones, it makes you appreciate the importance of an orderly justice procedure.”
Watheq Al-Obaidi, the Sheikh, or leader, of the Islamic Center of Tucson, said he hoped Gadhafi would have been captured, put on trial and punished in front of his people. Many Libyan refugees in Tucson have spoken to him about the suffering Gadhafi caused them, especially if they had a relationship to the U.S.
“That insane criminal ruined his country, “ Al-Obaidi said. “After all their suffering, we hope the Libyan people can start to see the light at the end of a pitch black tunnel.”
Gadhafi’s downfall is a lesson to the new leaders of Libya, Gwesha said. David Shellouff, a history senior and Libyan-American, agreed.
“I hope that the Libyan people never forget what brought them to this point,” Shellouff said. “Accepting anything less then a democratic and just society for all would be worse than leaving Gadhafi in power.”