Voters hope poll will leave tragic past behind

New generation determined to make elections first steps towards better life, reports Kim Sengupta

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Three generations of the Emshire family will be voting together on Saturday. Grandfather Ahmed had cast his choice in the elections of 1952; father Omar, as a young child, carried a placard for a candidate at the next polls held 16 years later.

One son, however, will be missing as Free Libya takes its' first faltering steps towards a democratic government. He was killed on his way home from Tripoli University attempting to stop a gun battle in the street, when a screaming man with a Kalashnikov shot him dead.

Abdullah was 23 years old, a promising engineering student full of optimism for himself and his country. Omar, the dean of the science faculty at the University, shook his head. "The man who killed my son is in jail," he said. "He was one of the biggest drug dealers here before the revolution, one of the 1,600 freed and given guns by Gaddafi to cause terrible trouble before he fled.

"Today is 40 days since Abdullah died. I feel very angry; it would not have been so bad if he had been killed in battle during the revolution, but to die like this…" His voice faded away.

Yet Professor Emshire and his wife, Nouria al-Ameri, who is also an academic, held that despite their personal grief the elections and the aftermath will probably turn out to be all right. "If you had as many weapons around in other countries as there are here, there would have been massacres. But here people are excited by freedom after 42 years. We have all suffered because of Gaddafi, people have heavy burdens. But we all need to move forward."

Ibtisam Ben Amer, a businesswoman standing as a candidate for the Libyan National Party, wants to help fashion her country's political future, but the burden she has to carry are the sins of her mother, something which has led to her facing abuse and threats.

Huda Ben Amer was a dedicated admirer of Colonel Gaddafi and the mayor of Benghazi until the start of the uprising last year. She also held the official title of the Secretary of the General People's Congress of Inspection People's Control. Her unofficial title was 'Huda the Executioner'.

Her husband, Mustafa Dreyza, resigned from the Libyan diplomatic service in protest against the Gaddafi regime turning the country's embassies into Peoples Bureaus and filling them with activists. It was from one such bureau, in London, that the shots which killed WPC Yvonne Fletcher were fired.

Life was made extremely difficult subsequently for Mr Dreyza and his family. "We survived and my husband is now helping to organise my campaign," insisted Ibtisam Ben Amer. "We're trying to build a new country where things don't happen as they did in the past. We'll get there."