Lizzie was reporting from inside the Rixos Hotel and then moved
nearby to the Hotel Corinthia, still amidst raging gun battles between
government forces and the NATO mercenaries. She escaped Libya in a
fishing boat which took her and others to Malta last week. This is her
first report since leaving Libya. We are indebted to Lizzie and other
independent journalists whose work removed the mask of the corporate
media and their paymasters.
By Lizzie Phelan
Amidst all the media furor about the fall of Tripoli
from the grasp of the Libyan government, it's not easy to get a clear
picture of what things look like under their new rulers. Upon being
released from five days of entrapment in the Rixos hotel with 35 other
foreign journalists, it was hard to believe that the streets I was
driving through were the same ones I had become familiar with during the
month I had spent in the capital.
The previously bustling roads with families rushing
around toing and froing from the beach and getting ready for the meal to
break the fast were empty, the green flags replaced by rebel ones, and
the sparse checkpoints previously run by male and female volunteers, ie
residents with Kalashnikovs, had been replaced by checkpoints every 100
or so meters, manned by tanks and exclusively male fighters holding
sophisticated weapons supplied by the world's most powerful military
The proud young black Libyans protecting their
neighbourhoods were gone. Later we would see the images of them being
rounded up and put on pickup trucks, a sight that in the previous months
had been confined to places like Benghazi and Misrata. These are the
victims of the claim that Gaddafi had hired mercenaries from the African
continent, a claim which has been profusely rejected by human rights
organisations as lacking any evidence. But in the new Libya they are
some of the first - along with those from the largest tribes, Wafalla,
Washafana, Zlitan and Tarhouna - suspected to be supporting the Muammar
Gaddafi, a crime punishable by death and much worse.
The Red Cross convoy transporting us pulled into the
Corinthia hotel. When I had stayed there on a previous trip just a month
before, just two or three armed guards manned the entrance. This time
it was overrun with men wielding weapons sent from NATO and Qatar and
just a handful of swamped and exhausted staff remained.
Later, I saw some Libyan faces I recognised, their
eyes looked filled with trauma. "How are you?" I asked one, "he is still
in our hearts" she responded. Later when we had more time to talk in
privacy she broke down, apologising as she cried. She said it was
impossible to talk to anyone, "Libya is like our mother, but we can't
talk to our mother anymore". A Wafalla woman from the tribe’s area of
Beni Walid - she knew that she and her family could be rounded up at any
second, simply because of the Wafalla’s steadfast backing of what they
call their “guide” – Muammar Gaddafi. She told me,
"Beni Walid people have always been very
proud, generous, humble and dignified people. Under that [the rebel]
flag of King Idris, we had to kiss the feet of the king before we could
say a word to him, we have gone back to those times."
She was one of the many who warned me to keep my head
down and get out as soon as possible. I had been one of the few
reporters that focused on the effects of NATO’s bombing campaign in the
country and had tried to highlight the million marches and mass tribal
conferences in favour of the Libyan government that indicated it was not
quite as unpopular within Libya as it had been portrayed to be.
I had also tried to expose the links of the rebels to
Al Qaeda, which NATO was on the other hand fighting in places like
Afghanistan. Since the admission by the rebels that the assassination of
former rebel commander Abd al Fatah Younis was carried out by Al
Qaeda-linked groups within their ranks, the presence of the extremists
threatened to become clearer as the then Libyan government prepared to
release files and phone recordings exposing Al Qaeda’s involvement in
the crisis and how the west had worked with them.
But following the fall of Tripoli only unflinching
acceptance of the new Libya would guarantee your safety, my Wafalla
friend urged me to get home and speak about what was happening.
With fighting still raging on the roads out of the
country, and them being particularly unsafe for anyone without rebel
protection my only prospect of getting home was via the Mediterranean.
For days this was a very slim prospect - the
commotion between the rebels that would frequently break out in the
Corinthia hotel over who was the real authority, extended not just to
the harbor via which I needed to escape, but to much of the city. For
four days other foreigners and I would be told every few hours we would
be leaving, only for the person who had given the go ahead in the harbor
to disappear and be replaced.
NATO gunmen take cover as the battle rages
outside the Corinthia. The corporate media, embedded with the
mercenaries traveled with them even as they entered Tripoli on August
With so many different groups, like the Libyan
Islamic Fighting Group, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya
and those loyal to the defectors from Gaddafi’s government, the western
forces now openly on the ground seemed out of their depth.
On my second day in the Corinthia, three butch
British guys strutted around insisting they were now in charge of the
security of the hotel. One of them told me he had come over from Kabul,
which was “getting a lot worse”. “Do you think this is going to become
like Kabul?” I asked, “It’s very likely, with so many different groups
fighting for power”, he replied.
Meanwhile the cost in lives lost in the fall of
Tripoli has received little investigation. The last concrete figures
came from the then existing Ministry of Health on the second day of
fighting in Tripoli which put the death toll in 12 hours in the capital
alone at 1,300 with 900 injured. The Ministry reported that in the
previous day over 300 had been murdered and 500 injured. This surpasses
the 1,400 massacred during the two week onslaught by Israel’s Operation
Cast Lead on Gaza which sparked outrage worldwide.
After heavy bombing and attacks by Apaches in
Tripoli’s poorest neighborhood and one of the last areas to fall, Abu
Saleem, eye witnesses reported seeing masses of bodies covering the
streets. A relative of one of those feared to be amongst the carnage
visited the local hospital where he said just one doctor and two nurses
were left. Like masses of the capital’s workers, many hospital staff had
fled, were in hiding or perhaps dead. When he asked to see the bodies,
the guards told him there were none - his family fears they have been
dumped in mass graves in locations that may for a long time be unknown.
This bloodbath does not fit into the narrative of a
“free Libya” in which civilians are “protected”, but in such an
atmosphere charged with the hunger for control at any cost, it is near
impossible for those on the ground to be honest about the images before
their eyes, while they remain in rebel held territory.
One young armed rebel donning the French flag on his
fatigues creeped up behind me and asked me where I was from. “London” I
replied, “Ah Cameron, we love Cameron,” he beamed. I forced a smile; to
even criticize my own prime minister would betray disloyalty to Libya’s
In the harbor as we looked at the ship that had been
waiting to be relieved of its supplies and replaced with passengers, an
Italian commented that it was like “a kid running a university” as the
new people in charge worked out how to operate the cranes and other
machinery necessary to keep the ships coming and going.
We were told that ship may not be able to leave for
another five to ten days and the only option for exit by sea was a 20
yard long fishing boat for 12 people lacking most safety equipment, like
43 of us prepared to board. The rebel then in charge
of monitoring our boat checked our identification repeatedly over four
hours insisting that no Russians, Serbians or Ukrainians would be
allowed to leave. Neither would a Cuban and Ecuadorian citizen. Their
countries relations had been too good with Muammar Gaddafi during the
Finally at about midnight, we were all allowed on, except for one Russian man.
As the sounds of tanks and firefights and the smell
of death that filled the air grew more and more distant, I remembered
the peaceful, welcoming and safe city I had driven into.
:: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. :: We always mention the author and link the original site and page of every article.Disclaimer