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  • Aleisha was our assigned translator (and I also think government "information" officer) on a visit to Libya with my mother in March of 2003. Our purpose? To talk to the "People's Leader" about human rights. My mother, American born, headed the largest women movement in Greece. (Long story...) Greece and Libya had good ties, traditionally. The appointment was given, a vague date in early March. This meant going in "early March" and then waiting around. I read two massive Martin Amis books. Watched endless Egyptian films on television and with my mother did our best to figure out the dialogues. Visited the women's police academy, the Souk, the other hotel in Tripoli, a private museum. For a country with billions in oil money, the poverty was obvious, though not overwhelming.

    With my mother we decided to also bring up the subject of democracy.

    One day I was plucked from the Souk and popped into a car. My mother was ushered from her hotel room. There we were.
    Inside the famous Tent.

    There he was. Sunglasses, robe and sandals.

    After pleasantries and tea, my mother got down to the task. Would he please free six nurses wrongly accused of spreading AIDS in a hospital? He told us that the Libyan justice system was something he couldn't meddle with but was sure that justice would be served. I asked about elections. Elections are a good thing, I ventured. Real elections.

    This is a people's government, came the answer. The people rule already. I am their representative. No need for elections here....

    He reaffirmed Greek-Libyan friendship. Sent messages to my brother, Minister of Foreign Affairs. We left, not much encouraged.

    At lunch in Tripoli that afternoon, after small talk, Aleisha asked me how old I was, if was married and / or divorced and then said "Can I be your fiancee?" Out of the blue. My mother, a feminist, choked over her fish. At least she's honest and open, she told me after lunch. I thought Aleisha was joking. She wasn't. She repeated the request. "Why not?"

    I told her I already was engaged. I knew what she was thinking. One day all hell was going to break loose in this country. One day she would be in great danger.

    With me she could leave the country.

    I wonder if she ever did leave.

    As for the nurses? Freed years later, after a well advertised trip from the lovely Carla Bruny, Sarkozy's wife. Freed after a major French-Libyan defense deal to boot.
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