Fathi Eljahmi, the most prominent
democratic dissident in Libya, died last Thursday. Eljahmi had endured
seven years in unspeakable conditions in the Libyan prison system. His
crime? He spoke out, unflinchingly, for freedom of speech and democratic
reforms. Two days before his death, with Eljahmi already in a coma, the
Libyans sent him to Jordan. The U.S. State Department lauded his "release"
as a welcome development.
It would be wrong to say that the
free world was indifferent to Eljahmi's fate. His brother Mohamed, an
American citizen, spent years calling attention to the case. Mohamed even
succeeded in getting then-Sen. Joseph Biden to make a direct plea for the
dissident's freedom to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. Amazingly, Eljahmi
was released. Three weeks later, however, when it became clear that he
would continue to speak his mind, he was re-arrested -- along with his
wife and eldest son.
At a 2007 conference of democratic
dissidents in Prague, I saw how moved President George W. Bush was by
hearing Eljahmi's brother tell his story. Bush promised to press the case
with the Libyan government. Despite American efforts, though, Eljahmi
remained in prison.
Why? Because dictatorial regimes are
well practiced at telling the difference between real pressure and lip
In 1986, the Soviet dissident
Anatoly Marchenko died in the infamous Chistopol prison after a long and
futile hunger strike for improved conditions. Three years earlier, I had
gone on a similar hunger strike in the same prison and been subjected to
the same tortuous conditions by KGB thugs. But the authorities eventually
gave in to my demands.
Why? Because my nine years of imprisonment were accompanied by a
relentless worldwide campaign and steady, unambiguous pressure on the
communist regime by leaders of the free world. The regime knew that it
would pay a heavy price if I were to die. With Marchenko, it was confident
that the world did not care enough to do much more than mount a formal
The free world has many reasons to
approach dictatorial regimes with kid gloves. Sometimes we want their
cooperation in addressing regional problems, sometimes we worry about
disrupting the oil markets, sometimes we are anxious about global
stability. Regarding Libya, from which the West has managed to extract a
promise not to develop nuclear weapons and not to support terrorist
organizations, there is concern about risking those things that have been
As a result, and with the West's
blessing, Libya has succeeded in becoming a global spokesman for brutal
dictatorships like its own. We have stood by as Libya was elected to chair
the U.N. Human Rights Commission and as it became a key organizer of the
Durban II anti-racism conference in Geneva. In a few months, a Libyan will
take up the presidency of the U.N. General Assembly. In giving the Libyans
a free ride on human rights, the free world has handed them the tools they
need to lead the public-diplomacy campaign of the world of tyranny.
Of course it is important to engage
peoples around the world in constructive dialogue. But a dialogue with a
country's people is not the same as a dialogue with their regime. The West
has a powerful message of freedom, one that can give people in places such
as Libya hope for a better future.
And how can we tell if the message
is hitting its target, going over the heads of the dictators and reaching
the people they rule?
The answer can be found in the fate
of imprisoned dissidents such as Fathi Eljahmi. This is the litmus test.
When such dissidents enjoy overwhelming public support from the free
world, when international pressure results in their release from custody
or when their deaths spark international outrage and sanctions, a powerful
signal is sent to others suffering under the regime that they are not
alone, that the world outside stands strong in the cause of their freedom.
But when dissidents are left to die in prison with no major international
reaction, the message that is sent is the message of the oppressors: There
is no hope.
In Marchenko's case, the KGB
miscalculated. His death sparked worldwide protests, contributing
decisively to Mikhail Gorbachev's decision to release political prisoners
on a large scale in 1987 -- just two years before the Soviet Union's
Today, the ball is in the court of
the free world. Will its leaders make Libya pay a heavy price, making
clear to Libyans and other oppressed peoples that brutality will not be
tolerated and that freedom can one day be theirs? Or will the message
match that of the Libyan regime to its people: that in their country,
freedom has no future.
The coming days will tell us how the
free world has chosen. A human rights activist, Natan Sharansky spent nine
years in the Soviet gulag. He is chairman of the Adelson Institute for
Strategic Studies of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
هذا المقال يدل على ان حسابات الدول الغربية قائمة على المصلحة وان حقوق
الانسان تكال بمكيلين فمن يجدوا مصلحتهم معه يتغاضوا عن جرائمه وكما قيل
قديما لايحس النار الا اللي عافس فيها
Natan Sharansky is the Zionist who is now an Israeli citizen and
lives in Jerusalem,
the Palestinian land that was stolen from its true owners and occupied by
Jews brought from all over the globe. The
Palestinians now are living in refugees camps in their own land or
what ever left of it facing terrorism by the State of Israel every day and
since the inception of this illegitimate state, more than 11,000 eleven
thousand Palestinians in in the Israeli prisons enduring all kinds of
tortures and many many years. I wish that Sharansky speak up about them if
he is truly seeking justice and freedom without biases.
Fathi Eljahmi will be a true champion of freedom for the Libyan
people , may God bless his soul.