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Surviving in Libya

Admin Kat
Admin Kat

Posts : 3591
Likes received : 34
Join date : 2011-03-19
Location : Around the bend

Surviving in Libya

Post by Kitkat on 10th April 2011, 01:29

Found this on the net and had to do a double take - could've been me writing it! -except it wasn't. Memories! ... (even the same company that I worked for - Agip!)
Only difference is, this write-up makes mention of the airport in Tripoli. Well of course when I lived and worked in Tripoli (1993/94) Libya was a no-fly zone because of the sanctions imposed by the UN over the Lockerbie disaster, so I never even got to see the airport, instead getting in and out of the country entailed having to make a long overland journey through Tunisia and on into Libya through the border , a journey which could take anything from 14 hours to two days (army, security and all sorts of intermittent checks all along the way) often reaching the border to find it closed and having to make the long journey back (to Tripoli or Tunis - depending on whether your intention was to get out or in!) An alternative was The Maltese Run - fly to Malta and bunk up on the over-crowded rat-infested rusty tin can boat over to Tripoli, an overnight erratic hit-or-miss journey depending on whether the boat was passably sea-worthy at the time or even in the mood for the journey.

This writer's experience of working in Libya is obviously a lot more recent. Be that as it may, nothing much seems to have changed. Reading this has prompted me to write about my experiences there. When I have a bit more time, I am going to add my own adventures here.

Meanwhile ... here's a taste of:
(from here: )
The Single Girl's Guide to Surviving Tripoli
19 Jan 2008

Living and Working in Libya presents some Unusual Challenges:

Application to Libya

Getting into Libya is almost as tricky as getting out of Libya. Any successful job application is followed by a battery of blood tests, chest x-rays, urine analyses, eye tests, ear tests, nose tests, unexpected prodding and poking, etc, the results of which are all sent away to be examined by Embassy appointed 'Experts', and when they confirm what you already know you receive a certificate declaring you fit and healthy! (Which you knew already, but Hooray anyway). The next step is for passport and qualifications to be translated into arabic, approved by someone hired specially for the purpose, who writes a report which is distributed, added to pile, occasionally filed and then a tentative contract of employment is produced – that's only "tentative" mind you, never one to make a hasty decision, the Libyan employer will confirm your employment after your arrival in Tripoli and, guess what? Further health tests!

Undaunted, and full of misguided enthusiasm for a new job, its time to go shopping! The shopping list for life in Libya is exhaustive, and includes the need for an adequate supply of batteries, tampons, sellotape, dvds, sewing kit, corkscrews (you never know), soap, moisturizer, hand sanitizer, magazines, flashlight and an assorted range of electrical tape, fuses, pliers, screwdriver and other useful tools for fixing/assembling things like electric lamps, phones, dvds and so on, also envelopes, pens and post-its plus emergency food rations like chocolate digestive biscuits, Cadburys fruit and nut, and the sort of powdered meals that can be mixed with fruit juice are a good idea.

Clothing to Pack

Depending upon what time of year you arrive in Tripoli it will be either very cold or very hot, both indoors and outdoors. Bring clothes for both seasons as there is nothing to buy in Tripoli other than the local's fav which comprise full length Burqa's (housecoats for women) and Gallabiyas (long dresses for men). Burqa's worn by western girls, whilst undeniably handsome, are frowned on. Western girls are meant to dress in Western clothes, don't be like Michael Jackson in Bahrain and disgrace youself by wearing a black hijab if you are a man, a nonmuslim to boot. Far more sensible to stick to European dress, but remember you are not the heroic Kate Adie and this is not CNN, so no need for lots of journalistic pockets, you'll only lose your keys and/or be mistaken for an Eyetalian. However, like Kate Adie, all outfits should cover legs, arms, neck and should allow space for breathing but not sweating.


Flights to Tripoli depart London at around 6am, check in is at 3 so depending where you are traveling from there's not a lot of point in going to bed that night. It also means everyone arriving in Tripoli will be tired and cranky after the 4.5hr flight and the early check in, and if they're not then they soon will be. The new arrival to Libya finds him/herself in the long queue of foreigners waiting at Immigration, whilst gleeful LIbya scurry unhampered pass you through Immigration for first pick from the luggage carousel. Your fellow UK travelers are invariably made up sub-contractors and returning oil company workers with thick regional accents, beer bellys and whiskey breath and who are united by a complete and utter disdain for the Libyans. 'Fookin ell' and 'Jesoos wept' are frequent refrains from the expats as the sole Immigration officer tests each foreigner's excuse for being there, breaking off occasionally and disappearing for a few minutes as the rest of the new arrivals sweat and fumein the hot, unairconditioned hall.

'When The Leader's sun wus arrested in Lundun for coke recently they 'ad all the foreign workers out 'ere for 8hours – the fookin ambassador 'ad to get ont' phone to the foreign minister in Lundun and he ad to apologise personally so the bluudy Immigration would let the foreign workers back in' – the furious watery-eyed northerner tells the man to his left, who rolls his eyes sympathetically, says 'ay', and lights up another smoke. Nevertheless, everyone gets processed eventually, and then there is a nervous moment when you wonder if your luggage will still be there. Of course it is, its lying at the bottom of a dusty pile which you then drag onto a trolley and load onto a ridiculously high conveyer belt to pass through a dubious looking x-ray machine that doesn't look like its actually working, meanwhile a group of silent rather grimy looking men in oddly sized blue uniforms and police belts stand around smoking and watching you without moving.

Once you have split your blouse from the effort of hauling 32kilo suitcases onto the conveyer, broken the moisturizer you bought at Heathrow, torn 3 nails and watched your chocolate hobnobs roll across the arrivals terminal its time to make a debut into the arrivals lounge.

Lounge is a misnomer in any case, the very word suggesting comfort, in fact nothing could be further from the truth, there are no seats anywhere, nor cafes, shops, bureau de changes or any of the other outlets usually found at airports, it's just an extension of the luggage claim area with the difference being that here bedlam reigns as entire families have congregated and emotionally overwrought women clutch returning sons, brothers, uncles, cousins or sometimes complete strangers to their heaving bosom and wail noisily, all around families screech and chatter happily and the new European arrival reluctantly tears him/herself away from looking at some of the more interesting bedoin tattoos on the women's foreheads.

The First Port of Call in Tripoli

Is always a hotel. Which can be a bit of an eye opener to the uninitiated. According to the sign over the door the Etoile Splendido boasts 4 stars, which is immediately dispelled as you enter into a lobby without light, a greasy desk with an even greasier looking desk manager who utters one word, 'passport' which he photocopies and then returns with an oldfashioned key attached to a 5inch piece of wood and points towards a lift, this is just a tricky initiative test because its not working as there is no power in the afternoon.

So after scaling the stairs to a darkened corridor and locating your room, you enter into the scruffiest hotel room you've ever seen - in teh dark you make out one chair, one oldfashioned wardrobe and a single mattress on a frame on the floor. The idea of lying down with your head 6inches from the ground where you can clearly see the trail of wildlife that are marching in well disciplined lines across the soiled carpet and into the even dirtier bathroom, is not appealing. In the bathroom the ants disappear behind cracked tiles that must surely have been put up sometime in the 60s? The sole source of light is from one window that has a big crack and a piece missing, a grey curtain flaps energetically in front of it. This is a common experience, and its then that the newcomer to Tripoli can only sigh, look out the window at the shockingly stinky sea and console themselves that this is just the first night, there are bound to be better places, at least there is a coastline so there must be a nice beach somewhere. How innocent! You can't apply the word "nice" to Tripoli unless used in the past tense as in: "50 years ago the Italians made a nice promenade in Tripoli", or "there was a nice café behind that rubble and the garbage over there", or "when there were trees it was nice and shady" (one day all trees were removed after an assassination attempt was made on the Leader from a tree).

Of course there are those who arrive and are just plain ornery believing its not obligatory to stay in a hellhole. So having researched the city from the safety of the internet back home in London, seen my bed on the floor in Tripoli, and viewed the antique bathroom, it took me all of 5seconds to resolve to move to the recently completed Corinthia, which is the new 5 star (real 5 stars, not selp-appointed 'stars' like everywhere else in Tripoli). Reasonably calm having made that decision I recall going to the lobby to wait for my ride to take me to dinner and sat down at a vacant sofa to wait, this then posed a new problem, of what part of you touches what part of the sofa, for example, the arms of the sofa and chairs are so soiled they are a shiny black while the rest of the upholstery still sports what must have once been colourful flowers. Hooray for hand sanitizer!

I moved from the infected sofa to the bar and tried to buy a coke, but the unshaven man behind the counter fails to understand the most international of words and when I point to a glass of something that looks like coke he leans beneath the counter and hands me a warm carton of orange juice which I pay for with filthy notes exchanged for dollars from the reception Manager. By now the hand sanitizer has been used at least 9 times.

I hang around the lobby not touching anything waiting for my guide, as soon as she arrives I explain I need to move to the Corinthia. My guide, a Canadian graduate of Cairo University, smiles knowingly and in a mixture of Italian and Arabic retrieves my luggage, signs something (hopefully not a recommendation) and we are out on the street hailing a taxi and moving off towards relative sanctuary. The Corinthia looms out of the grimy confusion that is downtown Cairo, it is clean, full of shiny marble and sparkling aluminium. In the lobby a large painting of the Leader smiles out at elegantly attired diners who sip coke from ice cube laden glasses. A discounted room is made available and I gratefully move up to a new clean suite with a double glazed view over the glittering sea. The feeling of hope returns.

Over dinner, Caroline, my guide explains what will take place tomorrow, but nothing can prepare me, nor anyone, for the reality:

Arrival at the Office

The new arrival is responsible for getting themself to the office which is tricky as there are no street signs in English, and absolutely no company or other signs in any European language to help, plus taxi drivers do not speak English. There are however a lot of large bill boards with pictures of The Leader. So instructions go something like this: walk down to Martyrs Square, turn left at the picture of the Leader, go to the crossroads and turn right at the Leaders picture, then continue to the roundabout and take the 3 o'clock road with the Leader's face on the wall, you'll need about an hour..….

Somehow you get yourself to the office where you pass through a turnstile and announce your name to the guards behind the glass. Unusual for an oil company you think, a turnstile. The guards speak no English but point to the stairs and you go up to the 1st floor and find someone who understands English and directs you to room full of men (who are the Human Resources Division), where you hand over the 35 passport photos you were instructed to bring and told to sit down which is where you are then given the obligatory once over. The best thing to do is to smile at everyone. Someone handed me a Lion bar. They are not ungenerous the Libyans; they are incredibly scruffy and they all smoke like chimneys, oh and the men address each other as Habibi (darling).

Mr Shafiqi shuffles in, he is the chain smoking HR manager who you met in London. He explains who your chain of command is, and you sign the contract. He smilingly evades all questions about the job, and you smilingly don't press it. But you have been alerted to the nature of things in the office the night before, all too fantastical to really absorb, but anyway, this is a day for being processed. My Shafiqi calls out to a tall gangly youth called Taher who speaks not a word of English, but beckons me to follow. We run across the road to the main building, through yet another turnstile and then into a basement office that has what look like medical posters on the walls, but as the room is lit by 2 60watt bulbs and everything is in Arabic its hard to be sure. There are two white guys in filthy checked shirts, stained jeans and enormous metal toed work boots sitting against the wall on wobbly chairs. A hejabed woman beckons me over and points to a book where I am to sign in, I see the two guys before me have names that are made up entirely of consonants.

After a while they disappear and then a woman appears in the doorway and says 'henna, henna' to me which means come here. I follow her into a little room with metal floor, metal ceiling, metal walls. She takes out a hypodermic syringe and indicates I should roll up my sleeve. I refuse. She gabbles fast in Arabic and I have no idea what she is saying, but can guess. Then 2 more nurses arrive and one speaks English and says this is standard. I did a blood test in London I say, sure that there is a mistake, but the English speaking one smiles and continues to insist this is OK. I ask to see the hypo come out of a fresh pack and this is done. I give blood then and am ushered into see the Doctore, the nurse babbling something to him as I go in. He has sad red eyes and asks me to sit down then looks at my hands, turns them over, sighs, scribbles his signature on a form in arabic and says that's fine you can go. Its very bizarre. I later learn that when my guide Caroline had her skin check he insisted on seeing her breasts. We go back to the waiting room and then Taher arrives and I follow him to a small VW bus where the two consonant heavy guys are sitting, the nurse gets in with big red test tubes full of blood, and we all bounce over the bumpy potholed roads to the laboratory, where I try to follow the nurse but am bawled at in Arabic to stay in the bus. This is good as there is chaos outside the Lab with crowds of people, some looking very fragile, and a lot of pushing and shoving going on.

The two guys in the bus are Polish oil riggers, they explain this medical has to be undertaken every year for work permit renewal. They have just arrived from the desert that morning and are leaving that afternoon on 6 week rotational leave. Then one says 'arrgh you wait you see what next' he is grinning widely and clearly amused at what comes next. 30minutes later we pull up in front of a huge building with crowds of people in groups, there are groups of Philippinos, groups of Libyan men, or women, there are the fat, beer bellyed expat oil contractors having a smoke. I stand around in my blazer and Caribbean blonde hair feeling very incongruous, and one of them comes up to me. 'yer waitin' to go in?' he asks, I smile and nod, 'first time? Well yer in fer a rit treat' he grins. A bus drops off a new load of men who join the throng where people are waving money about their heads. I am looking for Taher amongst the heads. 'It'll take a minute is all' says my new friend 'who're yer with?' I tell him my oil company name. 'It's a complete farce, nor even an X-ray in the box, I dinnae even take me cigs an' lighter out' he says pointing at his top pocket which bulges with the telltale line of a packet of cigarettes.

We stand around idly chatting then Taher materializes and bawls henna henna to me so I follow where he pushes to the front of the women's queue, no men here, hands over some money and I am ushered into a room, shoved into a tiny metal box about the size of a coffin and the door slides shut, 10seconds later the door opens and I am ushered back out to join the throngs of people. Its all over. I have not removed my clothes or jewelry and the whole exercise seems a bit pointless to say the least.

Everyone is in a good humour on the bus back. The rain has stopped and the streets steam, the Poles are going back to the single mens quarters to shower and head for the airport and I am getting to see a bit of the city where everyone drives at lightning speed and hopefully there is a rainbow at the end of this road. Yeah right you're not in Kansas now Dorothy.

Office Introductions

The new arrivals employer will be certain to make a first impression, the all important first introduction is designed to ensure that you are in no doubt as to his absolute power, which you will in any case soon come to realise is omnipotent in this male society where women are a submissive class, playing a very secondary role. The introduction may require you to wait an hour or so on an uncomfortable chair in a small room adjacent to his office, where a number of scruffy male engineers, clerks, passersby will sit around staring at you. The all invincible boss will be shouting at any number of people in the office next door. Occasionally the door will open and a harassed looking engineer or clerk will emerge looking pointedly at you sitting neatly against the wall. You are the new girl. You are currently being discussed in minute detail throughout the building.

Eventually the boss will emerge, invariably smaller, fatter, taller, thinner in stature than expected. Depending on his success with getting bankhanders from sub-contractors he may be wearing a clean smart suit, or be unshaven in a 2 day old gallabiya. Your role is simply to do his job, and to do it to a standard that makes him absolutely, unquestionably marvelous in the eyes of his superiors and the whole company – that is, unless something goes wrong in which case it is entirely your fault.

Not that a stirling job performance will make a damn bit of difference to his pay or your pay, and you can forget any concept of 'bonus' Libyans earn a paltry salary, even the Chairman of the company will be earning 5 times less than you, all salaries are decided on a scale by The Leader who's life out in Serte means he has no grasp of people';s needs in and no inkling as to the cost of living in Tripoli, which is why everyone is dependent, quite literally on baksheesh which is a sum automaticlaly calculated into contract prices by overseas contractors. The Libyans, generally cheerful and friendly, are open about it. And once they get to know you and trust you, you will hear the stories of the endless suffering they have endured that justify just about anything.

The Libyans with the best lifestyles have nice jobs in Contracting roles where they come into contact with foreign sub-contractors. They enjoy long summer holidays at Lake Como and educate their kids at the American School in Lausanne, the whole family drive smart new VWs or Toyotas. They are in no way shape or form ambitious, they used their ambition long ago and have arrived at where they are and that's where they will stay till retirement. In the meantime, going to the office means to have as social and as fun time as possible and business means meeting outside the office to exchange account details. If the boss is particularly well liked and successful, he may be assigned a European female as a sort of unspoken bonus, she will do his work and if she's attractive everyone will assume he is doing her.

Looks are Important:

As a new European female to the Tripoli office, If you are reasonably attractive you will be alright. All Libyan men want to flirt. Ideally resulting in sex, but if they can be seen talking to you they are happy with that to start, as it gives them something to boast and lie about. Unfortunately, if you are not particularly attractive you will probably be ignored, starve and die, or fired very early on, or possibly be called to HR and told that the work permits have not come through or been declined perhaps even cancelled by the ministry or some such nonsense.

New arrivals need to get used to being stared at.

There are Libyan women in the oil firm, who are invariably young and almost all wear the hejab and a full length housecoat – although one or two racier ones sport western dress, a ton of makeup and bad hairdye jobs and are the subject of endless rumor. Then there are the religious women who suddenly, just prior to marriage cover up their whole face with a thin black cloth, causing one generally good tempered western educated Libyan to snap who are you? when addressed by the virgin ninja in question. After the wedding the bride then returns to work, emerges chrysallis like and covered in slap. Hamdallilah...

Day 2

he day after processing you will be relocated to your permanent accommodation which the company has arranged in either Stalag I or Stalag II. Both are located more than 15km from your place of work, are surrounded by barbed wire and have strange signs outside the guardposts mysteriously proclaiming: 'if security is compromised there will be hanged'. Hanged if I know what it means. There are also curious tank traps, in the form of strategically placed road blocks, permanently ready to tackle the invading hordes although the brochure does not say the country is at war, perhaps The Leader is afraid of his own tank commanders. There are numerous changes of guards on the gate and some speak english depending on what you/they want that day.

The camp is your final resting place as it were, and will be a big let down after the Corinthia. The standard flat comprises a living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, some have a small balcony or garden. Be very careful of the electrical appliances as nothing is earthed and there have been occasions when the newcomer has been thrown across the room several times before remembering those vital five words Do Not Touch the Plug! Accommodation is selected in an area where other single girls live so you can all keep an eye on each other, and if you miss something there are guards posted outside each apartment to watch, wait and report. Recordings of the noble Quran belt out all day from the speakers attached to the oncamp mosque, and, spaced evenly apart at 10metres distance, just in case you forget where you are, are flagpoles with the all green Libyan flag. At the far end is the sea.

Once you've made your bed and thrown the contents of your suitcases into the massive oldfashioned wardrobe, had a good cry and fiddled with the tv to find that its not working, you may wander down to the beach, under the ever present flapping green flags. This should cheer you up as the sun shines and the cobalt blue of the mediterranean lends a reassuring summer camp feel to the place.

Finding things to do:

On arrival the new recruit is so busy assimiliating into their new environment they have no time to realise that once the groceries have been hunted down and paid for, called 'foraging for food', there isn't actually much else to do. No cinemas, bowling alleys, bars, pubs, lounges, discos, billiard halls, arcades, square dancing, raves, pottery, painting, rambling, flower arranging, sex or book clubs are available in Tripoli. And unfortunately at least one oil company has failed to provide its female employees with membership to the one swimming pool on the camp. Hence, the need for a good dvd player.

Eventually the new girl will meet someone, probably one of the oil contractors, who will excl.. What you don't have a dvd player? And direct her down to the Tuesday market which is a wonderful world full of ripped off chinese merchandise that arrive on leaky old rusting tankers piloted by pirates. Buy the more expensive brand name player, one that you recognise as it will play the Malaysian rip off dvd's that also come in on the same tanker and are scratchy and sometimes a bit garbled, but at just £1 a throw at least provide an hour or so of stop-start entertainment.

A wine kit is also useful as it will ensure you are invited along to expat gatherings. Those strange social events where the mad, watery eyed old lags with jovially wobbling beer guts and that antique accessory, a Rothmans, hanging from a pair of wrinkled old lips, lean against a homemade bar in dated 25yr old fashions guzzling noxious 'Flash' which is the poisonous local moonshine, whilst jawing on about how fantastic the place is, and then, after a little while, how awful the locals are, and 'noon of the Bastads can fookin drive!' After a few hours of concentrated guzzling of this 150° pure alcohol they will pack you into their car and hit the roads so you can see for yourself.

The first week you could find yourself at a darts club where big blokes from Leeds and beyond chuck a few darts around in a smoky den and await the applause of young philippino girls. Any interference with the tiny philippino children results in a sharply directed kick to the shins and an impromptu coughing fit from the unhealthy old heathen with the darts and the foolish ambition.

When not working or foraging for food the new girl goes along to these expat bashes where for the first 3 months she'll find herself answering the same questions over and over, where you from? do you like it here? did you bring a wine kit? If not exactly hanging on her every word, the ancient sozzled expat perks up when he hears 'wine kit', sometimes causing him to salivate messily at the thought of potential mind-numbing alcoholic beverages that will be shared around and have them all yapping like hounds for a few hours, just before slipping into a catatonic stupor whilst nodding along to Rod Stewart. Of course if you are a good looking gal you don't need the wine kit, but roller blades for a fast getaway and a good set of elbows help.

If your employer does not provide a pass to the camp pool then the entire camp population will know you work for Agip and will feel very sorry for you. This is to be expected and nothing to be ashamed of. For some reason Agip are the only oil company who fail to provide their female foreign staff with a pass to use the pool. Never mind. Enough old lags will willingly lend you theirs and if you agree to spend endless hours listening to what a hard time they are having shortly before they go back out on rotation to see their wives, they will lend you their pass again, if you agree to bedroom exercise you may keep the pass indefinitely. Of course some cleverly present the pass and then, manipulate the gift attemptin to make you feel obliged to them. However, one can always take a tip out of the Irish girl's manual and confidently borrow their usual refrain of: why doncha fuck off back tya wife. It Seldom fails to have the desired effect.

There is of course not just the one camp pool. There are two others. One on Skanska camp, which is a 30ft shallow lap pool with a wrinkled liner, surrounded by rusting portacabins or trailers as they are better known and wrinkled old liars. For an annual fee of £200+ one can join in the fun of watching scantily clad middle aged english men and women scamper around in a drunken attempt to provoke sexual fury in the opposite sex and make something happen. What the bundled up Libyans who look down from the surrounding tower blocks think is anyone's guess. The camp is situated directly over some roman ruins dating back to 300ad where no doubt similar bachanalian romps took place. An ancient marble centurion, weathered and faceless after 20centuries of facing the elements and squadrons of clambering children, stands guard over the catacombs which have been partially excavated.
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Re: Surviving in Libya

Post by Kitkat on 8th May 2011, 16:27

Same title ... but a different reason.

More than 400 migrants from Libya had to be rescued by Italian coast guards after their fishing boat hit rocks on the small island of Lampedusa.

TV images of the dramatic night-time rescue showed some migrants jumping or falling into the sea.

Others held on to ropes strung between the boat and the shoreline as Italian coast guards helped them to shore.

It came hours after Pope Benedict urged Roman Catholics to show more tolerance towards migrants from north Africa.

At a Sunday mass for 300,000 people in Venice, he told them not to fear or reject the new arrivals, but to build bridges between peoples and nations, the BBC's David Willey reports
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Re: Surviving in Libya

Post by Kitkat on 29th May 2011, 11:15

I haven't yet got around to adding my story here, but discovered an Expat Blog Forum on the net which has a section for expats in Libya. Some of the most recent posts there are quite disconcerting to read. I am concerned for the friends I left behind there, my expat colleagues that I worked with (British and Italian) some of whom had lived there for many years and made Libya their home, and also worried for the fate of the many Libyan friends and co-workers there whose lives and families have been turned upside down.
Expats there also have been forced to evacuate, leaving behind all their belongings
(including their pets), allowed to bring only one suitcase with them.

These recent posts are from April and May ... (The Regatta compound is where I lived when I was there. It was also locally known as "Friendly Village".)

I heard that oil companies like Shell and Petro-Canada have started moving the belongings of their employees by road via Tunisia. But the Expats who were living in Regatta can not avail this facility as Regatta Security is not allowing any stuff to go outside. I also heard that army has surrounded the Regatta and also have entered in few houses.
I heard that my neighbour's house (French expa) in Regatta was opened.
Yes I also came to know that houses belong to French, Italian and Britian in regatta have been looted and occupied
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Re: Surviving in Libya

Post by Kitkat on 8th June 2011, 19:10

Never believe all you read in the Press - or hear reported in the media.

6th June 2011
Libya: Curious incident of the child 'air raid victim'
By Wyre Davies BBC News, Tripoli

The official position in Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's Libya is that the foreign Press is free to report on what we like.

The reality is very different, and when reporting from the government side we have to work under extremely restrictive conditions.

Even when we are taken out beyond the confines of our luxury hotel complex by government minders to see the aftermath of Nato bombing raids, what we are presented with is impossible to verify and, frankly, sometimes difficult to believe.

On Sunday night we were taken to a Tripoli hospital. There, lying on a bed, was the unconscious form of a little girl.

Hanin, we were told - not even a year old - was the victim of a Nato bombing raid.

As the world's media clamoured to take her picture and hear her story, a woman was ushered to her bedside and within seconds taken away again.

"That was the girl's mother," said one of several government minders in the treatment room.

Another minder was prompting a man introduced to us as the girl's uncle.

"This is what they call the protection of civilians," whispered the government man.
Man who said he was Hanin's uncle, Tripoli, Libya (6 June 2011) The girl's "uncle" later admitted he was a government employee

The same sentence was immediately repeated for the cameras by the uncle.

Ever since we had been at the site of the apparent bombing, two hours earlier, something did not feel quite right.

The bomb crater, near a smallholding on the outskirts of Tripoli, was very small and there was much less collateral damage than from other bombs I have seen in recent weeks.

Dead pigeons and a dead dog lay on the ground but there had been no mention at that point of any civilian casualties.

Our suspicions were confirmed at the end of our hospital visit when, off camera, a member of the hospital staff passed a scrap of paper to the Press.

It was a hand-written note, in English, saying the girl was in fact hurt in a car accident.

The hospital scene, it would appear, was a complete sham.

Ushered to another, unrelated, bomb site late last night, the story unravelled even further.

There, standing at the scene of what the Libyans said was the aftermath of a Nato attack, was the girl's uncle from the hospital.

What was he doing here?

Caught in the spotlight, he acknowledged being a government employee.

Today, at a government complex in Tripoli that has been hit many times in Nato air strikes, our minders were unable to explain the curious incident of the little girl in the hospital - repeatedly ignoring our questions about the contradictions and "mistruths" we had been told.

With almost 10,000 sorties by Nato planes, it is more than probable there have been civilian casualties and collateral damage.

Living next to a military base under attack or being woken in the middle of the night by the sound of bombing must be a terrifying experience.

But the problem for international journalists working under these restrictions, is that it is often difficult to know what is the truth and what is propaganda.
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Re: Surviving in Libya

Post by Kitkat on 12th June 2011, 20:55

the problem for international journalists working under these restrictions, is that it is often difficult to know what is the truth and what is propaganda.

Who really knows what the truth is and whether that "truth" is a selective one that we are meant to hear. Here is another report, apparently "a story CNN won't report". It comes from the Dissident Voice website - but then again, is there an agenda behind this report? From what I can see there are certain contradictions in this report itself.
In an article posted on Tuesday, June 7th, 2011, the writer says:
tonight thousands were on First of September street in support of their revolutionary leader.
In all the time (5.5 years) we have come here we have never heard of oppression by Ghadafi, the people have great respect and love for him. They all wear green and wear photos of him around their necks, believe me the Western news is so far from the truth they are on another planet. We have never seen anybody beaten, harassed, in prison, in fact we have been days and never even seen a policeman unlike our trips to Cairo where armed guards are on every corner, with tanks around Mosques on Fridays. Believe us, before this mess, it was safer in Tripoli than in Houston.

Well, in the year that I was there I saw and experienced with my own eyes and ears many examples of long-term underlying oppression, imposed censorship in various forms, brain-washing by stealth. The same old propoganda being regularly pumped out on selectively censored national TV. Apart from that which I saw for myself, I have spoken with Libyans, young and old, who literally feared for their lives were they to go against the forced oppressions reigned down upon them - the father who took me into his confidence (but swore me to secrecy - even from my fellow expats) and showed me the pre-revolution literature with which he was secretly schooling his children at home - mass-destroyed in 1969 when Gadaffi came to power and banned from every household and place of education, possession alone a hanging offence - (and yes, public hangings were a regular occurrence); the young man too afraid to stay in the office as he wasn't feeling well - when the regular order came during the working day for every single Libyan worker there to drop everything and go to Green Square where their Leader was addressing the people (The Peoples Congress). When I asked him what would happen if he didn't go, all he would say is, I have to do my duty ... if I don't you maybe will not find me here tomorrow ...

This article purports to know "the truth" that is being withheld ... but is it the truth, the whole truth and nothing but ... ? Who knows ...
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Re: Surviving in Libya

Post by Kitkat on 15th June 2011, 11:42

Libya has been allocated tickets to the London 2012 Olympic Games, organisers have confirmed.

The country's National Olympic Committee (NOC) has been given "a few hundred" passes to the event.

A London 2012 spokeswoman said: "The Libyan NOC, not an individual, has been allocated a few hundred tickets which they are responsible for distributing to sports organisations and athletes within their country."

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's son Muhammad al-Gaddafi is head of the country's Olympic committee which will hand out the tickets.

Britain is currently part of Nato military action against Libya.

Around one million of the total 8.8 million tickets available to the London Games were allocated to federations in foreign countries.

The Daily Telegraph reported that Zimbabwe and Burma have also received tickets.

It said that Colonel Gaddafi will not be allowed to travel to the Games because he is under an international travel ban and arrest warrant.

According to the newspaper, the International Olympic Committee said an NOC would only be excluded from ticket allocations if it were "not able to function any more because of government interference".

It quoted a senior government source as saying: "There is consternation about the fact that country teams are entitled to invite their heads of state, meaning that Gaddafi, whom we are desperately trying to bomb into oblivion, could try to disrupt the Games."
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Re: Surviving in Libya

Post by Kitkat on 18th June 2011, 22:16

Just heard 'breaking news' on TV that NATO has made a strike on what they say they thought was a convoy of pro-Gadaffi army vehicles, but it wasn't ... it was a convoy of rebel fighters making their way out of Brega. HOW can they possibly justify such a "mistake" and where is this all going to end... and what the hell is NATO doing there anyway. What's happening in Libya and elsewhere is all just so very horrible. My heart goes out to anyone caught up in these terrible and terrifying conflicts.

WAR - what is it good for? Absolutely NOTHING. (The Temptations)
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Re: Surviving in Libya

Post by Kitkat on 19th June 2011, 22:33

and now this:

From Sky News: Nato Air Strike Kills Civilians In Tripoli
Two deaths have been confirmed following an air strike in the east of the capital, Tripoli, in the early hours of Sunday.

Libyan authorities say nine civilians were killed, including a family of five.

The military alliance said the errant strike may have been due to "a weapons s?ystem failure".

"Nato regrets the loss of innocent civilian lives and takes great care in conducting strikes against a regime determined to use violence against its own citizens," it said in a statement.

And who's paying for all this anguish and destruction?
The BBC said last week that it understood that the cost of military operations in Libya to the British taxpayer had reached £100m.
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Re: Surviving in Libya

Post by Kitkat on 14th July 2011, 08:45

The latest from Libya ...

In this video clip, just towards the end, is a caption of Tripoli - and the approach road into town, the route I used to take every morning into work. The road ran alongside the sea to the right of us; a really beautiful and exhilarating way to start the day. Aaah ... sweet memories ... I can almost feel I'm back there.

(PS: Did you spot the Che Gevara lookalike in the rebel camp?)
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Re: Surviving in Libya

Post by Kitkat on 18th July 2011, 01:34

A father's lament: The true story of Libya under Gadaffi.
This is not journalism, this is not propaganda, this is the reality: (Written by someone who knows - someone who has lived through it)

Just like the father I once spoke with there - words spoken in secrecy, confidence and fear - fear literally for his life and his family; for the mere utterance of these words and possession of the pre-revolution (1969) literature I witnessed (in 1993) was a hanging offence.

A father of one of the members of The Free Generation Movement
put down his thoughts about 42 years of Gaddafi rule. 42 years that this
man has lived through. A victim of oppression, this father of Libyans
waits for a day he once couldnt even dream about....

Read what he has to say HERE
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Re: Surviving in Libya

Post by Kitkat on 20th August 2011, 12:40

Reading about the latest news from Libya and the rebels capture and hold of Gharyan - brings back memories of our adventurous trip up into the Nafusa mountains.

We never made it to the actual town of Gharyan itself which is a pity because I would love to have seen the underground cave houses ( pictured HERE ). There were seven of us in two cars, and we set off early one morning across the desert roads, heading for a place the expats called "The Petrified Forest" (so-called because of the abundance of fossils to be found there, evidence of life that would have been there at one time, perfectly preserved fossils of nature, trees, leaves - little animals, birds etc. It was as though everything had died suddenly in one fell swoop - spooky ... as though something so petrifying had happened which literally frightened them to death) high up in the barren, rocky sands of the Nafusa Mountains. These mountains were not the luscious green and fertile mountains of my childhood back in County Wicklow.
This planned trip of ours was all the more adventurous in that we (as foreigners) were travelling along a route we were not supposed to be. There were many restrictions in Libya at the time, even around the local areas of Tripoli where we lived. By rights, we should not have gone there without a guide (a local), but in truth were we to have asked for such it would have been forbidden anyway ... so off we went. Two of the guys (French) in our little party had been to the Petrified Forest before, so we knew what to expect.
For miles and miles there was nothing to see apart from vast expanse of sand either side of us and just every now and then we would come across some little signs of life. Then, all of a sudden - in the bleak nothingness ahead of us, I saw a horse, an all-white horse! As we drew nearer we could see it was tied with a long rope in a sort of enclosure by the side of the road surrounded by a roughly put-together wall of rocks, and a little further on we could see a hut of sorts. Drawing nearer still we saw that painted on the gable end of this hut, in the brightest of emerald green, was a huge shamrock! I so wanted to stop and take a photo of this unusual scene, but Jean-Pierre who was driving the car I was in didn't want to stop at that stage and didn't want to lose sight of our fellow travellers in the car in front. (No mobile phones at that time). He said I could take my photo on the way back, they would slow down for me at that point (so I could take the picture from the car). Taking photos in Libya was a risky business also at that time and invariably cameras and film would be confiscated or destroyed on leaving the country - at Customs on the border through to Tunisia or one of the many random check stops en route there. (Security/Police/Army - you never really knew which they were).
Anyway, just a few minutes after that scene - on the other side of the road but back a bit from the road, we came across across a huge walled enclosure, with gigantic rolls of barbed wire topping the walls. In the middle was a tower and on top of the tower a massive statue - of a perfectly carved rifle!! Whooooosssh past there ... (mental note to add to my discreet photo call on the way back).
Well, I never had a chance to take any photos on the way back, because high up the mountain in the Petrified Forest where we had been for about an hour, having finished our picnic and about to go searching for fossils to collect and bring back - Yves (the other French guy and driver of the first car) shot out the order - Sandstorm coming! OMG! From the height we could actually see this sand storm far off in the distance, heading our way (just like you would see a tornado), Yves reckoned it was about half an hour away and it was imperative that we get down from the mountain before it hit! We did manage to do so - and found the road just in time ... because within minutes of our setting off on the road back, suddenly the road and everything else became invisible. We were right slap-bang in the middle of this sandstorm. It was frightening! Everything went dark and the sand and all sorts was raining down around us and all the time there was this almighty roaring sound. The windscreen wipers going full swing on the car made no difference. We could see nothing in front, behind or anywhere else but this thick fog of sand which encircled us. Even with full headlights on it was a hard job focusing on the dim backlights of Yves' car on the road in front of us. That was our only comfort and that in itself was slim. I don't know how long this ordeal lasted - we must have been travelling about 10 miles an hour, if even that, but when it eventually died down and we were able to see the road we had obviously passed my anticipated photo-shoot spot.
Boy! Was I glad to get back home that day.

Some other places of interest that I got to visit (this time legitimately!) while I was there:

Leptis Magna

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Re: Surviving in Libya

Post by Kitkat on 22nd August 2011, 13:23

Tripoli is taken!

What happens now?

Link to: Live update on the situation in Tripoli today
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'Tripoli Witness'

Post by Kitkat on 28th August 2011, 00:30

'Tripoli Witness' recounts life in hiding
The neighbour's wall has had a recent makeover, with the new flag - the pre-Gaddafi monarchy flag - painted on it, and a message stating that "Libya is Free".

Six nights ago, that would have been white-washed by the state and many a home would have been raided to track down "the rat" who did it.

I have been reporting for the BBC from Libya for seven long years, but have been "off air" for six, much slower, months.

As Facebook pages calling for a 17 February protest in Libya multiplied by the day, so too did the concern.

There were sleepless nights of fretting over how to report on a protest given the circumstances. Being one of just two foreign correspondents based here and being newly wed to a Libyan from Benghazi made for what seemed like a lethal combination - an arrest and "disappearance" waiting to happen. [Many families from the east and from Misrata were persecuted for regional affiliations.]

In the early hours of 15 February the mobile phone rang at about 02:40. "Private number" flashed on the screen and my heart seemed to jump to my throat. I knew it had started and London was calling.
Fear and isolation

Benghazi's residents phoned with minute-by-minute updates and by 07:00 I was broadcasting off-and-on, as and when the fear of the consequences of doing so consumed me and subsided. I was still the only one reporting the story from inside the country.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

"Life in hiding" is an uncomfortable term to use because I was not physically chased by anyone - just by the demons of paranoia at the simple knowledge of what might happen”

Two days on, it was nightfall again and the panic reached a pinnacle.

My husband reminded me we were not in Benghazi, and that in Tripoli someone would come calling. The exchange was riddled with a sense of fear, isolation and tears of helplessness and frustration on both sides.

"They have a death brigade that specialise in people like you, I can't help you, no one can!" he warned. "They will knock on our door and drag you out in front of me and execute you! You have no idea what they are capable of. What will I do?! Tell me!"

The next day my mobile number was blocked.

I stopped broadcasting, got a new number and waited. On 20 February our neighbour, a man from Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte who worked at the now wrecked Bab al-Aziziya compound, crossed paths with my husband in the building's stairway.

"So your people aren't going to keep quiet?" he asked, nonchalantly. We packed a small case of belongings and all my broadcasting equipment and left to stay at my in-laws' home.

That was the night Tripoli's unarmed residents staged their own massive, peaceful protests.

It was also the night that the sounds of heavy artillery and gunfire that met them ripped across the city.

Mental lifeline

I was broadcasting again for TV and radio as it happened - that is until Col Gaddafi's son appeared on state TV some two hours later as a re-invented character - a hardened, threatening figure who took everyone by surprise. Tripoli soon went quiet.
Green flags are lowered and rebel flags raised in Tripoli The pre-Gaddafi monarchy's flag has been hoisted across Libya

That was the last night I broadcast out of Tripoli - up until six days ago that is - due to a combined concern from senior editors in London and myself over safety.

When I was called to attend a news conference the day after the first of protests in Tripoli, I informed authorities here that I was taking a career break for personal reasons.

"Life in hiding" is an uncomfortable term to use because I was not physically chased by anyone; just by the demons of paranoia at the simple knowledge of what might happen.

It is perhaps an inevitable consequence of living in a dictatorship for many years.

There is no doubt in my mind that as a foreigner, I would have - at best - been thrown out of the country if I had continued reporting on that fateful night and the days and months that followed.

That, and the possibility that my husband and his family would have been held responsible for my actions and could have been dealt with in unimaginable ways.

That is how "Tripoli witness" was born. A man - to quell any suspicion of identity - who could not be named. For three months, these entries served as a mental and physical lifeline.

But they had to come to an end.

As the months went by, gathering information became increasingly difficult. Many friends and sources fled the country - some after fears of imprisonment and torture grew for a variety of reasons.

What was life like for Tripoli Witness, backed with incredible moral support from editors in London, over the last six months?

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'Exposure' - New series on ITV

Post by Kitkat on 26th September 2011, 21:13

Exposure -
ITV1 at 10.30pm tonight.

Deposed Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi sent more than £1m in cash to
dissident republicans so they could buy weapons before he was forced into
hiding, it has been claimed.

Gaddafi had resumed his funding of republican terrorists shortly before he was
ousted from power, sparking alarm among the security forces, according to a
documentary to be screened tonight.

The programme claims that a Libyan government courier flew into London earlier
this year with $2m (£1.3m) for a businessman, believed to be a supporter of
a dissident republican cell.

Exposure, a new ITV documentary series, claims that Gaddafi wanted to exploit
the growing unrest in Northern Ireland in a bid to attack Britain for
supporting the overthrowing of his regime.

He did the same during the height of the Troubles, financially supporting the
IRA’s campaign.

The programme’s producers were allegedly told by an MI6 source that in June
the Libyan courier flew into London carrying a suitcase containing banknotes
wrapped in plastic.
It was around this time that Gaddafi’s forces were being targeted by regular
Nato bombing raids.

After arriving in London, the courier allegedly hid out in a property owned by
the Gaddafi family in the upmarket Knightsbridge area.
An MI6 official told the programme: “Security forces fear that the dissidents
are growing and gaining support and that new cash from Gaddafi would help
them restock with more weapons.”
The security situation in Northern Ireland remains “severe” as dissident
republicans continue their terror campaign. It is no secret that the groups
have been upping their fundraising efforts across Europe and the Atlantic.
Tonight’s documentary examines Gaddafi's support for republican terrorists and
investigates the danger of his legacy.

Gaddafi sent shiploads of weapons to the IRA in the 1970s. The first shipments
were delivered around 1972 following visits by former IRA chief, the late
Joe Cahill.

Semtex explosive provided by Gaddafi enabled the IRA to construct small but
deadly bombs which ripped through vehicles and shredded intended targets, or
were used to trigger large quantities of fertiliser-based explosives.
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Re: Surviving in Libya

Post by Kitkat on 27th September 2011, 19:07

Did anyone watch the programme last night?
Most of it I knew about ... have seen with my own eyes an IRA training camp in the Libyan desert ... and once my friend and work colleague during our lunch-hour had to plough a path through and climb over crates of arms (hundreds of 'em) stacked up at the entrance to one of our favourite lunch-time haunts in Tripoli, a hotel down in the port where the air-conditioning was cool and inviting in the hot summer days.

Bit of a surprise to hear (on the programme) though that deals are still going on even as recent as this year (since the taking of Tripoli and the disappearance of Gaddafi) and that there are talks of fresh trouble stirring in Northern Ireland (with help from those quarters).
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Re: Surviving in Libya

Post by Kitkat on 27th September 2011, 23:11

This is what I'm talking about:

Published on Tuesday 27 September 2011
Last night ITV documentary series Exposure claimed that a Libyan government courier flew into London earlier this year with £1.3m while on route to the Irish Republic.

The cash was said to be on its way to a businessman and supporter of one dissident republican group. Gaddafi sent ship loads of weapons to the IRA in the 1970s and last night’s programme claimed he resumed his contact with Irish dissident republicans in revenge for Britain’s role in overthrowing his regime this summer.

An MI6 source told ITV that when Gaddafi’s forces were being bombed by Nato in June and half of his country was overrun by rebels, a Libyan courier flew into London with the £1.3m in US dollars. He allegedly stayed in a property owned by Gaddafi situated behind Harrods.

An MI6 official told ITV: “Security forces fear that the dissidents are growing and gaining support – and that new cash from Gaddafi would help them restock with more weapons.”

I'm trying to find a playback of the programme to see if I can post it up here.
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Re: Surviving in Libya

Post by Kitkat on 27th September 2011, 23:18

Found it!

Exposure (ITV)
Monday, September 26, 2011
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Latest from Regatta

Post by Kitkat on 1st October 2011, 09:59

Regatta was my home for the year that I worked in Tripoli.
It has now been turned into a military compound for the rebels (freedom fighters) of Libya.
Some recent posts from the EXPAT BLOG forum :

30 September 2011

I arranged through one of our employees to gain entry to Regatta. We were escorted inside by a military jeep.

The entire compound has been converted into a sort of Garrison town with fighters from Zintan and Misrata living there. Some families are also residing inside.

We asked to be allowed to see the inside of some of our company apartments, they were all occupied with 4-5 fighters per apartment, just kids really 15-20 year olds mostly.

Some apartments still had the original furniture but most of the TV's, DVD's etc were all gone.

We were not allowed to stay too long and visit apartments / houses at leisure but it was quite obvious that most of them were occupied.

There was no sign of any foreign plated vehicles.

There are rumours that the displaced people from Misrata will be accomodated in Regatta permanently.
30 September 2011

Farewell to our personal belongings there! Until the very last moment i hoped that our apartment is intact.
Thanks for the info. Keep us updated.
30 September 2011

Argh!!! So it's true a libyan co-worker had told me that Regata will be a military compound for the freedom fighters. Well, I guess we will not be seeing any of our company guesthouses there.
30 September 2011

FFs are currently garrisoned there but they will leave as soon as the fronts are won. I have been there, the security is strict but they dont intimidate you. They are friendly and sensible unlike the "kataibs"
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Re: Surviving in Libya

Post by Kitkat on 2nd October 2011, 17:14

Streams of civilians are fleeing the besieged Libyan city of Sirte, ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi's birthplace.

Hundreds of residents, in vehicles packed with belongings, are queuing at checkpoints leading out of the city.

Transitional authority forces say they are observing a truce to encourage the remaining civilians to get out, before launching a final assault.

Meanwhile, an International Red Cross team has been into Sirte and says there is an urgent need for medical aid.

Sirte is one of two major cities still holding out against the National Transitional Council (NTC) forces.

The whereabouts of Col Gaddafi remain unknown.

Scores of cars, buses and trucks piled high with household goods were lined up at NTC checkpoints on the outskirts of Sirte on Sunday.

The fleeing residents said the situation in the city had deteriorated to such an extent that there was little food and no water or electricity.

The transitional authority forces have moved two fuel tankers to a rest stop outside the town.

Long lines of cars are queuing there for a ration of petrol that will get them as far as the city of Misrata.

They appeared stressed and very nervous. As residents of Muammar Gaddafi's home town they are treated with some suspicion and their cars are searched thoroughly at checkpoints.

The few who would talk spoke of the misery that forced them to leave Sirte, of frequent bombardments and increasingly unsanitary living conditions.

"We couldn't leave our homes because of the shelling; we had to leave the city," Ahmed Hussein, travelling with his wife, mother-in-law and two children, told Associated Press news agency.

Another man, Ali, said he and his family were leaving because "we are caught between Nato bombings and shelling by rebels".

"Nato, in particular, is bombing at random and is often hitting civilian buildings," he told the AFP news agency.

The Geneva-based ICRC says nearly 10,000 people have now left Sirte, with at least a third setting up camp in desert areas just a few kilometres from the city not wishing to travel too far from their homes.

It says that in Sirte itself, people are dying in the main hospital because of a shortage of oxygen and fuel.

An ICRC team was given security clearance from both sides to cross checkpoints and visit the city's Ibn Sima hospital on Saturday.

"The hospital is facing a huge influx of patients, medical supplies are running out and there is a desperate need for oxygen. On top of that, the water reservoir has been damaged," the ICRC said in a statement.

The team was able to pass through the front lines and deliver medical equipment.

"What we have delivered is war wounded kits, I mean, basically this is medical equipment in order to be able to carry out operations for war wounded, about 200 war wounded patients," spokeswoman Soaade Messoudi told the BBC.

However, the team could not visit wounded people on the wards as the hospital came under fire.

"Several rockets landed within the hospital buildings while we were there," the leader of the ICRC team, Hichem Khadhraoui, told AFP.

"We saw a lot of indiscriminate fire. I don't know where it was coming from," Mr Khadhraoui said.

Gaddafi loyalists have been putting up stiff resistance in Sirte since NTC troops began their assault several weeks ago.

On Friday, the NTC troops captured the airport. Forces from the east and west of the country are moving against the city and are trying to launch co-ordinated attacks against the Gaddafi loyalists in the city centre.

Only when they have taken it will they consider Libya to be fully under their control, says the BBC's Jonathan Head on the outskirts of the city.

And then what ?? ..... the big question.
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Re: Surviving in Libya

Post by Kitkat on 9th October 2011, 11:27

(My bold)

"This country has been built around one man. If he is over, Libya will be over," said a resident who gave his name as al-Fatouri, standing outside his home on the outskirts of Sirte.

"Gaddafi is like a picture frame. When part of the frame is hit, the whole picture will be destroyed, Libya will be destroyed," he said.

Sirte is the sternest test yet of the ability of the interim government, the National Transitional Council (NTC), to win over Gaddafi's tribe and prevent it from mounting an Iraq-style insurgency that would destabilise Libya and the region.

While most cities captured by NTC forces have rejoiced, or at least given that impression, Sirte is different because it is home to members of Gaddafi's tribe who genuinely back him.

"Let them look for Muammar, but do not kill 50,000 people to change the regime," said Fatouri. "It is not worth it that thousands die in Sirte for Muammar. This is what saddens us."

"NATO has brought destruction, and the revolution has brought destruction," he said.

As he spoke, bystanders began shouting at him that such talk would just spread "chaos and havoc". Ali retorted that they were not telling the truth and walked away in dismay.

Another angry resident shared Ali's view.

"What did America and NATO bring to us? Did they bring apricots?" he demanded. "No, they brought us the shelling and the strikes. They terrorised our kids."
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Post by Kitkat on 20th October 2011, 13:28

BREAKING NEWS! .... Gaddafi captured! Shot in both legs? Someone says he's dead ... someone else says captured and held in Misratha ... Reports still coming in ...
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Re: Surviving in Libya

Post by Umberto Cocopop on 20th October 2011, 14:27

Reports are coming in that he's dead but they're still unconfirmed.

I wonder if it's one of his doubles?
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Re: Surviving in Libya

Post by Kitkat on 20th October 2011, 14:54

There's a photo taken on a mobile phone ... bit bloody and blurry, but you can't double on that mouth ... it's him for sure, but his eyes are open.
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Re: Surviving in Libya

Post by Umberto Cocopop on 20th October 2011, 15:10

I've seen the photo but you can't tell whether he's dead or alive in it.

It will probably be better for the country if he's dead.
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Re: Surviving in Libya

Post by Kitkat on 20th October 2011, 22:47

@Umberto Cocopop wrote:It will probably be better for the country if he's dead.

It is probably better for a lot of people that he's dead Neutral (now confirmed). A trial would have revealed much inter-governmental dealing and scheming ...

From The Palestinian Chronicle

By Jeremy Salt – Ankara

A legend is being created that is going to haunt the people who have been propelled into power in Tripoli. In Sirte a handful of men have set an example of bravery in the face of impossible odds that will eventually find its place in Arab history. Weeks of missile and bomb attacks have reduced the centre of the city to ruins and killed an unknown number of civilians. The photos coming out of the city show Beirut-style devastation. The fighters defending the city would seem to be doomed. They have their backs to the sea and are surrounded on three sides. We don't know who they are or how many of them there are. Some might be the remnants of the Libyan army and others civilians who have taken up arms to defend their city. We don't know why they are fighting. We are told that they are just fighting for their lives. We are told that they are mercenaries, but mercenaries put down their arms when the money runs out. We are told that they are 'Gaddafi loyalists'. That discredits them immediately. Noone really knows what they are fighting for, but their country has to be a possibility for at least some of them.

Why was this war launched? The Gaddafi who has now been dislodged is the same old Gaddafi who arrived in Rome a couple of years ago with photos of Umar al Mukhtar pinned to his tunic as he stepped off the plane. He is the same Gaddafi who was embraced in Paris by Sarkozy and, according to Saif al Islam, gave generously to Sarkozy's election campaign. He is the same Gaddafi who was embraced by the ever-smiling Tony Blair in Tripoli. He was the same Gaddafi with whom Shell was very happy to do business. Between those occasions and now he didn't change. Years ago it was the 'stray dogs' – Libyan dissidents – he wanted to hunt down. This year it was the 'greasy rats' he vowed to pursue street to street – zenga zenga – and house to house. This was what gave the US, Britain and France their justification for taking military action. This was not supposed to be about regime change, but that is how it ended and if it was not planned from the start it was inevitable once these three powers intervened.

Whatever Libyans thought of Muammar Gaddafi, there were no signs that anything like the majority supported the uprising against him. As Gaddafi himself asked on October 6: 'The NTC, who gave them legitimacy? How did they obtain legitimacy? Did the Libyan people elect them? Did the Libyan people appoint them? And if only the power of NATO bombs and fleets grants legitimacy, then let all rulers in the Third World beware, for the same fate awaits you. To those who recognize this council as legitimate, beware. There will be transitional councils created everywhere and imposed upon you and one by one you shall fall'.

This was not a popular revolution or a war of liberation. This was not Egypt or Tunisia, where it was the people who overthrew the government. This was a war of conquest by Britain, France and the US, coordinating their efforts with armed groups on the ground. These three powers turned an uprising into a civil war, and then ensured victory for one side through the massive use of aerial fire power. The soldiers on the ground – the 'Gaddafi loyalists' – were as defenseless from the missiles being rained down on them as civilians in plain clothes. By themselves the 'rebels' would have been quickly scattered.

With the attack building up and the outcome all but certain, senior Libyan government ministers began to defect. The common metaphor is rats jumping from a sinking ship. Musa Kusa flew to London and told British intelligence everything he knew, which must have been quite a bit, because whatever crimes Gaddafi committed over the past four decades, Musa Kusa was in them up to his neck. Mustafa Abd ul Jalil was the Minister for Justice in the old regime. He also got out just in time. Deserting Gaddai, he then agreed to head an interim governing council set up in collaboration with the attacking foreign powers. People who do this kind of thing are usually called traitors. In the Second World War Marshal Petain collaborated with the Nazis and would have been executed afterwards but for his advanced age and his distinguished war record in 1914-18. William Joyce ('Lord Haw Haw') was executed just for broadcasting Nazi propaganda against his own country, Britain. Vidkun Quisling acted as the regent for the Nazis in occupied Norway and was executed after the war for treason. The foreign powers with whom Mustafa Abdul Jalil has collaborated have attacked his country and killed thousands of his fellow countrymen, women and children. Unless the word has lost its meaning, that makes him a traitor, too.

With NATO planes clearing the path ahead all the way to Tripoli and then to Sirte, the end result was inevitable. Without air cover and without ground defence against aerial attack the Libyan army – the 'Gaddafi loyalists' – had no chance. There are numerous parallels in the long history of western attacks on Muslim countries. In 1882 a British fleet bombarded Alexandria and then blamed arsonists and brigands for the massive destruction they had caused. Troops were landed to restore the order which had just been destroyed. Egyptians tried to defend their country but against the firepower, training and and organization of a modern European army, they had no chance. In 1898 about 60,000 followers of the Sudanese khalifa, the successor to the mahdi, stormed across a plain outside Omdurman towards the British battle lines. It was their country and they fought for it with enormous bravery but against Maxim guns, lined up in a row on the battlefield, they also had no chance. There were exceptions to the rule. In the early 1880s the Sudanese destroyed the Hicks expeditionary army, but that was before the invention of the Maxim gun. In 1896 an Ethiopian army all but wiped out an Italian army in the battle of Adowa. Nearly four decades an Italian army invaded Ethiopia again, suffering severe battlefield defeats before superior weaponry and the use of mustard gas gave them victory. Driven into exile, the emperor Haile Selassie told the League of Nations 'It was us today. It will be you tomorrow'. Indeed it was.

In 1911 the Italians invaded Libya but failed to penetrate the interior because of the resistance of the Sanusi tribes and the small Ottoman force sent to do what it could, Libya then being part of the Ottoman Empire. In the 1920s Italy embarked on a full-scale program to tame the Libyans. Thousands were moved from Jabal al Akhdar in Cyrenaica and penned up in concentration camps. The resistance was led by a Quran teacher, Umar al Mukhtar, who was captured in 1931 and hanged in the Suluq concentration camp. Now, getting on for a century later, Libyans themselves have opened the door to another foreign attack on their country.

Without the 'humanitarian' intervention of the US, Britain and France, Gaddafi would be still be in Tripoli but thousands people now dead would be alive. The buildings and the infrastructure that has been destroyed would still be standing. Libya would still be the most advanced country in Africa, instead of a country that has been battered by war and will now need repairing in accordance with the prescriptions of 'disaster capitalism'.

As an investment this war was not even a risky one. Libya is a large country with a relatively small population and almost no capacity to defend itself against outside attack by powerful states. It is rich in oil, foreign reserves and gold bullion. Would the attack even have been considered if it were poor? Its financial situation was far healthier than that of the countries attacking it. The notion that this was done for altruistic reasons has to be scotched immediately. Whatever the humanitarian packaging, ulterior motives lie behind every war launched by the western powers in the Middle East and North Africa over the last two centuries. The war on Libya is no exception. At a time of extreme financial crisis, the attacking countries are not sinking billions of dollars into the war without expecting a generous strategic and commercial return on their investment.

In all the weeks Sirte was being devastated from the air, where was the UN Security Council, which opened the door to the attack on Libya with its 'no fly' zone resolution but has taken no responsibility for the consequences? Where was the EU, where was the OIC, where was the Arab League, where was the outrage in the media, where were all the governments upholding a 'responsibility to protect' which had turned into a license to kill? They were all mute. Not a word of concern or even of condemnation passed their lips. They only wanted to talk about Syria. The pictures of destruction now coming out of Sirte give some indication of what Britain, France and the US have done. How many civilians have been killed we don't know, but the estimates being made for the country as a whole suggest a death toll running into the tens of thousands. Such is the cost of 'humanitarian intervention'. Such is the price the Libyans have had to pay for their own 'liberation'. They did not want this war. It was the governments of the US, Britain and France who wanted this war, for reasons of their own, and used the rising in Benghazi as their leverage.

A country which was stable is now in turmoil. The news agencies refer to the government in Tripoli but there is no government in Tripoli. The 'National Transitional Council' has still not got its act together. Uncertainty, turbulence and possibly a spreading war of resistance lie ahead, as the implications of what has been done sink in. History is written by the victors, so we are told, but if this western triumph over yet another Middle Eastern madman cannot be consolidated, the day may yet come when Libyans will be building statues to commemorate the bravery of the small band of men who fought to the last for Sirte.
- Jeremy Salt teaches the history of the modern Middle East in the Department of Political science, Bilkent University, Ankara. He previously taught at Bogazici (Bosporus) University in Istanbul and the University of Melbourne. His publications include The Unmaking of the Middle East: A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands (University of California Press, 2008). He contributed this article to

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