In Memory of Tawfik Bensaud

{يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ ارْجِعِي إِلَى رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَرْضِيَّةً فَادْخُلِي فِي عِبَادِي وَادْخُلِي جَنَّتِي}

10686722_768272909900871_6066513142209257968_nI knew who he was long before I had the honour of meeting him; an energetic young man who was never absent at any rally or civil society event. With his signature hair and warm, friendly smile, he was well-known and well-beloved to many in Libya. Everyone described him as ‘the boy who gave us hope’. Because what made Tawfik stand out was his endless passion and his love for Benghazi and for Libya. He was powerfully devoted to the cause of civil society, involved in countless activities to help his country on the road to democracy and freedom.

While many had given up on Libya and proclaimed it a lost cause, Tawfik persevered. He worked with other activists to organize events and renew the spirit of the people, especially the youth. Tirelessly working towards a brighter future for his country, Tawfik was a role model and inspiration to all who met him.

He was only 18 years old, but spoke with the wisdom and authority of a much older man. He loved to read and showed great appreciation for Libyan history and culture. He could often be spotted wearing a shenna, a traditional Libyan hat. He was a writer, with a strong grasp of both Arabic and English, and even mentioned a book he was working on. Educated, polite, intelligent and kind-hearted, this was the Tawfik everyone knew.

On the night of Friday the 19th, Tawfik Bensaud was brutally assassinated along with fellow civil society activist, Sami El-Kawafi, in Benghazi. Shock, disbelief, horror and ultimately sadness are what we’re going through now. He was our hope and he has been violently, horrifically taken away from us.

A few weeks ago I interviewed him for a piece on youth and the Libyan crisis. He asserted his beliefs that a peaceful, civil movement was necessary to combat the conflict.

“If youth are given a chance, they can find a peaceful solution. My message to Libya’s youth is, you are powerful and you can make change. You just need to take the opportunity and act.”

I can’t believe I am now writing his obituary.

The longer this violence goes on, the more people we lose, the more disillusioned people are becoming with the revolution. Anyone who expresses their opinion is lambasted and targeted. This no longer feels like a systematic campaign, it feels like a full scale massacre. Whether man, woman, young or old, no one is spared by the nightmare that’s enveloped our country, as we all ask ourselves, “Am I next?”

The only way to honour the memory of Tawfik and Sami is to continue their work and carry on their legacy. There is no doubt that they were killed for their beliefs and efforts, and it is now our job to make sure they never fade. They were committed to peaceful, civil movements

Tawfik Bensaud was a beacon of hope and a shining example of goodness and truth in Libya. We have lost him, as we have lost several more before him. How many more will have to die before something is done?

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