The WAFAW research team organised on April 30 2014 at the CERI/Sciences Po in Paris an academic seminar with Libyan political actor, Abdelhakim Belhaj, president of Al Watan party. This meeting between researchers and a prominent Arab activist is the first of a series of events to be organised by WAFAW in collaboration with other institutions throughout the four years of the programme. Such seminars allow academics to interact in a collective (and yet non-public) setting with high-level decision makers or actors of the upheavals and transitions in the Arab world. The meeting with Abdelhakim Belhaj was made possible thanks to Wajdi Liman, Seif Eddine Trabelsi and Isabelle Mandraud.
After long years of armed activism in Libya and on the international scene, Abdelhakim Belhaj is illustrative of trajectories “normalization” which have proliferated, particularly in Egypt and Libya, following the lifting of authoritarian locks.
Born in 1966 in Tripoli, Abdelhakim Belhaj fought in Pakistan and Afghanistan where. Although opposed to his strategy of “global jihad against the far enemy,” he then interacted closely with Usama Bin Laden. In the “Jebel al-Akhdar” of eastern Libya, he led a guerilla movement against the repressive regime of al-Qadhafi and headed the “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya al-Libya al-Muqatila). Fleeing repressing, he was arrested and delivered to Qadhafi by the Americans. Detained and tortured, he accepted in 2004 the truce proposed by Seif Al-Islam al-Qadhadi before taking up arms to fight the regime again in 2011 as the head of the Military Council of Tripoli. Since the end of the Qadhafi regime, Abdelhakim Belhadj unsuccessfully ran for election and is now engaged in business activities but retains an important political (and potentially military) influence.
Discussion with researchers and students focused on M. Belhadj’s experience as a candidate to a pluralistic election and on the prospects of the Libyan transition. He also presented his interpretation of the trajectories of other Arab countries that have experienced political uprisings since 2011.