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.