by FRANKLIN LAMB
The weather in Tripoli this New Year’s weekend is unseasonably bone chilling with heavy rains flooding the streets reminding this observer more of dreary London this time of year than the southern Maghreb coast of the Mediterranean. My modest family run neighborhood hotel off Omar Muktar Street is clean and cheap, but my room has no heat except what eventually builds up under a stack of velour Turkish blankets.
My good luck this trip was to find my best friend from the months I was in Libya last summer. “Ahmad,” who like most contacts disappeared without a trace on August 22nd following the fall of Tripoli to NATO forces. As so many of us have learned, those we knew this summer either fled fast, were jailed, or were killed. “Ahmad”resurfaced in September via email to explain that he was in hiding. He went deep down in South Libya in a small Sahara town the name of which he told me has never even made it on a map, much less google earth. Then, a few weeks later Ahmad disappeared again when he ventured out to see his family near Tripoli. He was betrayed by friends for militia cash, was arrested, tortured and jailed without charges simply because his family was known to be Gadhafi supporters. The last week of Ahmad’s incarceration, which ended only because one of the guards recognized him as a former classmate, he and the other more than 100, including Sheik Khaled Fantouch, all held in a large room in a makeshift Misrata militia prison, were given nothing at all to eat and shared bottles of water to stay alive.
Life has become more complicated in Libya for about everyone it seems including foreign visitors. One example: Back in the summer, before August 21st, if one found himself on a side street somewhere face to face with some heavily armed and scowling types it was a good idea to whisper, “Allah, Muammar, Libya, al bas (‘that all we need!”)and chances were quite good that you would be warmly received.
Now it’s much more complicated. More than 55 rebel militia, totaling more than 30,000 armed fighters control parts of Tripoli, some of them loosely under the protection and direction of the TNC, Tripoli Military Commander Belhaj. Belhaj, formerly with Al Qaeda spent seven years in prison here when the US & UK sent him to the Gadhafi regimes as part of its rendition program.
His party, now being formed into the Muslim Brotherhood will likely win next June’s election. His in the third largest militia in Tripoli. The largest is run by Salh Gait, from Tripoli, and according to his deputy has 5000 fighters and adding more.
These days in Libya it is a good idea to memorize the name of the largest of the local militia and the name of its leader so when approached by the heavily armed unfriendly types one can rub two index fingers together and say the leader’s name while adding “mlieh, mlieh”i.e. “good, good.” One wants to avoid saying the wrong militia and leader name because there is today an uneasy calm among militias in Tripoli after a few weeks of largely unreported skirmishes.
Largely unreported for the following reason. The transitional government daily touts the new freedom of the press here and they claim that there are 43 new newspapers or magazines. That on the surface sounds pretty good and there are more or fewer each week as local and foreign funders fail to deliver on funding promises or others start publishing a newspaper or magazine.
What is remarkable about the “new free Libya, new free media” is that it is 100 percent pro “new government”. I am advised that it’s only partly out of fear of consequences for failing to toe the line that accounts for this apparent universal support for the TNC. Another reason according to a western ambassador who have returned to his post here is that the new media sprang from the myriad militia and they simply have a psychological issue with criticizing any of the obvious problems which seem to be swelling by the day. Ahmad agrees. “They were so involved with NATO and its rebels that they do not want to admit that they were wrong in many ways so they ignore what is really happening in front of their eyes”.
If you tell someone to meet you at ‘Martyrs Square’ its sounds silly to most of us. What if the new Egyptian government renames Tahrir Square? Will people in Egypt accept it?”
|Photos of 12/29/11 women’s demonstration at Green Square |
(Martyr’s Sq) in Tripoli in favor of the right of Libyan women
to give their husbands and children Libyan citizenship
|Born in Libya, Only know Libya, Loyal to Libya, belong to Libya|
It does appear that at least for now, demonstrations are being allowed although they were plenty of observers watching and which ones are from the TNC and militia security forces is anyone’s guess.
The same lady said the population of Tripoli has risen by one million and the locals want the “outsiders” to return to their towns and leave Tripoli’s real residents to take care of their city. The outsiders are said to add to traffic problems and a decline in security so people stay inside at night.
Some of the home invaders have moved in their families from other parts of Libya and some are accused of holding kidnapped female foreign domestic workers and are suspected by the women advocacy groups, kidnapping women off the streets and enslaving them within their sanctuaries.
Libyans inside the country and those seeking safety in nearby countries, are increasingly turning to the ten largest Libyan tribes to put an end to this situation and many other problems.
Bodies dupmed in sewage
Other current problems causing strife here are the rising prices on everything except electricity which no one has paid in the whole country according to my sources since last February. But the electricity cuts are similar to during the NATO bombing. Lack of money is a problem with citizens not being allowed to withdraw more than 750 dinars each month. Money is still relatively scarce and if one accepts that 7 billion was taken out of Libyan banks by former Libyan officials and businessmen early last spring, more than 8 billion was withdrawn by citizens in a panic last summer before a limit of 500 dinars per month was imposed by the Gadhafi government.
This observer has been advised both in neighboring countries and inside Libya by Tribal officials that war in coming maybe as soon as March 1. “Our history, our culture, our dignity, is at stake. It is the responsibility of the Tribes to cleanse the country of these outlaws just as we did against the Italian colonizers.”
“We know which tribes worked with NATO and sold out their birthrights. Some did the same thing with the Italians and over the years with foreign oil companies.
We will fight to restore a path for the Libyan people knowing that mistakes were made by the Gadhafi regime but also that his support today ranges from 90% in Wafala Tribe areas like Bani Walid to close to 60% in Tripoli.
He is not coming back but many of his good policies will return ehshallah.”
He contribute to Uprooted Palestinians Blog
Shatila Palestinian Refugee Camp
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