Libya’s “Other” Victims
By Karlos Zurutuza
BANI WALID, Libya, Oct 31, 2011 (IPS) – Suleyman and Rasool have come to the University of Bani Walid, in western Libya. If they are lucky they might find some chemistry notes and, perhaps, a computer that works. Unfortunately it is not likely, since NATO reduced the campus to rubble.
Saif al Islam – Muammar Gaddafi’s son and heir apparent – had taken refuge in Bani Walid, a city of 80,000 people 150 km southeast of Tripoli. This city and Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown, were the last two strongholds of the regime that ruled Libya for the last four decades.
“Why did NATO shell this place?” complains Suleyman amid tons of twisted metal, rubble and papers blown around by the wind.
There is no sign whatsoever of a recent military presence here: no uniforms or mortar shells, not even the bullet cases that dot the broken streets of Bani Walid.
“There was a rumour about Musa Ibrahim – Gaddafi’s former spokesman – sleeping here, probably that’s why they bombed,” says Rasool, standing next to a massive crater left by a NATO missile.
The brand-new red seats in the auditorium are among the few things that can be salvaged. A group of rebels are piling them up in the back of their pickup trucks.
“We are taking them with us to a safe place, there’s been a lot of looting here, you know?” says Omar Rahman, one of the drivers.
But it’s already too late for the computer room in the annex building. There, two rows of intact yet empty computer desks suggest that a new Internet café might open its doors somewhere in Libya in the next few days.
The picture is equally bleak along the bazaar’s long avenue. Only one store has raised its blind. The shopkeeper, Rafiq, doesn’t want to talk. The blackened mannequins he is now removing from inside his shop speak for themselves.
“Zawiya Brigade”, “Misrata boys”, “Geryan forever” can be read along the alley – just some of the graffiti left by the more than forty rebel battalions that finally captured Bani Walid on Oct. 17, supported by NATO air strikes.
Most of the slogans on the walls look alike, but there is one that is repeated throughout the entire city: “Warfalas are dogs”. Bani Walid is the only “monotribal” location in the entire country. Everybody here belongs to the Warfalla clan, Libya’s biggest, made up of over one million people out of a total population of 6.4 million. Along with the Qaddadfa, they were the most loyal to Libya’s ousted ruler.