Poet and professor Khaled Mattawa has been watching from afar as his homeland, Libya, experiences a violent and historic revolution. Mattawa remembers growing up in the Libyan city of Benghazi under the rule of the country's longtime dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, and many of his poems reflect on that experience.
He recalls having to go to school in derelict buildings where he and his fellow students always feared the wrath of Gadhafi's regime. Mattawa also recounts that several of his onetime classmates were arrested and jailed for life, at the age of 16 or 17, for allegedly plotting against the regime.
Mattawa adds that his family, most of whom remain in Libya, report feeling a "great relief" despite the continuing danger posed by Gadhafi's militias. There is a feeling, Mattawa says, that Libya is being "created anew" and that people, for the first time in a long time, have control over their own lives and destinies.
"I think people were kind of scared at the beginning, but things happened so fast, that if you had any iota of caution, lots of people just threw it away, because it became a decisive moment for a lot of people." - Poet Khaled Mattawa
"There's great relief all over Libya. A friend told me that he took his 80-year-old father to the courthouse in Benghazi, and he saw the flag, the independence flag, flying over it, and the old man broke down in tears, thinking that he would never live to see this moment" - Poet Khaled Mattawa
1. Where is Libya?
2. What is a regime? What is a dictator?
3. What is a coup? Why can it be difficult to drive a longtime ruler from power?
1. How do you think Mattawa's anecdote about Gadhafi's order to clean Libya's schools reflects the way the regime operated generally? Do you think Gadhafi was really in touch with his people's needs? Why or why not?
2. Why do you think so many Libyans insist that they no longer fear Gadhafi's wrath and instead feel "great relief" at what has taken place in their country?
3. What provisions are in place in American society to ensure 16 and 17 year-olds cannot be thrown in jail by the government for no reason, as was the case during Mattawa's childhood?