By Hind El Houni and Nadine Sherif.
Benghazi, 9 June:
Last Saturday’s political rally in Ajdabiya and demonstrations the same day in Bayda and . . .[restrict]other towns in the east against the allocation of seats for the National Conference have been viewed by most observers as pro-federalist. After all, the rally was addressed by no less than the principal supporters of federalism, Ahmed Zubair Senussi, who heads the self-proclaimed Cyrenaica Transitional Council, and the head of the council’s militia, Abdul Jawwad Al-Badin.
It seems, however, that the seat allocation debate is more complicated than that.
Jaber Al-Majbari is also from Ajdabiya although he now lives in Benghazi. This former chemistry and biology graduate from Benghazi University who currently works as warehouse manager says he is no supporter of federalism. Unlike the federalists, who have called for a boycott of the National Conference elections, he has his voting card and plans to use it. But since 12 May he has been on hunger strike in protest at the seat distribution.
Like the protestors in his hometown on Saturday, he is opposed to seats being allocated on a demographically proportional basis. He calls this unfair. He wants them to be shared out equally between all three areas and is apparently ready to die for it.
Majbari, appears determined to continue his hunger strike. Every day, after finishing work, he heads to the Tibesti hotel where he uses the lobby as a place to meet the Libyans who are following his progress through social networks. Not that he is always there. His condition is deteriorating. Last week, he was in hospital for three days as a result of his refusal to eat. He is out of hospital but his condition is now very precarious.
Just over a fortnight ago, a group of young Benghazi men and women visited Majbari, accompanied by a doctor who examined him and reported him to be suffering severe pains in his body, chronic headaches and exhaustion due to the hunger strike. It was causing hypotension, hypoglycemia, and pharyngitis. He advised ending the strike and told Majbari to take carbohydrates, proteins, and vitamins twice a day.
However, despite the warnings of the doctor that he might fall into coma if he continued his hunger strike for much longer and that he should go to hospital at the earliest, Majbari is in high spirits and insists that he will continue what he has started.
Many prominent Libyan figures have visited him including National Front Secretary General Ibrahim Sahad, former information minister Mahmoud Shamam, writer Munsif Al Bouri, NTC member Salwa Addigheli and former NTC deputy chairman Abdul Hafeed Gogha in addition to other civic society representatives. Tbe latest was Education Minister Sulaiman Sahli.
The leader of the Majabra tribe said “Jaber is like Mahatma Gandhi; he sacrifices his life and fights for justice.” He added that the tribe supported Majbari’s stand and that the government and Mustafa Abdul Jalil would be responsible for anything that happened to him.
Nonetheless, despite his intended fast to death in support of what, on the face of it, seems a federalist agenda, Majbari clings to the argument that he has nothing to do with the federalists. He criticized the Cyrenaica militia’s threat to use military force to achieve their demands. He said that he would be the first to stand against them and against any attempt to force against Libyans to accept policies with which they disagreed. He added that he was not responsible for the use of his photo for adverts or party political campaigns.
Given the contradictions in his stance, it is difficult to discover what really makes him tick. He says that that 200 other are prepared to join his hunger strike if NTC did not accede to his demands — which he grandly claims are the Libyan people’s demands. He adds for good measure that, for his part, he might just set himself on fire. That would wholly against Islamic teaching. As for 200 followers, there is no sign of them.
While we were there, we called one of the NTC members, Al-Mahdi Kashbour, to give him an idea about this incident and find out about NTC’s reaction to it. Kashbour said: “The NTC listens to all opinions and views about issued laws, but this way of threatening will not work. We do care about his health but we will not change what we think is the best decision for the country’s unity. His voice has been heard, but his hunger strike might lead to something that is unacceptable in Islam. There are many ways to have your voice heard through official talks and protests. We care about his life but we are not ready to prioritise one person’s views over those of the whole country.”
Yet there is no doubting 30-year old Majbari’s passion. He effectively says to want to be a martyr. On his Facebook page, he states: “I advise you again and over again not to stop, not to fear saying the truth, not to hesitate to sacrifice yourselves for the sake of your home country. Be the candle that gets burned to lighten up the way for the truth in order to appear. Libyans, do not let your sole goal be to make a family because your country deserves your sacrifices. Let your sole goal be joining your free brothers in their resistance against oppression, poverty, ignorance and corruption.”
He continues: “Libya is our home that has been liberated by our martyr ancestors, shall we waste it? It needs our sacrifices. You will find another wife and another lover if you lost one, but if you lost your country, you will never find another one. Be loyal to it; love it like no one else does. History will recall that men of Libya have done a lot for their country and they will again Inshallah. I swear in the God of Moses, Mohammed and Jesus that if I die one day, it will be for the sake of Libya. My coffin will be in in sand, and my grave will be in its land.”
Stirring words. Many will approve of his view on corruption, oppression and ignorance. But they will see his campaign for seat reallocation as anything but noble. They regard it as simply undemocratic and wrong and believe it would tragic and immoral for anyone to die in pursuit of it. [/restrict]