Libya’s Forrest Gump runs the long road to peace

The TimesBel Trew, Cairo
In Libya’s lawless south the sight of Abdul Salam al-Busayri running down the desert road began to draw a crowd. Locals who had fled their homes to avoid fighting were too afraid to return home, until Mr Busayri, who had covered 90 miles on an unorthodox peace mission, jogged into their lives.

As he ran, some began to go with him, others followed in their cars. It was the start of his extraordinary peace marathons, which have caught the popular imagination. “They feared the war was going to start again. When they saw me running on my own, it convinced many the area was safe,” he told The Times.

That was in 2015, when that area was a battleground. His uncle had been killed in crossfire, the fourth member of his family to die since the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi.

Heartbroken, Mr Busayri decided to do something. “I got the idea that running could help people stop fighting and instead sit down and talk. I planned to run between the warring sides and talk to leaders of both and encourage people to go home. They had a huge reception for me on both sides. Both loved the initiative. I convinced them to talk to each other.”

Since then Mr Busayri, 30, from Qaraqra, a town 90 miles east of Sabha, has clocked up more than 1,000 miles running ultra-marathons through Libya’s conflict zones. This year alone he has run nearly 680 miles. He often crosses frontlines to talk with leaders from the warring factions to spread his message of peace. He carries a flag emblazoned with his catchphrase: “We embrace and reconcile with each other.”

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Photo curtesy of Abdul-Salam al-Busayri