Journey Back To A Homeland
What a special day it is today for my family! After 31 years of forced exile, my father Mohamed Yousef Almagariaf will embark on a journey to our homeland, Libya.
On his last trip, some 31 years ago, my father, then Libya’s ambassador to India, asked his dad to bless his decision to publicly oppose Qaddafi. At a time when public executions of dissidents and Qaddafi’s policy of “physical liquidation” against perceived enemies of the revolution were in full swing, my grandfather’s response was emphatic and resounding: “take your decision, and we fully support you.” The rest is history: my father’s six brothers were thrown into political prisons for eight years; remaining family members were harassed, tortured, and hunted down. With the grace of God, my father survived numerous assassination attempts against him (Rome in 81, Casablanca in 84, Madrid in 85, Baghdad in 87, UTA airliner bombing in 89, and London in 97, to list a few).
Like many dissident families, my family led a precarious life on the run, never settling down in one place. The real identity of my father had to be guarded and revealed only to a few. To this day, some of my non-Libyan friends probably still think my father was a “businessman,” who happened to travel quite often. We lost many friends and relatives to the cause, but we had to pick up the pieces and resume our lives with some surreal sense of “normalcy.”
I am beyond proud of my father’s decision to become one of the brave voices of Libyan dissent at a time when it was financially, professionally, and personally more rewarding for him to become part of the silent majority. Like many other courageous Libyans, his steadfastness all these years and refusal to waver or give in make my siblings and I tremendously indebted to his legacy. My father believed in the validity of fighting for a free Libya when others perceived his position as irrelevant or impractical, especially in recent years. He always felt committed to this worthy cause, a view shared by many of his fallen friends like Omar Ennami, Ahmad Ahwas, Bashir Amry, Fathi Muammer, Yousef Khreibesh, and others. The only concern my father expressed was passing away and being buried in a land foreign to him.
I wish I can be there as he takes his first step back “home,” accompanying him as he walks Ben Issa street where he grew up. After all these years, he can still recall vividly the names of families in each house as if he just left yesterday; I wish I can be there while he visits the grave of his father, Hajj Yousef Magariaf who passed away in 1988, while six of his sons were in prison, and the three others were hunted down abroad. To this day, my uncle Izzat Magariaf, remains among Libya’s countless missing heros.
My mother, Hajja Rebeh Abdulaziz Sahad, will accompany dad on this trip as she has for many years. Throughout decades of exile, she has never complained or expressed any doubts about the cause or direction of our life. I aspire to have a fraction of her patience, perseverance, and devotion.
As my parents make their historic trip back home, I hope to welcome my own Arab spring baby soon inshallah. This year has been monumental, for which I am very thankful alhamdulilah.
Libya is Finally Free
If you asked me at any time in my life what would be the happiest day of your life? I would easily respond and say that it would be the day gaddafi is killed or removed from power. That day has come but I am not as exicted as I thought it would be, maybe it still hasn’t hit me, maybe I am wondering about my father’s fate or maybe I am still so very upset at seeing so many GOOD Libyan lives cut short to finally change this regime.
One of the main things that kept me optimistic about the situation in Libya through all these years is the possibility that my father could be alive. There’s a big possibility that we might find out his fate and I am not sure how ready I am for that. If my father is alive, then it would be one of the happiest days of my life and if he is a martyr, although I would be very honored it would mean that I can no longer be optimistic. I am still very happy with either outcome and I am very happy that Libya is now free of this tyrant and Inshallah things will go in the right direction so Libyans can finally have rights and opportunities. We should also remember that all of Libya’s martyrs have sacrificed their lives so that Libyans can live freely and fairly. The burden is now on us to make sure that the new Libya maintains democratic principals, transparency and equal opportunities for everyone.
A Letter From My Father…
My dear wife Nuwara,
I greet you hoping that this letter reaches you while you are in good health and in complete content from the almighty, you and our dear sons and the family. Dear wife, I know that what we are experiencing is a test from the great almighty.
It is one of the blessings of God since my imprisonment, I have been thinking constantly about you and the boys. I did not realize the depth of my love for you until my imprisonment. I have been thinking about your endless and selfless love to me and the boys. You have always sacrificed for us. My love, if you remember, I have always tried to prepare you to this, knowing that one day we have to experience the same difficulties endured by the wives of our friends and colleagues. Since the time of my imprisonment, I have had plenty of time to review my actions, and I must admit I feel like I have not been the best husband and father, but as you know it was due to my preoccupation with the Libyan cause. I keep hoping for a release soon, so that I may correct all the mistakes of the past and can hopefully become a better husband and father.
My dear Youcif, Ahmad, and Bashir. May God protect you and your innocence. I greet you and pray to the Almighty that my letter reaches you while you are in the best of health and life next to your patient and loving mother and in the care of your uncles, grandparents, cousins, and friends.
My dear three musketeers, you are my wealth for the future. You are my dreams for a better future for all of us. I cannot express to you how much I do miss you, for writing won’t do it justice. You are always on my mind. Your greetings reach me with every breath of fresh air I get in the early morning. They reach me with the birds, which have made a nest on my pillow. Whenever the guards go to sleep, the birds come to me telling me stories about you. Your greetings reach me as the wind plays music on the walls of my cell. You come to me with the sunrise of every sun and fill my heart with love. You come to me at night with every moon. You are always with me. I ask the Almighty to protect you with every prayer and whenever I go to sleep, and when I wake up. Your names are all mentioned in the holy Quran, which I have memorized. I pray to the almighty that we become reunited, so I can teach you its memorization and we can study together the life of our prophet Mohamed, peace be upon him.
My dear sons, your mother and I were praying to the almighty to provide us with righteous sons, and he has blessed us with you. Your mother may have told you how I whispered the call to prayer and the declaration of faith in your ears when you were born. We asked the Almighty to protect you and guide you to the right path.
We needed you to warm us in the coldness of our stay away from the homeland, and to be the rising sun of our life, and thank be to him, you were beyond we what had wished for. The Almighty had blessed you with beautiful spirit and health. God’s will has destined for us to be separated my dear ones, and he is capable of reuniting us again.
My dear ones, the light of my eyes, and my constant source of happiness. When I was with you, I used to worry for your safety, show your endless love, and give you whatever you asked for, you can only imagine how I feel now as I am far away from you. Your mother may have told you how I asked the butterflies, the flowers, and birds to take care of you. I asked the wind to gently play with locks of your hair and lessen the difficulties of your life. As for the clouds, I have asked them to rain candy on you, and give you shade when it gets hot, and the sky, I asked it to gently rain love and tenderness onto you. I wrote for you songs and stories about the homeland and made it into a necklace I placed on you when you were young. Your mother fed you the love of our homeland with her milk, and when you were weaned, you drank Libya’s love. Love for our country runs in your blood. We taught you what it means to love Libya and sacrifice everything for our homeland. I taught you that our country does not become greater without us standing up to defend it. It only grows with our efforts, sweat, and sacrifices.
When you used you ask me about our homeland, you used to wonder if it has sun, moon, and planets like the ones we see in the foreign lands we lived in. We used to tell you that the sun of the homeland was bigger because it never sets, and the moon and planets of our homeland are always high in our hearts. Wherever we go, they are always with u. I hope our homeland will become greater and you become greater with it. If you do not get a chance to grow in the homeland, allow the love for it to grow in your hearts. There is great hope that we shall meet very soon my dear ones.
My dear sons, you may remember our great times together, and how I used to spoil you all the time. I always think of you. I am certain the hands which look over me now are the same hands protecting you. I always pray for you in every waking hour of my day until I go to sleep. Do you also think of me? I wrote many poems for you. When I am shaken to my core with how much I miss you, I grab my copy of the Quran and read the chapter on Joseph. I read about the story of Joseph and his brothers, and that calms me down. How I wish I can lead you in the Fajr prayer along with your mother and study the holy book together. Maybe the Almighty will answer my prayer and we can go together on a pilgrimage to Mecca and we can visit together the grave of prophet Mohamed, (peace be upon him).
I know you are young and may not understand what happened to me, but what I can assure you is that what I did was motivated by my strong love for my homeland. It was premised on beliefs and promises we made to our friends in the struggle who sacrificed their life or were thrown in prison to save Libya from tyranny and corruption. What I did is a source of honor and pride for you and our family. It was the wish of the almighty for this to happen, and I want you to believe in that.
I want you to become better believers. I want you to listen to your mother. Take care of your studies and make sure you are consistent with your prayers. Make prayers for me and be hard workers. Use your time to read vividly, especially from the Quran, memorizing it and reading the life of prophet Mohamed, peace be upon him. I would love to see your handwriting in Arabic and English. Write me letters telling me about your life and studies. Send me recent pictures of all of you together. You are now men. Know that I completely trust you and rely on you. Praise be to the Almighty, I am in good health and in high spirits, and I await the near end of this experience. I want to find you when I come out steadfast, hardworking men, loved by everyone. You have all my love and affection.