The real-life 'Forrest Gump' running across Libya for peace
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Libya has been riven with terrorism, political conflict, and militia violence since the country's former dictator Muammar Gaddafi was caught and killed in 2011. But one marathon runner, Abdusslam al-Busaïri, has been running all over the country since 2015 in a quest to bring his country's people back together. And wherever he goes, he creates a buzz.
Between the 15th and the 20th August 2017, Abdusslam al-Busaïri ran more than 430 kilometres through the desert. He left the village of Tijari at the border with Niger, and reached the town of Sebha, the capital of the Fezzan region, in eight days.
He ran 75 kilometres on average every day, in temperatures of around 40 degrees Celsius. All while holding a flag on which was written, "Let's reconcile, and embrace each other".
Al-Busaïri has taken part in several marathons, and won first place in a marathon in the south of the country in 2007. He is now supported by sponsors, one of the largest being the mobile phone company Libyana. He explained his project to the FRANCE 24 Observers team.
"I went into towns where there had been conflict and I was welcomed with open arms"
During the summer, my project was very well received by everyone I met. As soon as I arrived in a village, everyone would rush to meet me and congratulate me: the mayor, local public figures, people from the football clubs and other organisations. It was heartwarming!
It's the sixth time I've run something like this.
In 2015, I ran 150 kilometres between Gragra, my hometown, and Sebha. The enthusiasm of people around me encouraged me to keep going, and the next year I started again. That time I ran 370 kilometres from Ras Jedir, on the border with Tunisia, to Misrata, on the Mediterranean coast. Then I ran from the Egyptian border to Tripoli, more than 1,000 kilometres.
"Libyans want peace with the rest of the world"
I even went into towns where there had been armed conflict. In February 2016, I went through two villages that had fought with each other, and I was warmly welcomed in each of them.
In March 2017, I went to the town of Derna which was under intense fighting. [The general Khalifa Haftar of the Libyan National Army (LNA) has put the town under siege in an attempt to take it back from the Derna Shura Council, a coalition of militias that controlled the town.] I was welcomed by locals and clubs in the town who even organised a ceremony in my honour, despite the difficult situation they were in.
In spite of the poor image of the country broadcast by the media, I am sure that Libyans want peace. Of course the country is going through a crisis, but any ordinary citizen wants nothing more than to lead a peaceful life, like everyone else in the world.
As soon as I've finished my tour around Libya, I'm going to go to Europe. From there, I'm going to run to Russia with my flag of peace. I hope to be there for the football world cup in 2018 and to send out my message to the world: that Libyans want peace with the world.