Opinion

My handshake with Muammar Qaddafi

By: Omar Abu Al-Qasim Al-Kikli

I was always careful not to be present with Muammar Gaddafi in one place. There are many motives behind this desire.

One of them is the prestige of power. Another thing is my shyness (which I later overcame with great difficulty). There is also my prudishness, which, despite my acceptance of the idea of revolution, made me reluctant to take part in any demonstration that led to the change of 1/9/1969.

So I avoided being at any events that could be attended by Gaddafi. However, we were, by chance, in the same place three times.

I will start from the last two incidents.

After our release from prison, like my fellow writers, I was keen to attend all literary forums.

“I was interested in delivering a message to those who imprisoned me that says “you did not succeed in destroying me!” […] as well as conveying a message of reassurance to my friends that “prison did not destroy me, I fought him and returned to you with important spoils!”

I was once a member of the Libyan delegation at the 16th Conference of Arab Writers Union held in Tripoli in 1988.

While I was present at a session in the People’s Hall, Qaddafi suddenly entered, as usual, and took the stage. He was obsessed with delivering lectures to writers, intellectuals, and academics.

Ten years earlier, during the April 7 celebrations in 1978 at the then University of Qar Younis, Benghazi University before 1969 and after 2011, Qaddafi suddenly entered, of course as usual, the Faculty of Arts where one of the activities took place.

But this time, unusually, he did not take neither take the stage nor the microphone.

The first time was in early 1970. I had joined a theater group called “The Rising Generation,” headed by the plastic artist Ali Baraka. A senior military officer (I think he was retired at the time) who was a relative of a member of the Revolutionary Command Council and a friend of the theatre group’s director visited us frequently.

Upon the suggestion of this officer, the group presented some simple scenes and other cultural activities at army camps.

In the first time, we went to the camp to have a look at the theater on which we would be presenting our activities.

The camp command greeted us with appreciation and seated us in the lobby of the officers.

Suddenly, Qaddafi entered. The officers welcomed him warmly (chants were not a thing then). One of our colleagues suggested we greet him.

We stood in a row of about eight people, and Qaddafi was standing with a fake smile on his face and a sharp look in his eyes. I was not standing at the front. Those standing before me shook hands with Qaddafi using both of their hands and hugged him. He was extending his hand and leaning forward slightly to allow the person to hug him.

When my turn came, I shook hand with him, but when he leaned towards me, I did not hug him.

*From an interview with me published in the beginning of 2008 in several websites.

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