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Marian Aguiar

Muammar al-Qaddafi (also spelled Moammar Gadhafi, or Mu’ammar al-Qadhdafi) was born to a Bedouin family near the town of Surt in Libya. The strict Islamic Bedouin way of life profoundly influenced Qaddafi’s later asceticism, as well as his political philosophy. As he once noted in an interview, growing up Bedouin helped him discover “the natural laws, natural relationships, life in its true nature, before life knew oppression, coercion and exploitation.”

When Qaddafi was a young man, both Gamal Abdel Nasser’s nationalist struggle in neighboring Egypt and the Arab struggle for Palestine drew him to Arab populist politics. In 1961 he entered the Libyan military academy in Benghazi, where he helped found a student military group called the Free Officers Movement and met the men who would eventually plot to overthrow the Libyan monarchy.

In September 1969 at a time when anti Western Arab nationalist sentiments were running ...


Diana Murtaugh Coleman

Libyan leader and Arab statesman, was born into a Bedouin family in the Sirtic Desert in 1942. An alternative form of his surname is al-Gaddafi. His parents, Abu Minyar and ʿAʾisha Qaddafi, were nomadic herders of Berber origin, and Muʿammar was their youngest child and only son.

Qaddafi spent his early years in the desert with his parents and three older sisters, tending to the goats and sheep the family kept, and living a traditional Bedouin lifestyle. His first instruction was from a local religious teacher, but at age ten he was sent to an Islamic day school in the coastal town of Sirte, about 20 miles from where he was born. He slept in a local mosque at night and journeyed home each Thursday to be with the family for the traditional Islamic weekend. From 1956 to 1961 Qaddafi attended the Sebha Preparatory Academy in the Fezzan ...


Kathleen Sheldon

Somali president for twenty-one years following his military coup in 1969, was born to a rural pastoralist family in the Somali-inhabited Ogaden region (now Region Five) of Ethiopia. His name is also given as Maxamed Siyaad Barre. His mother was Ogaden, while his father was from the Marehan clan. Orphaned at age ten, he finished elementary school in Luuq, in the Gedo region of southern Somalia and near the border with Ethiopia, before moving to Mogadishu for secondary school. His childhood nickname, Afweyne, or “Mighty Mouth,” followed him into adulthood.

Barre entered the colonial police force, first under the Italians and, briefly after 1941 under the British military administration During the 1950s when Italy governed Somalia as a United Nations Trust Territory Barre spent two years in Italy receiving further police training He returned to Somalia just as Italy was appointing Somalis to the administration of the Trust ...