Younes Nagem: engineering peace in Libya

Younes Nagem was in Benghazi at the time when the people were suddenly no longer afraid. The revolutionary fire had come to Libya from Tunisia and Egypt. It was to be the end of Gadhafi. When the fighting began, the young student called his friends on impulse: “What can we do?!”

While the global powers were considering whether to deploy military air forces in Libya, Younes was helping on the front lines. First as an aid worker – “there was a free space, to help the victims” – coordinating a refugee camp near Benghazi. And subsequently working as a reporter in Benghazi and Tripoli.

However, it was only after the dust from the air force attacks had settled, and after Gadhafi had been found in a sewage pipe, that Younes started to get his act together.

A passionate advocate for democracy

After the revolution, everything had to be reinvented in Libya. For no less than 42 years, the country had been ruled by a man who considered it to be his private property. Younes, who had now graduated as a telecommunications engineer at the University of Benghazi, became a passionate advocate for democracy and equal rights. Together with his friends, he founded platforms to keep the new authorities in check. He organised conferences for young entrepreneurs on democracy and became one of the natural leaders of the Libyan Youth Movement.

Equal rights for women in Libya

The sheer talent and drive of Younes, who was a champion Open Water swimmer as a teenager, did not remain unnoticed for long. Zahra Langhi, the face of Hivos partner Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace (LWPP), invited him for a meeting. An important goal of Zahra’s organisation is to involve as many different groups as possible into designing the new constitution, and to achieve a fair representation of women in parliament. The two of them became as thick as thieves.

Younes joined the LWPP and now plays an important role in lobbying for women’s rights. They are successful: as many as 33 of the 80 elected lists of members of the new Libyan parliament are women. “We knew what we wanted,” says the determined Younes drily.

How to deal with anarchy and chaos

If there is anything that Libya needs right now, at this time of anarchy and chaos, it is these forces that continue to feed the debate and keep the hope for peace, progress and prosperity alive. Forces like Younes and the LWPP, which are now mainly focused on disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration (DDRR).

What position does the leader of the youth movement have in mind for himself in the new Libya? “A position in the government, not in parliament.” If you advocate for change, there is no need for modesty.