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A Qaddhafi insider
A Qaddhafi insider

Abubaker Saad MA ’74

“You had 42 years to establish democracy and prosperity in Libya and you wasted it!” If he could, that’s what Abubaker Saad would say to his former boss, the Libyan leader Moammar Qadhafi who was captured and killed in October.

Saad says he and many other young, well-educated Libyans rallied behind Qadhafi when he seized power in a 1969 bloodless coup. They believed he would lead Libya into a bright future. Instead, Qadhafi led the Libyan people into more than four decades of terror. 

“I stayed for the hope of change. That was the tradition at the time, and I couldn’t speak out for fear,” Saad was quoted as saying to national media, which inundated him with interview requests as events unfolded in Libya.

In the 1970s, Saad was a Libyan diplomat and one of Qadhafi’s personal interpreters. He traveled frequently—a fact that probably saved his life in 1978 when a coup attempt, in which he took part, was discovered. Saad drove straight to the airport and left the country one last time—without belongings, without saying goodbye to his parents and siblings, without any clear idea where he would live, and, most importantly, without having to explain to airport officials why he was leaving on such short notice.

Saad, now a U.S. citizen, teaches history at Western Connecticut State University, but his homeland still calls to him. “What I miss most is my family, and the heritage, the customs and traditions, that I grew up with,” says Saad. Fearful for his family’s safety, he had no direct contact with them for more than three decades. He now looks forward to reuniting with them openly and safely. By Meg Descamp