Najat Kikhia

"Mansour didn’t have his own house in Benghazi, so they knocked down our brother’s instead"

When Najat Rasheed Kikhia’s brother Mansour resigned form his post as Libyan ambassador to the UN in 1980, the whole family bore the brunt of Gaddafi’s disapproval. A statistician, Najat Kikhia was on a scholarship to the United States, where her brother was based, when he resigned

His resignation came at a time when Kikhia was visiting Benghazi in between completing her Masters degree and beginning with the studies for a doctorate. She was denied the exit visa she needed to return to the USA to complete her studies and joined the academic staff of the statistics department at Garyounis University, now known as the University of Benghazi. “I was denied the opportunity to further my education, and despite my abilities and achievements, I did not receive the promotions I should have at the university.”

Soon after her diplomat brother had sent his resignation from the States, the villa that his brother Abdelrahman had almost finished building in Benghazi was bulldozed. “There was nothing you could do about it in those days. The revolutionary guards would come and insult you and bulldoze what they wanted. Mansour didn’t have his own house in Benghazi, so they knocked down our brother’s instead.”

Kikhia kept her head down at the university, as she had heard about what the revolutionary committees where capable of. “One student came to me once and told me how she had just been harassed and had a table pushed into her stomach. Another, one of my brightest students, was denied the advancement and opportunity he deserved because he wasn’t a member of the revolutionary committee.”

On 21 April 1984, all the students and faculty of the university were ushered to a square on the university grounds where a show trial was underway for Mustafa Nweiry. Gallows with a noose had already been built and Kikhia was loath to stand and watch. “Fortunately, a student of mine who was also in the revolutionary committee unlocked one of the university doors and let me go in so I wouldn’t have to witness the hanging. The screams and wails were audible throughout the grounds.”

And then something beautiful happened, uniting all in grief and courage. “Someone switched on their car radio to the Quranic channel. Others followed suit, and suddenly the whole campus was echoing with the sound of prayer.”

Over the coming years, her defected brother Mansour Kikhia became a strong oppositionist to the regime and was among those who founded the Libyan League for Human Rights in 1989. “He was some years older than me, and I saw him as my guardian. It was difficult being separated from him while he was living in the States. We would see each other in different cities infrequently until his disappearance.”

Mansour Kikhia disappeared in 1993 while attending an Arab Organization for Human Rights meeting in Cairo. Speculations abound about his whereabouts and fate. “We didn’t know anything for certain until after the revolution when his body was found in a freezer. Abdallah Senussi stated later that Mansour had been held captive for four years before he died. He was a diabetic, which means they would have had to have been providing him with medication over the four years. But why they would have kept his body in a freezer still remains a mystery.”


This interview was conducted
at her home in Benghazi
on 10 April, 2013


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