By Vanessa Tomassini.
Farouq Al-Shareef, 25, from Tripoli, is a member of the Libyan Youth Parliament and an activist of the Baltris Movement, well known locally and internationally for last July’s protests in major Libyan cities. In 2011, when he was only 14, he and his mother moved to Tunisia for a humanitarian organization, the Libyan Peace Initiative, which was helping Libyan refugees in the neighboring country. He then continued this path until he entered the Libyan youth parliament, already one of the founding members of the International LIBOTICS Organization for Science, Technology and Roboticsz.
How is the situation in Tripoli today and what are the main challenges?
“The situation in Tripoli has improved considerably compared to four or five years ago, especially in terms of security, after the war ended. There are sporadic clashes between militias, but the situation is generally better. However, the capital, as well as all of Libya, I believe, is experiencing an unprecedented economic crisis with the devaluation of the dinar in exchange for the dollar which continues to rise. Young people struggle to find employment.”
Do you believe that this economic crisis is at the root of the choice of many young Libyans to join armed groups?
“Of course, this is unfortunately the truth. Not having many opportunities, young Libyans find themselves choosing between militias or joining the army and this is the basis of the protracted civil war. Being a member of armed groups guarantees an even safer salary than the army. The militias offer up to $ 1,000 a month to join them with car and weapons. All young Libyans, without exception, have lost at least one friend in the conflict. Thanks to improvements in security, young people today have achieved a certain awareness, they are more attached to life. They want a different, better future.”
What future do you expect and what future do you want?
“My first wish is to see Libya as a truly democratic country with a president chosen through elections and a legitimately elected Parliament. We young people would like to have a real justice. That all those who led young people to war, the militia and government leaders who incited young people to kill each other, destroy homes, and take up arms, all those who have been the cause of this protracted civil war should be punished and placed behind bars. We have the right to live a life of dignity with full civil, political and economic rights. The division must end! We all want a true Libya, one, united and with a legitimate government.”
What do you think of national reconciliation?
“We call for real reconciliation between all Libyans, although some separatists oppose this much-needed process. Among us, young people, there is no regional or tribal conception. The Libyan Youth Parliament is made up of members elected by young people across Libya. We do not distinguish between those who come from Tripoli, from Benghazi, if a member is Arab or Amazigh. Young people do not share the distinctions that instead belong to more adult Libyans, over 50 for example. This is why the future of Libya is in the hands of its youth, to overcome these differences. If Libya is not yet united, it is the fault of foreign countries, such as Turkey, Egypt, Russia, the Emirates, the United States and the United Kingdom… all interfering in Libya’s internal affairs. Even friendly countries like Italy, which has always maintained its diplomatic presence in Tripoli, should not enter into our internal affairs. These foreign interferences are at the root of the prolonged instability. This, above all military presences, is not positive even for the countries that adopt such approach.”
What do you think of the work done by the Government of National Unity?
“The goal of Abdel Hamid Al-Dabaiba’s government, from the moment of his appointment, was to bring Libya to the elections and it has failed. So, what is he doing?”.
But it was up to Parliament to prepare the electoral law, right?
“Bringing the country to the elections was the prime minister’s job. Dabaiba was supposed to work with the Presidential Council and all interested parties to secure the electoral process on December 24, 2021. As a Libyan citizen, I don’t care about the differences between government and parliament. We young people, we Libyan people, have accepted this government to take us to the elections on December 24th. Their internal conflicts and differences do not interest us. The roadmap of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, established in Tunisia and Geneva, envisaged a global solution through elections, did not provide for the signing of international agreements with foreign countries such as Turkey or with the European Union. In addition, Dabaiba had pledged not to run in the presidential elections and instead he had candidate himself. He did not keep his promises, that’s why we are angry with him, especially we young people who have placed our trust in him. We feel betrayed.”
We should recognize that this Government has done something positive like supporting young people in marriage…
“Supporting marriage is the biggest mistake Dabaiba could make. He has given young people money to get married when they have no money to care for and support themselves. Many do not have a job, what will happen when they form a family? Will they have children after marriage, how will they take care of them, will they provide for their studies if they needed government funding to get married? It would have been better to help young people to find a job, to fulfill themselves, to buy a house, rather than subsidizing weddings. Furthermore, we must remember that 3 billion had been allocated, but only two were delivered in the first two phases. What happened to the other billion? Also, many young couples have taken this tool as a business. They got married to get the money and then divorced”.
In which direction are we going in Libya, do you think there is room for a third path with the formation of a new executive, will Bashagha take power or will Dabaiba remain to lead the country to the elections?
“Bashagha is a worse failure than Dabaiba, they are all the same. We young people, especially the Baltris movement, of which I am a member, call on the Presidential Council to dissolve all unelected bodies, including the Government and Parliament, and appoint a new executive or lead the country to elections. The Baltris movement has not received the authorizations for new demonstrations as happened last July when thousands of young Libyans took to the streets of Tripoli and Libya in general. The government has not given us permission to demonstrate to avoid pressure, but this is what will happen. We call on Mohammed al-Mnefi, Moussa Al-Koni and Abdullah al-Lafi to assume their responsibilities and ensure that legitimate general elections are held. All the unelected bodies, the governments of Bashagha, Dabaiba and the Parliament must go home. Even if the Presidential Council has not distinguished itself for an excellent job, or has not done much since its appointment, this is the only option we have today to go to vote. About a week ago, the notables of Great Tripoli met with Moussa Al-Koni, asking precisely that the unelected bodies stop working. The Presidency Council will have to form a new united executive for Libya or itself leads our Country to vote.”