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7 January 2020
Libyan PhD graduate hopes to inspire change in his country through education

(Published - 7 January 2020)

“Through education we can make people rise and the country of Libya rise.”

So says Dr Abdsalam Mansour Almabrook Alahwal, who graduated in December with his PhD from UWC’s Institute for Social Development. His thesis explored the prospects of democratisation in one of the countries that underwent dramatic changes during the Arab Spring.

The Arab Spring was a series of anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions that spread across the majority of the Islamic world in the early 2010s.

“Through extensive interviews with students and lecturers at three universities in the major regions of Libya-Tripoli, Benghazi and my home town Sabha, my thesis illuminates how some Libyans understand the major challenges they currently face politically,” he says.

This week Libya made headlines when forces affiliated to commander Khalifa Hafter announced that they had taken control of the city of Sirte.

According to The Guardian: “Holding Sirte would be an important gain for Haftar, who since April has been waging a military offensive on the capital, Tripoli, home to Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).” 

A major finding of Dr Alahwal’s study reveals that there is a connection between the revolution and democracy, and that the barriers to the process of democratisation are inextricably linked to the political, economic and social implications of the Arab Spring, which have caused major security and stability repercussions in the country.

He argues that, based on the opinions of the study sample, the Arab Spring revolution was necessary to initiate the process of democracy, and the barriers to the process of democracy are linked to the imbalance of the political and economic structures of the country, including the cultural-tribal base of the Libyan society.

In order to address the barriers to the democratisation process, he argues for the development of a hybrid democracy that takes into consideration the broader political, historical and cultural sensitivities of the Libyan people and the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.

“With my thesis it’s my aim to give the people in my country and the world the correct information about what is really going on in Libya,” he says.

His hometown, Sabha, has experienced war since 2011, and he now aims to share his knowledge with others. “With this, our country will rise - through education our country can rise,” asserts Dr Alahwal.

His journey was not an easy one, knowing that while he is in South Africa, his family and friends are in danger in war-torn Libya. “I’ve spent many nights sleeping in the library, working to finish my thesis as quickly as possible so that I can change the lives of my family and hopefully those of the people in my country,” he says.

He thanks Professor Bhekithemba Mngomezulu, PLAAS’s Ursula Arends, and his supervisor Prof Suren Pillay from the Centre for Humanities Research.