HRH Prince Mohammed El Senussi
HRH Prince Mohammed El Hassan El Rida El Senussi was born in Tripoli, Libya, on October 20, 1962. Prince Mohammad was born to HRH Crown Prince Hassan El Rida El Senussi, who was appointed Crown Prince of Libya by HRH King Mohammad Idris El Senussi, in 1956; and to and the Bakir family from his mother, Fawzia bin Tahir El Bakir, the daughter of the Governor of Tripolitania, Sheikh Tahir Bakir.
Under King Idris, Libya’s distinct regions became a united country in 1951, and enjoyed an 18-year period of peace, democracy, and economic development. Crown Prince Hassan was to be crowned King of Libya on September 3, 1969.
But just two days prior, on September 1, a military coup deposed the royal family and Libya became a military dictatorship. Prince Mohammad was seven years old when he saw tanks surround his home, his father arrested by soldiers, and his family’s belongings looted and destroyed. Prince Mohammad’s life changed completely.
In the aftermath of the Revolution, King Idris was condemned to a life in exile in Egypt, and Crown Prince Hassan was imprisoned before a judicial process was even launched, then convicted to three years in prison. Prince Mohammad and his brothers were allowed to visit Crown Prince Hassan in prison once a week. Those visits had a decisive effect on Prince Mohammad, fostering in him a spirit of courage and conviction and imbuing him with genuine concern for justice and the Libyan people.
Crown Prince Hassan was released from prison in 1972, but the royal family was forced to remain in house arrest, under the constant watch of soldiers. No member of the royal family as allowed to travel, or possess passports or other documents attesting to their identity. Visitors to the family were degradingly searched. Prince Mohammad and his family were completely isolated, but worse still, their reputation buried under a coordinated campaign of slander and insult by the military dictatorship.
The decree of house arrest was lifted towards the end of 1977. As the violence and arbitrary cruelty of the dictatorship became apparent, grassroots support began to express the hope that Prince Hassan might return Libya to its democratic, peaceful past. Despite the family’s eight years of isolation from public life, and the barrage of insults directed at the Senussi family by the dictatorship’s propaganda machine, Crown Prince Hassan was greeted by his countrymen with kindness and respect. When Crown Prince Hassan was allowed to perform Friday prayers in the Idris Mosque, lines of people would queue up to shake his hand and express their hope that the monarchy would be returned. But hope is rarely entertained in dictatorship. These hopes, too, were promptly quashed.
In 1978, the dictatorship issued an edict banning members of the Senussi family from leading prayers. The abuse of members of the family by the thugs of the ‘Revolutionary Committees’ worsened. And after the death of King Idris in 1983, Gaddafi escalated his war on history. In 1984, Gaddafi ordered the historic Senussi Mosque in the oasis of Jaghbub would be demolished, along with the 120-year-old tomb of Imam Mohammed bin Ali El Senussi, a founder of the Senussi movement that fought Italian colonialists and Nazi Germany, and led Libya to its unity. The remains of Imam Mohammad were excavated, destroyed, and scattered in the desert. Gaddafi escalated his attacks on the Senussi family later that year, when he burned down Crown Prince Hassan’s house the next year. Dozens of thugs from Gaddafi’s ‘Revolutionary Committees’ arrived at the house without warning, broke down the door, and dragged the royal family– including young Prince Mohammad– outside. They were forced to watch as their home, and everything inside of it, was reduced to ashes.
The Senussi family continued to live in Tripoli an atmosphere of fear, stress and suffering in Tripoli. After the destruction of their home, the Senussi family was forced to live on a shack on the beach. Prince Mohammad was allowed to live quietly, helping support his family by working in the Ministry of Agriculture. The pain of the last twenty years weighed heavily on Crown Prince Hassan. In 1987, the Crown Prince suffered a serious stroke. Believing the end had arrived for Crown Prince Hassan, Gaddafi allowed him to travel to the United Kingdom, with his 18-year-old son Prince Mohammad, to receive medical treatment. Eight months later, the rest of the royal family joined him, bringing with them neither money nor any of the few possessions they had left.
On April 28, 1992, Crown Prince Hassan died. He was buried by his family in the El Baqi Cemetery in Medina, next to his uncle, King Idris. In his will, Crown Prince Hassan left his title and leadership of the Senussi Family to Prince Mohammad, giving Prince Mohammad the rightful title of Crown Prince of Libya. But even greater than that, Prince Mohammad was left with an enormous the responsibility, to work hard to support his family, which was close to the poverty line in London, and his people, who continued to live under the tyranny of a dictatorship.
Today, Prince Mohammad continues to live in London. From his exile, he remains a committed advocate of freedom, democracy, and justice in Libya. Prince Mohammad remains in frequent contact with a large grassroots network of supporters in all regions of Libya and from the Libyan diaspora. He is a strong advocate of restoring the Libyan Constitution of 1951 as a starting point for the reconstruction of his country.
In his personal life, Prince Mohammad does his best to maintain his reputation for kindness, decency, and compassion, and to live his family values of justice and public service.
In his own words:
“I hate injustice, and I hate seeing people being harmed. The misery and suffering of others hurts me. This goes back to my own experience of loss and pain, and what authoritarianism did to me and my family. All have a right to dignity, and all have the obligation to treat others fairly.”