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COLUMN

Happytown

The week that Gadhafi got killed, the occupiers got arrested and the chamber got off scot-free. Is there no justice? Well, sometimes.

Photo: Salem Bankena, License: N/A, Created: 2011:10:20 21:12:28

Salem Bankena

Some Libyans in Orlando celebrated the death of Moammar Gadhafi with cake

Photo: , License: N/A


Inadvertent Halloween maskalert! On Oct. 20, when we heard that the “mad dog” dictator of Libya, Moammar Gadhafi, had been killed, we immediately picked up the phone to see how apeshit our Libyan people were going. As you may recall, we ran a story this summer about local Syrian- and Libyan-Americans who are telecommuting activists for their home countries’ respective revolutions, at the risk of never being able to see their families again if their efforts failed (see “Point of no return,” July 7). One such agitator is Wafia Sayf, whom we featured in our original piece for her fundraising – cough libyagear.com, cough – and her presence at regular pro-democracy protests at Lake Eola earlier this year. We couldn’t reach her, but we do know that she hosted plenty of other young Libyans at her place for a party that night, and Nader Mehdawi, a grad student at UCF working on his masters in civil engineering, was among those raging. Naturally, he had already done plenty of celebrating that day – starting at 7:30 a.m., when he was dragged from bed into his living room by two excited Libyan roommates. “I thought that [Gadhafi] would just disappear, or run away,” Mehdawi told us, explaining that he was hesitant to celebrate, given that the Libyan revolution is no stranger to rumors and hearsay. “After we saw his picture, and the video of the rebels capturing him, then I started screaming … Allahu akbar!

Meanwhile, in Tallahassee, a totally jealous Alaa Kabuka – a 21-year-old Libyan-American international affairs student at Florida State University – lamented that there was no such celebration going on up in the Panhandle. “There’s a joke that Libyans are like unicorns – in the smaller cities, you won’t find any,” she said. We considered asking Kabuka which cities did have unicorns, but instead, we inquired about the apparent sense of vengeful joy that she and her colleagues were exuding on Facebook, usually accompanying an image of the bloodied and pale corpse of Gadhafi (as well as that of his son Mutassim, who was also killed).

Kabuka replied that she had seen a few nods to this criticism on her news feed – “I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy” was the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote used – but also suggested that Gadhafi’s extraordinary evil called for extraordinary celebration. “I think that if you aren’t Libyan, you wouldn’t have an idea to what extent his evilness runs,” Kabuka told us. We tried to approximate Gadhafi’s level of evilness with the aid of the Internet and hindsight: We found that in the ’70s, Gadhafi regularly presided over public executions of dissidents, and it was not uncommon for young schoolchildren to be bussed in to watch; in the ’80s, he employed hit men to assassinate at least 25 of his critics overseas; in the ’90s Gadhafi passed “purification laws” under which thieves were punished by having their limbs amputated and homosexuals could be given up to five years in prison. In addition, the guy was completely off his rocker: After his iron grip on power began to melt, Gadhafi dismissed the young revolutionaries in Libya as “fueled by milk and Nescafé spiked with hallucinogenic drugs.” “I would put him on par with Lord Voldemort,” Kabuka says. “He’s just insane and psychotic.”

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