Friday, November 25, 2011

Bab Al Azizia: dark memories, unilateral decisions and dirty politics

The Bab Al Azizia barracks have been there for as long as I can remember, in recent years the outside walls were repainted and the surrounding streets restyled  but it still looked formidable and forbidding.

It has been so much a fact of life that we tried to tune it out.  However, whenever we passed nearby I could never help being nervous that my car would breakdown  and I would be shot and I believe most of us even avoided looking its way, or at other cars...

This heavy omnipresence was stifling and only in early November did I actually venture inside the compound.  I saw people visiting from literally all over Libya, people who had made the  trip especially to shake away those bygone ghosts and see for themselves that the most despised place for them was no longer a threat. I still cannot believe that the place that symbolized more than anything else the Gaddafi regime no longer existed. The walls and every single building in that compound has been destroyed.

I do remember that many of us were talking what should be done with Bab Al Azizia and many spoke online that they wanted a park, but I don't remember any countrywide poll about this!

Somehow,  I'm not happy that it has been razed to the ground I think that was just done too soon and without checking with the Libyan people. It is unfair for the rest of Libyans to have prevented them for having access and seeing for themselves the layout of the place.

The sprawling compound is eerie and  I expect ghosts to come out anytime it's even dangerous now, all this rubble and the open tunnels. Is it even environmentally safe? is there asbestos exposed? Who took the decision to raze it so unprofessionally and to burn the living quarters there and what about the school ? why destroy the school for God's sake ? children from the neighbouring  buildings used to go there and now they have nowhere to go. What a waste of resources!

By all means I want to see a park there, but I also wanted to have some mementos kept to remind us of  how dictatorships can happen if we let our vigilance slip. Why have some rebel fighters taken the golden fist statue to Misrata?  In my opinion it should have remained here it's not about war trophies it's about history.
It would have been a great theme park but now it is a wasteland, full of rubbish , revolutionary tourist items, looters who have taken the wiring, the stuff in the houses, the things hidden in the underground tunnels and I was actually afraid that there might be some unexploded ordnance somewhere when  driving or walking  around to explore. It's a place of desolation for me. Not sure how you can have picnic there with all the piled up waste. I'm disappointed. I had imagined foreigners coming from all over the world to see Gaddafi's feared tunnels,  people exploring them and seeing in which part of the city they ended up, I imagined photo shoots next to the Fist golden statue, I imagined people taking turns to appear on his balcony and make a speech something like the Speaker's  Corner in Hyde Park. I wanted the buildings to be professionally removed with some of them converted to museums if possible.....but I did not want this mess. Reconstruction is very difficult while destruction takes so little time. The tunnels would have brought so much income to the park authorities and would have helped towards the cost of the maintenance.

A counter argument could be that destroying the compound prevents any militia from making it a fortress, but I don't believe the person(s) who made this decision  thought so analytically.

They say there is no use crying over spilled milk and I agree but I still wanted to voice my opinion and that this way of things suits all those war profiteers which are always present like vultures in every combat in any place in the world. This destruction makes it easier to loot the place unpunished like so much of the  public property (and private) during and after this war in Libya. All Libyans had a right to Bab Al Aziziya  and someone just took our right away.

Apparently a contest to redesign the place has been launched, nice idea but I still hope to see that Fist back in Tripoli in the park whenever it is finished ! It starts with little things and ends up with people holding a country hostage to have their way in the government  and those that don't get their way well the the big fish somehow slip away instead again to show the government who is really boss. 


Anonymous said...

I'm ready to move on. The past is past. Kadafy kept that bombed out piece of poop he lived in and made every visitor take a tour through it.... what for? Who wants to prowl around in some creepy tunnels? Not me. It's over and done with. Libyans have been looking at that ugly monstrosity for way too many years. It's time for them to have something beautiful to look at and enjoy.

Just my humble opinion... :)

Highlander said...

Agree Khadijateri everybody is ready to move on, still I would have liked to keep the tunnels and the fist and use some buildings if possible and suitable to host treasures from all over Libya and destroy the rest + the walls professionally and enclose everything within a well laid out park... I did not appreciate not having the choice....

SweetMelody said...

My greetings from France! After visiting your blog, I could not leave without putting a comment.
I congratulate you on your blog!
Maybe I would have the opportunity to welcome you on mine too!
My blog is in french, but on the right is the Google translator!
good day

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more! This is exactly what I thought and felt, when the first images of rebels taking over it started to pour out. The fist, and all that disgusting luxury, gone to the dogs, so sad.

Other disgusting sites, from the 40's in Poland for example, have been meticulously kept, as warning examples. "Move on and try converting one of those into a park!" Win you the election, eh?

Highlander said...

Oceankid the compound is huge without the need to have destroyed everything for a park it would have been sweet healing and help chase away the ghost of the past if some of the buildings were left standing and used for a good cause they were not some of the nicest architecturally but they were probably good for hosting Libyan treasures. Now we have a disgusting pile of rubble in a 6 km area in the middle of the city a place where I fear so much infestation will be I would not there let the kids play on the grass there anymore and I don't think that in the current Libya the priority would be to get this project on while there are still thousands of Libyan waiting to be treated medically properly, while the Libyan children still wait to go to school properly, while some cities do not have school buildings or any buildings anymore, while hospitals have severe shortages still and our assets are frozen abroad etc.... the last thing on someone's mind would be building Bab Aziziya park unless some foreign country or a misanthropic good sould wants to do that as a present to the Libyan people and ask for nothing in exchange :P

Anonymous said...

Hey H! I dunno if my my reading skills are flawed or what...

I was agreeing 100% with what you originally wrote. Yet - in my eyes - your reaction seems to be that I was contradicting you? I was not.

Purrhaps we were using the word "disgusting" to denote: 1. The surreal world that Ghadafi had going there . 2. The present rubble.

Anyway I finally did it! I wrote his name on your blog! I am sure you noticed I was unable to break the habit of avoiding his name, even months after his demise.

Highlander said...

LOL Ocean Kid I was agreeing with you as well and reinforcing the message :) and yes congrats on writing Gaddafi' s name you won't believe how much many of us still fear saying his name or his title or even writing it down !