Thursday, November 17, 2011

Qaddafistan Perversion

Today's post was going to be about a movie  I watched a few  weeks ago when I was travelling but something else happened instead which led me to change the topic so you will read about the movie next time.

This morning I decided to go for a walk downtown and check  the Libyan printed press. Since the liberation of Tripoli in August many new titles have sprung up and we are also getting the papers from Benghazi and other cities in Libya which is so refreshing and feels very strange....A glossy magazine called Loloat Almutawaset caught my eye among the many choices on display nowadays because I did not notice it before. I think it looked so professional that I assumed it was an Arab paper although I should have recognized the guy on the cover page but anyway  we have just finished a war I could be excused for not noticing many things :)!

Taking a closer look I found it  was issue no.1  from October so this was going to be a monthly magazine great. I looked at the lead titles and  the topic that jumped at me was "The orphanage victims" or the daughters of Quaddafi ( my comment)  I purchased it for 3 Libyan Dinars.

The article was an interview by  Abdelbasset Alsherif with a 30 year  old Libyan woman who grew up in an orphanage in Libya. I summarised it briefly from the Arabic for you.

Orphanages in Libya were a red line in the Quaddafi era. The author is calling this woman Krista so I will use the same name. Krista was born in the orphanage and was given to adoption to a Libyan family She only learned that she was an orphan at the age of 6 when her step father died ( probably because the rest of the family asked about inheritance). I believe she ends up in this interview because of her role as a Quaddafi human shield in Bab Alaziziya.

She tells stories about being forced by the orphanage management  as a child to attend events where Quaddafi is to show up and how she felt just like a movie extra, where he would be nice to her and the others for a couple of days and then her role will be over and the niceties with it once the event was over. Krista explains that most orphans were given for 'adoption' and  if you were lucky you got a decent family if not you ended up in a brothel.
After the death of her adoptive parents it seems she was left to fend for herself. Moreover, the orphanage although it called these girls Quaddafi's daughters did not spend any penny on them  but either left them to fend for themselves/thew them to the street or gave them up for prostitution  as only a limited number with certain specifications was kept. The majority of the  girls became prostitutes and the guys drug dealers.  ( personally I suspect that some of the guys became gay prostitutes too as some of my foreign friends  sadly reported they found many on the sea front ). Krista  did many jobs including washing cars  and  even mounted satellite dishes on rooftops to survive ! and no one would help her because of the label that she and her likes were Quaddafi's daughters so they were supposed to have everything. Even when the orphanage would do the occasional multiple marriage gig it was apparently a big lie as the girls would be thrown out after a couple of days of being abused.....or end up sex slaves in a hotel. The money that the orphanage management would receive from donations and the state all went into the deep pockets of the corrupt officials.

About her limited role in Bab Alaziziya she says that she went there for the food and to get some money but she stopped going there when  it became obvious that there was drugs, alcohols and fornication. She then volunteered as a guard in the former Green Square and after that was sent on a mission to Misrata.

How she ended up in Misrata? she and the others were asked to guard an aid caravan that was supposedly going to Misrata but instead  to her horror they took them to a camp to be trained to kill. She ran away with one of the male volunteers. She hid in the city of Gharian until the liberation of that city. Krista is feeling very guilty for supporting Quaddafi and being misled like this and is saying that she is one of hundreds of other lost girls  from the Libyan orphanages that need to be rescued from a life of prostitution in order to survive.She also asks that we should not to forget the guys as well. She is asking the revolutionary youth not to denigrate those lost young men and women as they are simply victims of Quaddafi.

After I read this article I was deeply troubled, so I thought I'd surf the twitting people to change my mood and there someone sent me the following link: Viagra munching  Gaddafi. This article is about Faisal,  Quaddafi's manservant, Chef ( and probably occasional bed companion).

"He was a law student at Tripoli University when Gaddafi came to speak. Afterwards the dictator asked his office to track down several of the students. Gaddafi’s lectures were notorious; he would speak about his Green Book and then take his pick of the women to a room near the lecture hall with a double bed.
The university dean told Faisal that Gaddafi wanted him to be his private servant. When he refused, his family was threatened; to continue to refuse would mean death."

Faisal of course ended in this article because on Quaddafi's fall he was taken as a prisoner by the freedom fighters for being close to the dictator.

After reading about Faisal's woes  and  the world of perversion he uncovered I was even more depressed because everything we suspected was going on in Libya turned out to be true and even worse than we ever imagined. So I closed Twitter and I tried to cheer myself up by checking on my friends on Facebook, and  what do I find there among the many shared articles this time in French: " A Kadhafi sex slave talks about her ordeal" !

22 year old Safia life is destroyed when Quaddafi's team kidnap her in Sirte at the age of 15  to take her to him. Quaddafi picked her up among the students who were chosen to hand him flowers when he visited  her school. She was taken to his tent in the desert and told she would have riches etc... and would live with him from now on. Which is exactly what happened, he put her in his harem in Bab Alaziziya, where he kept Libyan adolescent women and also brought in some foreigners occasionally and proceeds to rape her for the next five years until her escape in 2009  During those years he forces her to drink, smoke  and  get drugged  on top of everything else and her parents are threatened with death if they complain. Safia  lifts the veil even further on the debauchery going on in Quaddafi's life and that of his henchmen and foreign visitors (something like Berlusconi's Bunga Bunga parties ... maybe that's why they were such friends ? ). She also talks about his famous body guards ( but I will make a separate post about that). After her escape her mum wants to marry her to an elderly widowed cousin which she refuses. She finally gets married this year in April but is separated from her husband who is apparently hurt during the war ( we are not told  if he is from the rebels of from the Q team but I understand from the context that he is from the rebels). She does not feel safe to return home because of the possibility of being assassinated by some Quaddafi loyalist remnants but mostly due to the stigma attached to her past. She says  'the woman is always the culprit' [no matter what].

Reading all these dark pieces today printed all over the globe from Australia, Libya and France and which drag the honour of Libyan men and women in the gutters, I felt that I wanted to vomit and that I needed to write about it to exorcise these demons, but also to pass on the message that these young men and women are simply helpless victims. None of them should feel guilty either for supporting Quaddafi during the war like Krista or for being forced to  pimp men and women  for him like Faisal or for being a sex slave like Safia and all the other people he abused. These people had no other choice except suicide to escape his filth and even then they could not guarantee he would not abuse their whole families, which is exactly what he does, so sacrificing oneself is the only solution  in case you have a family. In Krista's case no one was going to help her even work as a maid as people would suspect her of wanting to seduce the man of the family or be a bad influence on the kids, or just for being a bastard, so either she kills herself or prostitutes herself, since suicide is forbidden in Islam and she did not want to be a prostitute she worked like a man and volunteered as a guard during the war.

Our society is very very unforgiving in matters of honour, and now post revolution we are also very suspicious of everyone involved with Quaddafi.. But people like Krista are small fish and they have no blood on their hands and people like Faisal and Safia need years of rehabilitation.....I don't even know if my compatriots amidst all the horrors that took place in Libya for 42 years and until the war ended will be able to absorb how much these poor creatures deserve our pity and need our help. In the Libyan article the author concludes by asking   if Krista really believed that the Quaddafi era was over from the people's minds? She acquiesces that it is over.

Each one of us is somehow suffering post traumatic stress to one degree or another so personally I think the Quaddafi era can only be erased  from our minds once we feel compassion for all victims alike, such as the protagonists above and the alleged 8000 rape victims ( men/women/children) being investigated by the ICC  and not just the obvious ones like the dead, imprisoned, injured, amputees, missing  and displaced - that's a lot of suffering people.

Somebody would probably comment why bring this topic up, this is what the Western media likes to talk about there are more pressing issues to deal with. Yes that's true, Western media love sex scandals, and what happened in Libya and in Quaddafi's lair happens daily not only in other Arab countries but everywhere where power and money are absolute.;one recent very simple example is  the DSK scandal.

However, Quaddafi ruined the life of about six million people in Libya and this was one of the many facets of his savagery to us so if we don't get all this rot out, deal with it and move on it will keep hitting us in the face and prevent the advancement of the Libyan Society and any national reconciliation.


Lebeeya said...

I read the article about Faisal the day before yesterday and was beyond disturbed. Like you, I feel sympathy for the unfortunate that Gaddafi used as slaves for whatever purposes. However, they should not be the biggest concern because these victims have worked for him on a personal level and not on a political level. There is no point for the people to hold grudges against them, you can’t really charge or accuse them for anything except them working for Gaddafi and working for Gaddafi shouldn’t be a crime unless you took part in the torture, execution or have blood on your hands.

However, what’s pissing me off is that all these articles are coming out about Gaddafi Victims when Mousa Kousa, who has blood stained all over his hands is living a luxurious life in Qatar.

Highlander said...

Lebeeya I'm so angry about that @#@$#@$@ Mousa Kousa but it looks like he got away with it we need to extradite the guy back and let him face justice ( when we actually have a justice system back at the moment it's a mess to be honest ! unfortunately)

Maya M said...

It is good that you write about these things - they should be talked about openly, or there will not be even a chance to find a solution.
I am afraid that toppling Qaddafi alone will change little. As long as women are required to be virgins at their (first) wedding, and not all men can marry at 18, there will be intensive demand for sex services. Even if men are in theory forbidden to seek such services, in fact all the blame is laid on women, meaning that all girls forced into prostitution and all victims of rape and incest are doubly victimized, first by the pimp/rapist and then by society.
I think that maybe the only way to ameliorate the situation is to lift the legal and cultural requirement for virginity. This means major transformation of both culture and lifestyle. It only reduces the problem without solving it completely and brings new serious problems. Still, I think this is the way.
The transitional period can be very hard. Our ethnic Turkish minority seems to be now in this phase. During the last 2-3 years, 3 families known to me have considered ethnic Turkish babies for adoption. Two of them were finally adopted, one was declined. Born by a 15-yr-old compressing her belly to hide the pregnancy, the baby had abnormal neurology. I still wonder what happened to her.
During Qaddafi's time, our media reported that Libya had concentration camps for unwed mothers and rape victims. You once wrote that an unmarried and pregnant Libyan woman would not show her belly in public.

Highlander said...

Maya well people are finally talking about such things in Libya and I've witnessed many conversations about it in women circles and even with some male friends. I was proud to read that many rebel fighters pledged to marry a Libyan female rape victim as they felt it was their responsibility to protect them but I was disappointed to hear also that many raped girls were being married off to amputees from the war. Not sure about the message that this sends : being raped is shameful ? or that you are supported see you can still marry after being raped... why not let them continue their life and get married whenever they would feel the time is convenient ? I guess it's too early for such a way of thinking and those who found a husband even in nearby Tunis ( according to hearsay) probably believe they are very lucky... still debating things in my mind and the society needs to debate this.

Maya M said...

This immediately brings to me a memory of our past.
A great-aunt of my husband's was young and unmarried when Communists came to power. They went after this young girl, for no apparent reason. She had never been active in politics, let alone opposition.
She was put on the black list of people who should not be employed. This is easy when government is the only employer. She kept applying for jobs but got only refusals left and right. Then she was sent to a labour camp for being idle, an offence included in the Penal code of that time. She volunteered to work on dams and other major construction sites. She was doing hard man's work, like Krista, without pay, just to prove she wasn't idle.
Finally, she married a WWII veteran with both legs amputated at the knees. This was apparently a marriage of convenience but turned out to be more stable and ultimately happier than many others.
I am not sure that marrying off rape victims to amputees is so bad idea. This means two traumatized people (though in different ways), two valuable people regarded as lesser by society, join to struggle with life together. If a rape victim marries a "good match", he may emotionally blackmail her to be thankful.

Highlander said...

If a rape victim marries a "good match", he may emotionally blackmail her to be thankful.

Thanks Maya the above did cross my mind as well and I agree, but still I was sort of disturbed that they would feel the need to marry the two traumatised people to each other. Although to be honest I believe that the amputees would also have a hard time finding a good match as you say so at the end of the day it might be a good idea... it just needs to be framed in a positive message and not make either the man or the woman feel they are rejected by society. Some cities have large number of amputees and I expect this to grow because of the profusion of landmines even children have not be spared.