Nafissa Assed has been writing for Libya Herald almost since it started. She also writes numerous blogs and on-line publications.
She . . .[restrict]knows about serving Libya: her grandfather, Mohamed Othman Assed, was prime minister from 1960 to 1963. She knows too about the cost of doing so: her father was murdered in 1990 on Qaddafi’s orders. Standing up for Libya is almost in the blood. She returned to Libya in 2010, determined to do something for her country. When the Libyan revolution started, she wrote anonymously from Tripoli on what was going on inside the country.
She writes again about events this week when ended up affecting her personally and left her shocked about exactly who is protecting Libya.
When I’m on my way home to Ben Ashour, I always pass by the road of the former Shoukara Clinic. It is about 500 meters from my home and approximately 50 meters from the office of Prime Minister Abdurrahim Al-Kib. In fact, the road leads directly to the street where the prime minister’s office is situated.
In that road last Tuesday, at 5pm, there was a huge crowd; around 50 armed men, protecting the PM’s office – although they did not look like official armed forces; they were wearing civilian clothes and open shoes. At the time I wanted to take some pictures from the window of my taxi to attach them to an article that I was intending to write about the deadly raid on the PM’s office earlier that day. I did.
All of a sudden, the driver and I heard a loud shout: “Stop that taxi now!”
Ali, the driver, stopped immediately. As he did, some 15 armed men rushed towards us. One of them immediately jumped onto the roof of the taxi, another opened my door, holding his Kalashnikov and angrily ordered me to delete all the pictures I had just taken.
In fact, they had attacked us so quickly that I could not take more than one fuzzy picture. Before I replied and said, “Ok I will delete the only picture I took”, another even more angry colleague of his, grabbed my mobile phone from out of my hand and shouted at me: “Now go. No phone!”
Although they did not even give me the chance to speak or explain my purpose in taking the picture, I asked them, politely, to give me back my mobile phone and I promised I would delete any picture in front of them before I left, (even if it is not a crime to take pictures in public streets of people whose job is supposedly to protect not only Al-Kib but civilians as well, instead of treating them abusively for no apparent reason).
I kept trying to convince them that I was a reporter and the purpose behind my pictures was to show how normal civilians were making great efforts to protect the area from any bloodshed.
One of them shouted and told me: “Why are you taking pictures? Do you want Qaddafi supporters to see my picture and come after me? Are you one of them?”
I was more shocked by his extreme cowardice than his rudeness and aggressive behavior towards me.
I replied gently: “I am a journalist and I am one of the biggest supporters of the 17 February Revolution. I always take pictures of Libyans and places anytime and everywhere I go. I did it before Qaddafi was gone and since — and no one had ever talked to me about it or bothered me until today. I am not taking pictures of you; I am taking pictures to write about the incident in the PM’s office. I am practicing my freedom of speech and if you are afraid that your face may appear in the picture and be published with my article, then let me tell you that when I write my articles I use my real name, my picture and along with it a small biography!”
I did my best to get my phone back. They also harassed the driver and some of them tried to take his car keys by force, which were in the starter, but the driver resisted and fought them for trying to damage his car.
After talking and explaining to them repeatedly my intentions and purpose behind taking the pictures — in the most gentle way — so I could get back my mobile phone and we could go home, one of them finally came, apologised, and gave me back my mobile phone.
He told me: “Sorry, some of us are short-tempered and get angry easily even over petty issues and we sometimes act before thinking.”
He also said: “Here is your phone, you can take as many pictures as you want and do not delete any picture you took.” However, the people who were extremely rude and aggressive stood at a distance watching us menacingly and refused to apologise.
Earlier this morning, I was told that the brigade whose members had acted so aggressively against me was called Katibat Al-Essnad, based in the Salaheddin area.
I do not see these people as thuwar, they were just thugs. They scared the hell out me with their vicious actions, rude talking and aggressiveness. They were ready to do anything if I refused to give them my phone or the driver refused to stop the car.
They showed me that taking pictures in public places is apparently now a big crime — but firing anywhere, anytime and for no crucial cause or reason is totally fine and no risk in it. It does not make sense at all!
Sadly, so many of the real thuwar, the Libyan Freedom Fighters were martyred. Others turned in their guns and returned to their normal life once the war against Qaddafi was over.
I am convinced that most of these militias who are acting like thugs did not even fight on the front line. They are nothing but gangsters carrying weapons and scaring civilians whenever they get the chance to do so. Many of them want money and they are ready to do anything for it. Others think they are already in charge of everything in Libya and can do whatever they want as long as they are armed — acting violently under the pretense of protecting the PM’s office or the NTC.
As a Libyan citizen and freedom fighter, I still believe these upsetting and chaotic actions will go away so long as we insist on democracy; so long as every patriotic Libyan stays focused and keeps doing the good work and making efforts through spreading awareness as much as they can. The blood of our martyrs is like an oath that we have to stick to. We must honour their sacrifice by building a nation they would be proud of.
Speaking of martyrs, yesterday a 20-year-old hero, Ali Al-Gaoud, was shot in the head in front of the entrance hall of the PM’s office in Tripoli while he was guarding the main gate. Ali was one of the revolutionaries who joined the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade. He fought on more than three front-lines, among them: Ajdabiya, the Nafusa Mountains, and Bab Al-Aziziya. Ali, the Libyan freedom fighter, was killed by Libyans because of money, because of 2,400 Libyan dinars, the payment that those who killed him wanted .
I am utterly disgusted at how easy it has become for many Libyans to kill each other — for very discreditable reasons.
Last but not least, if the interim government and the NTC are too weak to act and set limits on the behavior of armed thugs, then Libya would be better off without such incompetent leadership. They should resign and give the chance to other Libyans who could deal effectively with such issues.
I am reminded of the words of the American social theorist and philosopher Thomas Sowell: “If you are not prepared to use force to defend civilisation, then be prepared to accept barbarism.” The NTC and interim government should take them to heart. [/restrict]