In 2008, Issa Hakim left Libya to start his Masters in engineering at Lehigh University.
Three years later, he felt it necessary to return to his home country to fight alongside family and friends. Thursday afternoon, Hakim shared his story of Libyan revolution, Gaddafi’s death and American influence in Libya in the Sinclair Auditorium at Lehigh University.
About 100 students filled the auditorium, along with a few others who joined in on this seminar open to the public. The event was hosted by Lehigh’s Global Union campus organization.
While in Libya, Hakim was almost immediately carrying a machine gun and patrolling the dessert in a pickup truck.
Hakim has maintained close ties with Lehigh even throughout his period spent fighting with Libyan revolutionaries in Benghazi. He participated in a live video chat via Skype with sixty Lehigh students and reporters while in Libya. Several other high-ranking revolutionary figures joined Hakim in the session, which went on to make national news.
Hakim opened his speech by thanking the audience for sharing in one of the greatest moments for freedom in the history of his nation. This theme of unity and mutual respect between Americans and Libyans echoed throughout his speech, especially when referencing the 11 September 2012 death of Ambassador Chris Stevens in an attack on the American consulate in Benghazi.
“Obama and Hillary Clinton stated that those criminals do not represent the people of Libya which is true; but, that made Libyans embarrassed and ashamed,” Hakim said. “By doing so, Americans lost Chris Stevens, in fact all of us lost him; but Americans won the respect of the Libyan people.”
Hakim gave a detailed account of the four decade tyrannical rule of Muammar Gaddafi. He explained the reasons why an initially peaceful revolution turned so violent and bloody.
“When I went back to Libya we wanted the change,” Hakim said. “Egypt and Tunisia inspired us. But we had to fight. Gaddafi didn’t leave us alone. So we were fighting against Libya but we did not want that to happen.”
After his presentation, audience members were encouraged to ask Hakim questions. When asked about his future plans, Hakim felt ambivalent, though he does plan to stay at Lehigh for another years to finish his PhD. He feels that his country needs him and he will likely return to use his interpersonal communication skills to help rebuild Libya.
Conversation about the presentation was promoted through social media. Students present were asked to tweet responses to questions about the Libyan revolution and American intervention. To read more about the event and the conversation it spurred, search for the hashtag #LehighLibya on Twitter.