By Belal Younis
You cannot compare Islamic State’s aims to ours. They’re fighting for chaos – we fought for peace.
Student demonstrations were put down violently, security forces rounded up academics and lawyers, and political opponents were arrested and sometimes disappeared, if not gruesomely publicly executed for trumped up charges.
In 1980 Gaddafi introduced a policy of extrajudicial executions of political opponents whom he called “stray dogs,” and according to Human Rights Watch in 1996 more than 1,000 prisoners were shot dead in cold blood by security forces in a span of two days.
Far from targeting innocent people as we saw in Manchester, I was defending a civilian population against an army. It’s wrong to assume that the two were linked. In fact they could not be more different: defending the innocent is noble; mass murder of children and women is one of the most despicable acts a human can do.
Abedi was definitely the exception and not the rule. British Libyans care deeply about both Britain and Libya. Many of us are still supporting the revolution from right here in Britain, including trying to unite the country by the creation of civil society organisations to negotiate peace treaties and ceasefires.
British interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan were disastrous and created resentment among many Arabs and Muslims – as does leaving Bashar al-Assad to drop barrel bombs and use chemical weapons against innocent civilians.
But Libya was different. It was a popular uprising. It was a civilian revolution and not a religious one. Britain was willing to support us because it was in line with their foreign policy at the time. We also weren’t linked to groups like al-Qaeda.
I say “at the time” because many of us who fought are upset that Britain continues to support General Haftar, who has been condemned by leading rights group, including Amnesty International, for committing a series of war crimes.
In fact, just last month, photos emerged showing how Haftar’s Libyan National Army killed 25 innocent people who were looking for food, while an eyewitness claimed that his forces disinterred and mutilated the bodies of people who had died in the weeks before.
Some people see the divisions in Libya today and ask me if I regret taking up arms against Gaddafi. I tell them that when you have a bad tooth, extracting it might be painful, but to let it rot is even worse.
Belal Younis is a British citizen of Libyan descent who fought against government forces during the 2011 uprising in Libya.