By Rukaya El-Turki
He sang this line . . .[restrict]over and over at the Paving the Future Youth Forum 2012 held in Tripoli from March 11 to 14. He wished he could witness free Libya, the Libya he fell in love with. Not by her appearance but for what she truly was, the embodiment of inspiration, determination, strong-will and warm-heartiness.
Hammed Al-Senussi, 21 years old and from Benghazi, has been blind from birth.
To many, he has become an inspiring character with his talent to sing about his feelings. British Council Libya staff member Mouhanned Abouhadra saw him in an interview on Al-Aan TV where he told the world of his one and only dream; to smell Tripoli’s freedom. For some time he had a passionate dream of visiting Tripoli.
We tried getting in touch with him. We went from person to person, determined to get hold of him and his family. And after what seemed an endless effort, the team finally contacted him and persuaded him to attend the Youth Forum that was organised by the British Council in collaboration with the Lana Foundation at Tripoli’s Corinthia Hotel last week.
Hammed was one of 120 participants who came from all over Libya and the Middle East — from Yemen, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt. They gathered with the aim of developing skills and understanding how vital the voice of the youth is in shaping the future.
The morning of the first day, Hammed sat amongst the participants. Surrounded by young people from across the country, he introduced himself as the only participant who everyone could see but he could not see them. There was a round of applause: Hammed had already made an impression on all of us.
Scenarios for future Libya were set. Workshops were run and discussions took place over the four-day period designed to develop skills of debating and public speaking as well as citizen journalism, research and social media. The target was: Voice your concerns; Use your initiative and the resources available to you in order to make your own course of change.
Hammed had become a well-known figure to everyone by the afternoon of the second day. His melodious voice had heads turning, and as he moved on to sing songs from the revolution, he had brought us all together within moments. Libyans from all over the country were singing as one voice ‘we will not surrender, we win or we die’.
It was perhaps one of the most magical moments of the forum, and it brought us all back to the days of struggle and determination. A sense of reflection and appreciation appeared on everyone’s faces, with all eyes smiling at Hammed, whose face understood exactly how we were all feeling.
The results of the forum were phenomenal; not only did people gain skills, but a sense of familiarity of the society around them. The participants were from different walks of life. Some were freedom fighters, some were revolutionary journalists, new-born artists, human rights activists — and a few your average student. But all had with one common goal — a thirst for change and to be part of building their visions of their future.
Rukaya El-Turki works with the British Council in Tripoli as Communications Manager