First-Hand Accounts of the Humanitarian Situation in Free Tripoli

First-Hand Accounts of the Humanitarian Situation in Free Tripoli

 | 01 September 2011 | 


These accounts were written by Houda Mzioudet,a Tunisia Live reporter and fixer sent to help cover the events in Libya.


August 24th:  Two Swedish journalists and myself set off from Djerba to the Wazen-Dhehiba border crossing in the late afternoon.  Along the way, we encountered several Libyan families escaping NATO’s shelling of Tripoli, some Libyans seeking medication, and others visiting families in Tunisia. We also saw burnt tanks and other traces of fighting en route to Zintan, in the towns of Wazen, Nalut, Jadu, Kabaw. We stopped at Kabaw for the Iftar meal at 7 pm and talked to women there.  One was from Tripoli, escaping the Abu Slim neighborhood and seeking refuge in Tunisia with her children.  She told us that she had seen fights between rebels and Gadhafi loyalists, snipers killing passers-by, and loyalists cutting off water supplies.  Another woman, a psychology teacher, had just returned to her hometown of Rehibet from Nabel, in northeast Tunisia.


We reached the Az-Zintan military council compound around 10 pm, registered, and received authorization to travel to Tripoli.  We were escorted by rebels, as the road between Az-Zintan and Tripoli was not safe enough for foreign journalists to travel alone.  We spent the night at the press center residence for foreign journalists.


August 25th: We set off to Tripoli with at 10 am.  On our way to Bir Ghanam, we were escorted by the rebels at Yefren going to the battlefront near Tripoli Airport.  We finally arrived to our hotel in Tripoli, the Raddisson Hotel, at around 2:30 pm. Later in the evening, Mahmoud Chammam, NTC’s (the National Transitional Council) Media Minister gave an interview to foreign journalists about the Council’s expected press conference to be held later that night to announce the transfer of the NTC from Benghazi to Tripoli, however he gave no further details about the proposed move.  At the press conference itself, Ali Tarhouni, Minister of Oil and Finances, officially announced the transfer of the Council.


August 26th: We set off to Ghergharesh, a neighborhood west of Tripoli, to meet with locals lining up for bread at the bakeries.  There, we talked to two Egyptians, a Libyan, and a Moroccan woman who told us about the difficulties they encountered in getting food during the battle of Tripoli and how Gaddafi loyalists had cut off water supplies.  A local resident also told us about the committees that had been set up to protect neighborhoods from looting and how locals were forced to get water from the wells of local mosques.


We next visited the Bab Al Aziziya compound that witnessed fierce NATO strikes a couple of days ago.  Foreign journalists were already there watching rebels firing into the air in celebration of the victory over Gadhafi loyalists.


August 27th: We moved on to Firnej, south of Tripoli, where we visited a Libyan family whose members actively participated in the revolution.  They shared with us accounts of resisting pro-Gadhafi propaganda at work and school, making Libyan flags, and writing anti-Gadhafi poems, drawing on inspiration from the Tunisian revolution. We accompanied the eldest sons to Tripoli Medical Center where volunteer doctors showed us the morgue filled with the unidentified bodies of mercenaries and civilians. There, we spent some time talking to interns and other volunteer doctors at the hospital about the humanitarian situation since the beginning of the revolution, difficulties in saving lives while mercenaries stormed in and killed wounded people, NATO strikes, and the volunteers’ stoicism and courage in carrying out their duties.  Throughout the discussions, we could not help but be struck by the Libyans’ solidarity and stubbornness in ousting Gaddafi.


Finally, we left Tripoli on August 28th and met with an Az-Zintan businessman-turned-rebel commander on the way home.  We had a nice chat with him about the history of Az-Zintan’s struggle and about his future ambitions.

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