By Rima Alefani
Students have no clue as to who might be armed. Students armed with Kalashnikovs have become a common site at Sabha Univeristy – officials blame each other.
Hasan Youssef, Head of the Registration and Admission Office at the Comprehensive Crafts Institute, was shocked when a student, brandishing two Kalashnikovs, followed him inside the institute and fired three full sets of bullets. Miraculously, no one was hurt.
“I had asked him to give me his documents,” Youssef recalled. “He refused and left but then he returned with two Kalashnikovs and started firing in the air. We had to call him down to make him stop shooting.”
Every day a shooting takes place in one of Sabha University’s faculties, spread out over the city’s areas.
The latest incident resulted in the death of Ezzeddin Mohamed, a student at the Faculty of Sciences who was shot in the head and died immediately in front of the Faculty of Arts on 21 January, after a quarrel broke out in the Asmariya College of Sharia Sciences.
Usama Ali, Head of the Students Association and a student at the Faculty of Sciences, blamed the educational institutions’ administrations for the chaotic security situation, the spread of arms and the shooting incidents.
Who is to blame?
“The situation has deteriorated to the extent that students enter exam halls with their arms. We staged many sit-ins demanding that the surveillance cameras within the faculty are switched on to detect the culprits and those who take up arms. We are in the process of staging another sit-in to demand that the administrative staff and the dean of the Faculty of Sciences are replaced, since they were unable to protect the students,” Ali said.
Mohamed Maymoon, Dean of the Faculty of Sciences, however, said he is not responsible for protecting the faculty as his tasks only include administrating the college and looking after academic aspects. Security, he added, is the business of the university guards and police.
Maymoon complained that the tribe’s people consider that having arms ‘complements their manhood’ and that they are not afraid of having arms within the university. This culture, he claimed, incites a counteraction from another category of students who take up arms to defend themselves, especially in light of the absence of the security and police.
What aggravates things is that the policemen and the university guards themselves are afraid of the same threats, since all are armed, especially after the faculty’s administration demanded that the police make a security plan to protect the faculty after reoccurring shooting incidents and the police’s inability to implement a program to protect the faculty’s headquarters.
Walid Abdullah, a student at the Faculty of Sciences, said these excuses do not make him unaccountable. He believes that the many entrances to the faculty make it vulnerable so they should be limited and only students should be allowed to enter. “Students who have arms should be given strict punishments even if it means they are dismissed from university altogether.”
Abdullah believes that the surveillance cameras are useless. “What is the use of seeing what is happening without doing anything about it?” he asked.
Yehya Showayel, Head of the Investigation Department at the Qarda Police Station, said the university does not report the shooting incidents and the victims of these incidents are the ones who instigate them.
The police station, added Showayel, registered four attacks on teaching staff members but claimed that the university was unconcerned. He said that the university’s administration did not contact them to find special solutions, despite the fact that last year witnessed three murders within the university.
Mahmoud Saleh Edda, Head of the Security Department at Sabha University, said in a previous statement that Sabha University witnessed in the first five months of 2015 more than 31 abduction cases, 49 break-ins and three murders, all of which took place in broad daylight within the university.
Showayel confirms that there are no real university guards and that the group guarding the university is only composed of few policemen and policewomen.
Marwa Mohamed, a 26-year-old female graduate student said some women students are taking up arms, especially those affiliated with tribes whose women are known for defending themselves and even attacking their enemies.
She added that her family pressured her to stop her studies until the security situation improved. “The university guards are unable to protect anybody and we are constantly afraid that we might get shot,” she said. She witnessed many quarrels in which there were shootings and victims. “Sometimes quarrels happen over a girl and end up with cinema-like shootings,” she said.
Abdulmoneim Mohamed, a 23-year-old student at the Faculty of Arts, said the sight of armed students has become familiar. “No one can guess who is taking up arms. Any student can be armed,” he explained, added sarcastically that he once saw a student who, after discussing his graduation project, fired a torrent of shots using a Kalashnikov to “express his joy over his great achievement.”
Khadija Ahmeed, an employee at the Social Affairs Office at the Faculty of Sciences, said the issue “requires an integral program to provide young people with psychological and social therapy to prevent the spread of violence, activate law, separate tribalism from the country’s interests, remove arms and strike all wrongdoers with an iron fist all regardless of who they are.
Rima Alefani – Born in Tripoli in 1975, holds a Bachelor’s Degree of Journalism from the University of Tripoli. She has worked at Al Hurra as an editor and has also supervised and been editor of the political page in Vsanaa. She has also contributed to several Libyan newspapers.