Leaving Libya

A mother and daughter return to Mason after work overseas during a revolution…

Ashley Calvani | Staff Writer 

Miriam Bugazia works at a radio station, spreading news of the revolution in Libya.
Photo contributed 

Former Mason High School English Language Learners teacher Shahrazad Kablan and her daughter, MHS student Miriam Bugazia are currently back from overseas, according to Kablan.

For the past six months, Kablan worked as a news anchor for “Libya the People,” a show to spread news about events in Libya. The show was aired from a television station in Doha, Qatar. At first, Bugazia said she worked behind the scenes on Kablan’s show. Then, Bugazia said that she decided to head to Libya alone to work as a radio show host and a journalist for a magazine, in order to spread news of the revolution.

According to Kablan, they returned in order for Bugazia to keep up with school, and for Kablan to receive a break from the pressures that are part of fighting a revolution, after Muammar Gaddafi’s rule of Libya. Kablan said that liberation may be just around the corner.

“We still have three small cities that are not liberated yet,” Kablan said. “They’re almost liberated. There is still fighting [in these cities]. But the rest of Libya is liberated. We would love to have these small cities liberated as soon as possible, but it is small fighting.”

Because her mother is such a public figure in Libya for speaking out against Gaddafi, Bugazia said she was sometimes threatened while she worked in Libya, and the relief to be back in Mason is overwhelming.

“I went to a liberated city [Benghazi],” Bugazia said. “A lot of times people would follow me and try to hurt me because of my mom. Also, there is no set government or police right now, so you never know what is going to happen. Even though [Benghazi] is a liberated city, it was still really scary there. You heard gunshots; you heard explosions.”

Kablan said she is proud of her daughter for being part of the history made these last couple of months, and though she was worried about [Bugazia], she had faith that her family [in Libya] would protect her. According to Bugazia, though she felt like she was giving up a normal life that the rest of her classmates at MHS have, she was inspired to act for her country.

“I haven’t been [to Libya] in so long. I’ve always wanted to go and see all of my family there. I do feel like I sacrifice a lot, but it’s okay.  I know I got an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity [being a part of a revolution].”

Kablan said she will still have her hands full even after freedom is achieved, traveling back and forth between the U.S., Libya, and surrounding countries and working with the National Transitional Council, the group formed during the last seven months in Libya. The NTC, according to Kablan, is made up of different people who are taking the lead for a 2-8 year period to establish a government, a constitution, and get ready for elections.

“Right now, I’m working…on revamping the education system as a whole, since I’m an educator,” Kablan said. “We’re [Kablan and the NTC] working on building civil societies. …teaching [Libyans] about elections…and how to form local governments…it’s a lot, a lot of work. …just getting the country back on track.”

According to Kablan, it didn’t take long for her to decide to leave her job and life in Mason and become involved in politics herself after the revolution broke out.

“I come from Libya, so when the revolution started back home, I took on a role of bringing the voices of the Libyan people to the world,” Kablan said. “I went on rallies in front of the White House and the United Nations, to bring the story [of the revolution] out to the world and to the decision makers, to help with liberating Libya. Gaddafi. …had very good relations with the U.S. and the rest of the world. … It took President Obama a while before he took our side. …So we had to do something; I had to speak up.”

Kablan will have a hand in helping other people empower themselves and advocate for beliefs like she did

“Actually, on the 7th of October, I’ll be leaving for Egypt for a conference. …where we will be encouraging [Libyan] women to be politically active and take a role in politics,” Kablan said.

According to Bugazia, her classmates should keep in mind how fortunate they are to live in the U.S. right now.

“[In Libya], you don’t have freedom of speech,” Bugazia said. “You can’t say what you want; you can’t say what you feel. We need to understand we shouldn’t take for granted our freedom [in the U.S.] because there are so many countries that are oppressed. They don’t have the opportunities and things that we have here.”

Kablan also emphasizes the need for Americans to open their minds and cherish their privileges.

“I want [students] to open their minds and hearts to the world; I don’t want them to be very sheltered and all about themselves, especially in Mason,” Kablan said. “See the world; open your eyes. There is so much good and evil outside, and you need to be part of making things better in the world. It’s comfy in Mason; it’s a very sheltered life. I want [students] to be open and experience things.

“Not everything you read, you believe. You have to be very critical and find out the truth for yourself. …I want students to be able to critique what they read and watch and ask themselves [if it’s true]. …Just be critical of what you see.”

Kablan said she urges Americans not to forget what they so fortunately have.

“Appreciate the freedom you have, and take it seriously. Participate; be very smart about elections, voicing your opinion and protecting you freedoms. Freedom may be easily achieved, but it’s very, very hard to protect and harder to keep.”