Dissident Watch: Fathi El-Jahmi
Middle East Quarterly
Fall 2004, p. 89
U.S. relations with Libya are undergoing a renaissance. On June 28, 2004, after a 24-year break, Washington and Tripoli resumed diplomatic ties. On September 19, 2004, President Bush released $1.3 billion in frozen Libyan assets. Four days later, Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Libyan foreign minister Abdel-Rahman Shalqam, the first time in twenty-five years that a Libyan foreign minister had met a U.S. secretary of state. The meeting capped almost two years of intensive diplomacy.
Libya may have abandoned its nuclear weapons program, but has Libyan leader Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi changed? A number of indications—his rhetoric, his attempt to kill the Saudi crown prince, and his continuing repression of dissidents—suggest not.
Take the case of Libyan dissident Fathi El-Jahmi, a Libyan bureaucrat imprisoned in Tripoli's Abu Salim Prison after he declared at a 2002 "People's Conference" that reform in Libya would require free speech and democracy.
On March 12, 2003, President Bush spoke on human rights.
We stand with courageous reformers. Earlier today, the Libyan government released Fathi Jahmi. He's a local government official who was imprisoned in 2002 for advocating free speech and democracy. It's an encouraging step toward reform in Libya. You probably have heard, Libya is beginning to change her attitude about a lot of things.
Jahmi's release, however, lasted less than two weeks. Within ten days, Libyan authorities had cut his telephone line. On March 24, Assistant Secretary of State William Burns visited Tripoli and Libyan television broadcast his shaking hands with Qadhafi. Two days later, Libyan security arrested Jahmi, his wife, and his son. None of them have been seen since. Libyans visiting Washington say the arrest of Jahmi is intended as a slap in the face to President Bush.
Several U.S. officials, including diplomats and members of Congress, have since traveled to Tripoli to meet the Libyan leader. None have demanded a meeting with the Libyan official once deemed foremost among Libya's courageous reformers. But all have had their picture taken with Qadhafi.
 Washington Post, Sept. 24, 2004.
 Claudia Rosett, "Are We Keeping Faith?" OpinionJournal, Mar. 24, 2004.
 "Remarks by the First Lady and the President on Efforts to Globally Promote Women's Human Rights," White House, Mar. 12, 2003.
 Claudia Rosett, "Dial a Dissident," OpinionJournal, Apr. 7, 2004.
 Interview with Muhammad El-Jahmi and Husayn Shafei, June 28, 2004.
Related Topics: Libya | Fall 2004 MEQ
receive the latest by email: subscribe to the free mef mailing list
This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.