As the Arab Spring sprung and change swept away the dictatorial regimes from the North African region and just like a hurricane made its way to other Arab countries, Libyans are for the first time experiencing the true feeling of freedom. For decades, Libyan students were banned from expressing certain topics in their identity; they had to live with a false understanding of what they are and what their aims in life should be.
Whether in Libya or outside, for a long time, Libyans couldn’t brag about their son Septimus Severus who became a Roman emperor, or Shoshenq who ruled Egypt to later become a Pharaoh. They couldn’t show the world the mysteries of the lost Desert kingdom of Garamantes, or showcase their beautiful Roman and Greek remains.
However today Libyan students all over the world, in and outside Libya, feel that they can express themselves and who they are. Libyans feel that they can actually make a change no matter how difficult the road is. Today, Libyan students would like to show the world what Libya really is all about and the history that was buried and long forgotten by the international community can be proudly shown once again.
Unfortunately, many people do not understand the phase Libya is going through right now. Ignorance results in a lot of racism and stereotyping. Current situations in Libya are being interpreted from a very narrow perspective. Therefore, it is resulting in a lot of frustration amongst Libyans and non-Libyans regarding the future of their country. What our event, The Legacy of Libya, is about is creating space for dialogue. It is about time that we break the walls that categorize us and that separate us from each other. It is high time that we embrace our mutual fate and try to understand each other to overcome our fears.
Libya will not be the next Iraq or Iran. Libya is a sovereign independent country seeking for democracy and a better tomorrow. Categorizing Libya and continuously relating it with previous Arab experiences is limiting the way in which people can perceive the current situation and is most certainly limiting the ways people feel they can help.
I believe that people need to understand Libya a bit more, look more deeply into Libyan culture, tradition, history and mentality. It is only then that people will understand and be able to correctly interpret the events happening in Libya. Looking and analysing another country from your foreign perspective might be deceiving; therefore, inter-cultural dialogue is essentially important to truly understand one’s culture. That is exactly why we believe that the Legacy of Libya was important and why it is important for all international students in University to give us an insight from their homeland and engage with us in a dialogue.