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Nobody talks about Libya anymore

July 24, 2014

Mustafa Fetouri

Despite increasing lawlessness and a rash of kidnappings in Libya nobody seems to be interested in the case and the global media is completely silent.

The kidnappings and the latest fighting around Tripoli’s main international airport are just another example of the strength of the country’s rogue militias and the weakness of its central caretaker government. They also indicate the lawlessness of the capital and the rest of Libya, where kidnapping for ransom has been the norm since October 2011. 

Some 2 million people — almost the entire population of the capital — are hostage to the warring militias. This has been the case since Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in October 2011.

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In March 2012, a friend of mine, a university professor, was snatched from his car in broad daylight. He spent nearly 19 months in an illegal jail. Luckily, he was freed after the government of Ali Zeidan managed to take control of that jail in Tajura, east of Tripoli. In April of this year, another friend, also a university professor, was kidnapped in a predawn raid on his family home. Along with his two brothers, he was taken at gunpoint to a nearby jail, where they spent four months before being released after paying a ransom.

Two of my relatives have been kidnapped in broad daylight: Uday, 18, is the son of my brother-in-law, while Sufyan, 19, is the son of my sister-in-law. The young men disappeared July 3 while traveling together from Janzour to Gargarish, west of Tripoli, where their ailing grandmother lives. Sufyan had come from Cairo to visit her and see his friends before returning to Egypt, where he has lived with his mother since October 2011.

On July 6, the family got the first phone call from the kidnappers, asking for a ransom of 2 million Libyan dinars (1.6 million US$). They received another call on July 12 with a new ransom demand of half a million dinars (406,000 US$).

The two young men were visiting a friend in Janzour when they were stopped, and then disappeared without a trace. The mother in Cairo received the most recent phone call on July 20, in which she heard her son crying while being tortured.

They are two peaceful young men who happened to be in Libya, where peace is long gone and security is an aspiration that has eluded the nation since NATO and Qatar-backed rebels toppled Muammar Gaddafi in what became known as the February 17 Revolution. This revolution has brought Libya destruction and death over the last four years.

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These cases are only a representation of the whole of Libya, where lawlessness prevails across the country and criminal gangs are free to do whatever they like. Hundreds of Libyans in Tripoli have been under siege, terrorized daily over the last four weeks because Islamist-backed Misrata militias are trying to take over the national airport south of the capital, which is controlled by the Zintan militia and its allies. So far, dozens of civilians have been killed, particularly in Qasr bin Ghashir, where the airport is located.

Libya’s weak caretaker transitional government could do nothing but issue a statement on July 13 calling on both sides to stop fighting. It did not even dare to call the militias by their names for fear of revenge.

Last week, Libya’s foreign minister appealed to the UN Security Council for help, but nothing has happened so far.

It is important to remember that this is the same international body that adopted its infamous Resolution 1973 in March 2011 to “protect” Libyan civilians against what it called the brutality of the former regime. The resolution was adopted under Chapter VII of the UN charter, which meant it automatically authorized member states to use military force in order to implement it. However, it is unlikely that now any country will rush to arms like in 2011, when the NATO allies hurried to enforce international law and protect the Libyans. Alas, it was all a false cry to achieve the objective of ending Gaddafi’s reign while leaving Libya in the mess it is in now.

The difference between now and then is that Gaddafi is gone while the “freedom fighters,” installed by NATO and Qatar, turned out to be hoodlums and bandies with no interest in freedom as a noble cause. They are no better than gangs serving their own criminal agendas, and the same has to be said about the foreign countries that armed and trained them and let them loose in the country.

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The UN Support Mission in Libya could also do nothing more than pull out its staff and relocate them to safety in neighboring Tunisia, leaving Libyans to their own fate.

The world has completely forgotten the plight of thousands of Libyan civilians languishing in illegal jails, particularly in Misrata, for the crime of belonging to another tribe or not supporting what has falsely become known as the February 17 Revolution. Sufyan and Uday are quickly becoming numbers among them. We are witnessing another episode of destruction and evil brought upon a nation that garners little international interest, as the world is occupied with other crises, such as the war waged against Gaza’s entire population by the brutal Israeli army.

NATO, Qatar, and other countries that supported the rebellion in 2011 are still responsible for Libya and the fate of its civilians, as per the same UN resolution they claim to respect and were willing to enforce in 2011.

While my family continues to pray for the safety of its sons, it is only yet another dark reminder of what became of the once stable Libya.

Update:

The US embassy has been evacuated amidst fierce fighting at the Tripoli airport and in other areas of the city between members of the LROR (Islamist Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room) and the Zintan militia. Turkey has also evacuated 700 members of its embassy.

Benghazi is wracked by heavy fighting between General Khalifa Haftar’s forces and Islamist groups.

 

 

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