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Gaddafi: A Closer Look At The Draconian Dictator For Whom Failure Is Not An Option

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By Ankita Verma:

A defiant Gaddafi is quoted to have said “I was the one who created Libya, and I will be the one to destroy it.”

He was born in a tent in the desert to a Bedouin family in 1942. At a tender age of 10, Gaddafi was greatly impressed by Gamal Abdel Nasser, who took over the reins of Egypt. His early schooling was from a small Muslim school, where he was recognized as one extremely sharp. Later, he was sent to Tripoli to continue his education where the derogatory teasing by his rich classmates filled him with a deep sense of resentment for the establishment. Gaddafi then entered military services in 1961 as the career provided a gateway to the upper-class lifestyle. Influenced by Nasser and his revolutionary nationalism, he and his friends organized a bloodless coup to end the corrupt regime of King Idris.

A young Gaddafi, seen here meeting people after overthrowing the ruling Government in Libya, and gaining leadership of the country.

To his credit, Gaddafi took over Libya with noble intentions. He also supported pan-Islamism, the notion of a loose union of all Islamic countries and peoples, and saw himself as the liberator of several African countries. He was, in a sense, a ‘utopian Modernist’ who tried to rebuild the society from the first principles of his Third Universal Theory. What is the Third Universal Theory? It is an ambitious alternative suggested by Gaddafi, an economic model which is neither communist nor capitalist. Under the theory, Third World states or the Arab states could coexist with the United States and the Soviet Union, and they could enter into agreements with them but they must not be dominated by either. His philosophy is stated in The Green Book, which is a compulsory reading in Libya. The book is also filled with banalities and non-sequiturs which have furthered the speculation, that Gaddafi is not totally mentally sound.

Gaddafi is also infamous for his multiple eccentricities. On state trips abroad, he has been known to bring a Bedouin tent to sleep and even hold meetings in them. He doesn’t fly for more than 8 hours straight. He also has a troupe of female bodyguards who receive personal training by Gaddafi and, according to internal Libyan sources, must be virgins. He also insists upon accommodation on the first floor of any facility arranged for him.

The idiosyncratic Libyan leader has been in the midst of several controversies in his 42 years old tenure. Gaddafi was the brain behind the 1986 Berlin discotheque bombing which killed three and injured more than 200 civilians, including around 80 US servicemen. Various congratulatory messages were intercepted between the agents in Europe and Gaddafi’s men in Tripoli. Ten days later US Air Force fighters targeted the Libyan capital Tripoli and the city of Benghazi. The operation was widely seen as an attempt to kill Colonel Gaddafi. He survived but his adopted baby daughter was killed in the bombing along with at least 15 civilians.

He is also rumoured to be the chief financier of the Lockerbie massacre in 1988. Abdelbaset-al-Megrahi blew up Pan Am flight 103 above Lockerbie in December 1988, claiming 270 lives. The Lockerbie bomber blackmailed Colonel Gadaffi into securing his release from a Scottish prison by threatening to expose the dictator’s role in the tragedy. This forced Gaddafi to secure the release of the terrorist by offering lucrative oil and engineering deals for UK firms in Libya. Megrahi was released on deteriorating health grounds and given a hero’s welcome by Gaddafi upon his return to Libya.

It is hence remarkable that the international community forgave all of Gaddafi’s misdeeds and accepted him with open arms. All it took was Libya accepting responsibility for its terrorist actions and payment of up to $2.7 billion in compensation for the victims of the 1988 attack. It is believed that the designated successor, his son Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, who has a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics, persuaded the colonel to agree to the compensation and abandon Libya’s weapons of mass destruction program.

In 2006, Libya was removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. Libya was also elected to a seat on the U.N. Security Council for 2008 and 2009.

Today, the world is outraged by the civil war raging in Libya. However, for years the world was a silent spectator to his atrocities. The international community is still divided on whether they should interfere in Libya’s internal affairs. Whether Gaddafi stays on or not, one thing is certain, history is being created right now.

–Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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