Dear Mr. Khalifa Haftar: An Open Letter from a Libyan Citizen

Dear Mr. Haftar,

Please allow me to share a personal story that exemplifies the absurdities you have allowed to occur. Not many weeks ago, while seated in the kitchen of my grandmother’s peaceful house in Tripoli (or rather, the city of sorrow), a hair-raising sound interrupted the Midday call to prayer. A heart leap pushed me to look up, only to realize that a bullet had perforated the wall. The reason for that attack is still uncertain. Maybe it was random children playing around with their AK-47s, or maybe just an antagonist tribe revenging 10 years old events. By now, this must even sound casual to you, since such frightening uncertainty has become the norm for you and your people. But what is certain though, is the chaos your country is facing.

And this is not to talk about the countless martyrs who shared a desperate hope of unity and freedom. This is not to talk about the supposed “architects of tomorrow” that your war is increasingly massacring. This is not to talk about the untold flag-wavers you have now turned into wretched orphans and widows. Everyday has become a struggle for survival, and the moral weight of that surely torments you.

We are tired Mr. Haftar. It is time for us to speak up. Today I speak on behalf of a people who only wish it had the power you have now. I speak on behalf of a world dismayed at your country’s plight. I speak on behalf of your melancholic streets and mourning minarets. From the eastern crying Tobruk to the western sorrowful Zuwarah, from the humblest baker who feeds your men to the housemaid whose back bent for a living, I speak today on behalf of the millions who still hold on to the hope that love and reconciliation will triumph over violence. We have cried Mr. Haftar, until our tears were drier than the Sahara. We have prayed Mr. Haftar, to the exhaustion of our bitter saliva, to the extinction of the last candles. But as uncertainty about your country keeps on heightening, I urge you to take the necessary decisions. Give rise to the day when the hearts and minds and courage of those who truly wish to serve and protect, find ways to do so, through peacemaking and reconciliation.

You must still remember the celebrations, of 2011. Amongst honking horns and waving Libyan flags, fireworks were shooting up from Maydan Ashuhada’a, the symbolic place of triumph. The smell of war had evaporated and the euphoria that reigned had brought your people to the verges of tears. But today they cry from distress. Five years ago, an unshakable empire kneeled in surrender to a united nation. Today that same nation has sunk into the recesses of ethnic divisiveness. You can no longer ignore the tragedy. Libya needs a uniting leader for a fragmented country.

Can you be that savior Libya desperately looks for? Might you be the national hero succeeding generations will brag about? You contributed to King Idriss’s toppling in 1969 and eventually gave rise to 42 years of tyranny. Your shifting positions, from a Gadhafi loyalist to a sworn enemy during the uprising, raises questions around your credibility, as does the attempted coup in 2014 you led against legitimate elected bodies. Your military progress across the Northern Oil Crescent has resulted in heavy material and human losses. But despite all this, there is still time for redemption.

Indeed, Libya needs you to gather its damaged pieces, like shards of broken crystal. I understand that this takes enormous political as well as moral courage, but we can no longer ignore the tragedy. So as you reconcile Ajdabia with Zentane, let unity cure the ill of the past. As you approve the legitimacy of the Government of National Accord, let Libya take a step toward political stability. As you lay down arms and refrain from unilateral military actions, let the resumption of peaceful negotiations ensure a safe coexistence for all ethnicities. Let reunification guide Libya’s sovereignty, as you advocate for an interim and inclusive government. Let harmony emerge as the spur for reconstruction, and the first light of dawn.

Tripolitania can dance with the promises of a brighter future. Tomorrow let the berry trees blossom as the crying olive trees rejoice. Tomorrow let the smell of couscous and the sound of the Arab musical symphony coalesce amidst joy and relief. Tomorrow let the migrant pigeons fly over your blessed roofs. Tomorrow let your children run across the rosy hills of Fezzan and Cyrenaica, free from the threat of airstrikes and land mines. Tomorrow let your sisters exchange their white grief clothes for the colorful attire of joyful liberation.

Mr. Haftar, as you read this letter, let the wind whip fresh cold sea spray off the Mediterranean Sea and hit you with a reawakening. From the top of its burned and bullet-riddled buildings, please let us believe that Libya’s renascence is around the corner. As one Muslim to another, I ask you to listen to the voice of your conscience, seek your people’s peace and try to hear Allah’s guidance. With His Grace, you will be able to prevent further death and needless suffering to your citizens.

I stand today with millions crying out for peace. Please stand with us, Mr. Haftar.

With warmest regards yet desperate faith,

A hopeful citizen of a crying nation, Kamel Kamour

Photo Credit: Al Jazeera

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