AP NEWS
Related topics

TODAY’S TOPIC: Libyan Campers Hone Revolutionary Skills

October 15, 1985

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) _ They call them ″buds of the revolution,″ young campers clad in the green of the Libyan flag who are expected to flower into skilled revolutionaries.

As young as eight or nine years old, they can sing their condemnation of American or Israeli imperialism.

″They are learning these skills for the future,″ explained one teacher of the Baraymam al-Fatah, the Libyan equivalent of the scout movement. He gestured toward a display of scale model bombs and rockets in tin he said were made by the youngsters.

At a recent evening performance at a model summer camp along Tripoli harbor, group after group of children in green uniforms - the prophet Mohammed’s battle color as well as Libya’s national hue - took to a wooden stage decorated by a painting of Uncle Sam taking a kick in the rear from a green boot.

For five hours, they sang of the accomplishments of Col. Moammar Khadafy’s 1969 coup, their defiance of the United States and the ″Zionist death wagon,″ Libya’s normal mode of referring to Israel.

″We will not submit to America or its weapons,″ ran one line in Arabic. ″We are ready to do whatever our leader bids us.″

Eight-year-old Hania was brought up to a reporter to sing solo.

″She is singing about her hopes that the Arab world will soon be united, without borders,″ said a camp supervisor, who would identify herself only as Maha. Khadafy has long sought to unify Arab nations, recently vowing to apply force to achieve the goal.

Officials said every child between age eight and 16 attends some 15 days of camp each year - taking classes in music, art, language and elementary military skills - and performs similar activities in school. Several weeks of military training are the high school curriculum.

Another summer option for youngsters is training as traffic police, part of Khadafy’s efforts to move away from a traditional police force to ″people’s security.″ The streets of Tripoli are filled with determined-look ing children in starched blue-and-white uniforms blowing whistles at traffic offenders and handing out tickets.

″They used to laugh at them,″ said Libyan guide Nouri Bushallah. ″Now they take them seriously.″

At the camp, models of rockets and bombs are displayed along with more traditional camp handiwork such as hand-silkscreened T-shirts and handmade afghans. Over a neat row of campbeds hang the slogans from Khadafy’s revolutionary manifesto, The Green Book, that appear everywhere in Libya from supermarket to sports stadium.

One oil painting shows female Libyan soldiers peering down the sights of machine guns, while across the enclosure is an enlarged photograph of a small boy cradling a Kalishnikov rifle. ″Girls do everything boys do,″ said Maha.

One youngster has assembled a collage of photos of U.S. President Ronald Reagan and of the late Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan meshed with pictures of bloodied bodies from Beirut refugee camp massacres, starving children and torture victims.

A 10-year-old artist drew Reagan in full cowboy dress, wielding a whip, with a black man in chains at his feet. A coloring book shows an Israeli soldier bayoneting an Arab in the back and tearing through a child’s bookbag.

Although much of the artwork reflects political themes such as Libya’s emnity with the United States and Israel, some of it depicts daily life, such as a scene from a mosque.

The idea of such programs, Libyan officials say, is to pass the torch of the revolution to the next generation.

A fiery young vanguard is now moving into government positions and replacing older, perhaps less ideologically zealous officials, according to both Libyan and diplomatic sources. Many have risen together through similar ″revolutionary youth″ programs. Many also have been educated in the West.

Ibrahim Sager was a 12-year-old farm boy when the revolution shook his North African country. Now 27, the same age as Khadafy when he engineered his coup, Sager has been named director of overseas information. Also newly appointed is 30-year-old Information Minister Mohammed Sharfeddin.

Vehemently critical of U.S. Policies toward their nation and boastful of Libyan accomplishments, young Libyans encountered were also quick to reminisce about their days in Western universities and were openly curious about Americans. Similarly, children skilled in anti-U.S. Chants swarmed around visiting Americans to trade names.

AP RADIO
Update hourly