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LIBYAN DIARIES 2016 - KELLY'S SPRING IN TRIPOLI

I'm publishing here the correspondence with Khalifa Abo Khraisse, aka  Kelly, a 32 years old libyan friend, videomaker and documentarist.

31st March 2016

Andrea - Normal people nowadays in Italy think of Libya as a place where every day you risk your life and- where the one choice is fighting or staying at home...

Kelly - I live in Tripoli, near an area called Gurji which is outside the city center. These days the only thing that I haven’t changed is my morning coffee: for 7 years, more or less everyday at 8:00 AM, I have had to get my coffee (macchiato) from a small café around the corner. Other than that I try to avoid going out a lot; I hate the tension in the air.

But if you walk around the city in the morning lately, you might be amazed at how crowded the roads are. My sisters still goes to work, and my brother still goes to the University as usual. My mother still is as excited as ever when she hears good news on TV or a statement broadcast by the UN or any other entity supporting the new government. (She always supports the righteous side, always is more hopeful than anyone, always picks and supports the weak side that has been bullied...even if she sees a wrestling match on TV while she is flipping channels, she feels sorry for the guy who is getting beaten and cheers for him as if she is a lifetime fan)


My father on the other hand never endures any leader, president or Libyan public figure. Can you imagine, when we had the first election in 2012 that gave birth to GNC, he went there and dropped the ballot card in empty. Later outside the polling station, chatting with his friends and neighbors, he smiled and said: "Back in the 1965 elections I dropped the card in empty because back then I didn’t see anyone worthy of the chair, and today as well, I still see no one worthy." And he pulled out an election card from 1965 that he has kept; the people there were amazed and started taking photos of it.


But when he spoke about the new PM he said: "I knew his father and know him. He is from a good family; his father was a good man."
I believe that was the closest thing to his approval that any Libyan politician has ever come close to getting.

During the day military vehicles kept gathering in some areas around the city. Some main roads have been shut down as if they are preparing for the final round. On TV a group of guys in military uniforms read a statement and started by saying that they're "some" rebel brigade leaders and that they reject and declare war on the new government; on other channels other groups, introducing themselves also as "some" brigade commanders, announced their loyalty and support for the new government.

The 2014 clashes that took place here lasted for about more than month: they were ruthless, burning down many buildings including the airport and the oil tanks and forcing many to leave their houses. No one wants to witness something like that again, not anytime soon anyway.

A - What is your hope for the future?

K -What is my hope? Well if I can dare to dream, I hope we have just one good man, a hero maybe—a different type of hero than this country has ever had, someone who could make a difference, as time has proven that our people need leaders. The Great Man Theory works perfectly in our countries: we need someone who can't be bought, can't be intimidated by the Islamists and maybe who has the courage to say yes and no sometimes.
But if you mean what I hope for now: I hope the situation doesn't escalate to large-scale battle; I hope people find the courage to go out and support the new government with peaceful demonstrations; and I hope they come to accept it because only then will prices drop down as well as the dollar rates, and only then will banks have cash to pay salaries. It's obvious that these problems are all pressures from the major players, that they created these problems to solve them when the new government starts working so that they will appear as the saviors.

We have an old phrase in Libya: يتعاركو الارياح و يجي الكيد على الصاري

Which means: The winds fights and the mast suffers the pressures (but more like “pays the price").

These Left and Right winds won't stop fighting, and only the mast suffers. The ship will never reach a safe place, so I just hope for more of these calm moments between the storms, so people can live a bit.
We have been putting our lives on hold since 2011. I still do, like a passenger doesn’t want to unpack his bags in that cheap hotel he has to stay in for a night as he is waiting to catch a flight the next day, except the flight keeps getting delayed further. He still believes that this is all temporary, so he keeps sitting by the window waiting with his bags still packed.

I feel like that passenger, but I hope for something more for others. My sister's wedding is on the 10th of this month, and she is going through all the details, checking the guest list, making reservations, and keeping a calm smile the whole time, as if nothing around her gives cause for concern. She is even calmer than other brides in a normal situation. I will pray for her to have a nice wedding, but hoping further than that would be sort of like fantasy.

A - The Great Man Theory: does it mean that somehow it was better with Him before? Is there really no other way to have stability and respect of plurality and civil rights?

K - It's hard to answer honestly, but if you don't mind, let me take your question literally so I can answer: yes, compared to what we have now, it was better with him before. But on another level, I refuse to admit it because I am involved too much personally and emotionally to be objective and confess the truth. I have to keep the faith that everything happening to us is according to a master plan, that everything happening to us is for a reason, and that all these people who sacrificed their lives didn’t die in vain. I lowered good friends in the ground, and I love to think they died for a great cause.
And I will argue that what we are suffering now is because of him, and yes, maybe that we are equally guilty.
Judging our situation, our society, our mentality and all the factors, we won't have real stability or respect for any of that, not now and not for years. This is the way I see it and I am not being negative...it's my realistic opinion.
If there is another way, I don't see it really.
What do you think about it?

A - I really don't know if I'm able to "clean" my point of view from the cultural western and capitalistic background I have, or even if I would like not to have it…
What I was dreaming during the revolution of 2011 was the growth of your capacity not to be controlled either by a Great Man or by other countries and economies.
A new generation of Libyans able to build your way to democracy…a naive but genuine hope.
Now the priority is to find a peaceful agreement between arrogant powers… I would simply like that among them you could identify someone who is a little less terrible than the others.
What we really miss here is the lack of a referent…we don't know which part we should support…that's why we don't demonstrate, we don't try to support you…we are blocked in front of these terrible laptops trying to understand something. It's the same with Syria and Tunisia: we don't know who could be able to fight down there to build something that is not dependent on forces from abroad and not controlled by a sort of "military monarchy."

K - You said it all, and you remind me of something I used to say: “Maybe our destiny is to always choose between the beards and the boots.” But I really hope we can find a silver lining.

A - Why you are still there? Why you haven’t fled the country yet?

K- If you asked my father he would probably tell you the same thing he always said during the civil war in 2011: "Our family never left when the Italians came, never left during the king days, never left when Gaddaffi took over, and I won't leave now: we stand our ground."

My father studied in the UK for 6 years and he came back, unlike many others who stayed there; my big brother studied in Greece for years and came back; I travel a lot but I always come back home...in the end I belong here.
I refuse to run away when the situation is not comfortable here, I refuse to be a refugee. I am not saying everyone agrees with me, not saying that I don’t respect and sympathize with whoever disagrees or chooses another path--each one of us has to do what he/she has to do, but in the end:"A person thinks everything he does is right, but the Lord weighs heart"
And if the day ever comes that I choose to leave and live somewhere else, I will go proud, walking tall with nothing to be ashamed of: making a real choice, not leaving because it's not safe, not running away from a war and leaving my loved ones behind.
When I went to Tunisia recently, it couldn’t have been worse timing: the moment I left Libya clashes started in Tripoli, and I was going crazy reading and watching the news over the internet. After many calls with family and friends they assured me it wasn’t as bad as the internet was showing it...there was clashes but in a small part of the city and they lasted for one day. It was annoying to be in this situation away from the action, not knowing what was really happening and relying on news and internet, but it reminded me why I never trust those sources in first place. Luckily I managed to get back to Tripoli before they closed the airport and suspended all international flights in an attempt to forbid the new government from entering Tripoli. I really hated the idea of staying in Tunisia; I would rather be in the war zone than trapped outside.

1st April 2016

K - Today all quiet on the western front my friend, another boring Friday.
The news are still showing international support for the new PM, and a few shy voices from here and there are supporting it...
Highlight of the day: The new PM went to Friday prayer in Mizaran Mosque in the heart of Tripoli city, a really bold move that sent a strong message. What really captured my eyes was the look and the smile on the faces of the old people who stood behind the windows in the photo.


While I was looking at the photo I remembered another photo from 2012, of an old man standing near a pillar inside a famous old Sufi mosque, or more the remains of the mosque after it was destroyed by a night raid carried out by extremists. The old man was hiding his face and crying. 


That photo haunted me, and my mother cried because the mosque was in her hometown of Zlitin. So today, seeing the look of joy and hope on the old people’s eyes behind the window was priceless. I really hope the PM won’t disappoint them.

7th April 2016

Its circus! And I can't explain to you what is going really

Its calm and "safe" and all of a sudden Tripoli is secured and the embassies will open again, starting with turkey and morocco, and more to follow, the dollar dropped significantly , the cash problem is to be solved shortly.

HOR in Tubrik split and even more fragile now , there are members who boycotting the sessions the ones who signed for paper to approve the New government, and there is members of Eastern cities calling for federalism and dividing the country, and some still insist that they must approve the government in order to move on.
At GNC in Tripoli there is 93 members boycotting , the others are with and they held a session and announced the new government officially taking over, and also forming the State Council according to the agreement , they have choosing the worse to be the chairman, Swihly from Misrata which was member of GNC ,HOR and again back to be GNC and he is also in bed with Muslim brotherhood , its chaos and the GNC still involved strongly, and the whole thing so far a suit tailored for Muslim brotherhood to be in charge.

I mean two weeks ago GNC passed two laws one regarding drinking alcohol the punishment will be flogging. And the other is punishing unmarried adulterers by flogging and stoning to death for married adulterers.
No one dares to say otherwise, well the new PM announced in his first words when he arrived that the Islamic Sharia will be the only source for laws, I don’t think he is in title to state such a thing he is not‬legislative power, and I was hoping that the GNC's last decisions will be denounced as they are not legit, but now I can see they acknowledge them again, there last act was only to assure islamist that it will go their way.
its troy horse again, just like the 2012 elections, when the people didn’t choose islamist they went from the back door and bought their way back to lead.

I believe there will be a honey moon, they gave us back what they took from us for about 2 years, while we are grateful for them to reward us with our basic rights, it will be too late for turning things around.
But maybe I am wrong, maybe the PM just playing along until he will be able to make a move.

9th April

K- I've survived the wedding so far which kept me busy to know what is happening around, I still have tomorrow the big night then I can relax, all this Libyan music is killing me, its worse than the sound of the clashes.
I hope one day i will be able to have a real conversation in Italian, for now the first thing I've learned in any language is how to order coffee " which is the most important thing":
I can order coffee, in Italian, french , polish, and of course Arabic ( all accents) and English. one day i will pick up from there and improve my Italian.