The Pittsburgh Tribune reported on September 18 a development in Free Libya that would, on its surface, seem just another delightful turn in the fortunes of this brutalized nation.
A friendly Fathi Sherif greets visitors to Libya's once-feared Internal Security Agency. "This is [was?] the 'Terrorism Against the Libyan People' building," he announces. The tables have turned, however. Moammar Gadhafi's past victims now hunt for him and his regime's key figures.
Not all of the new Transitional National Council has relocated here from Benghazi, the rebellion's initial stronghold; much of the new government is being created from scratch.
Into this political void stepped Sherif, 49, and his Gadhafi-hunters."We are catching rats," he says, acting on tips from the capital and beyond. "We have our eyes everywhere."
Theirs is an ad-hoc operation. Rebels bring Gadhafi loyalists, captured in six months of fighting, to prisons around the country.Many of Sherif's 15 volunteers were imprisoned or tortured under Gadhafi. "We work for free," he says, puffing on a cigarette. "We even pay for the prisoners' food."
The prisoners are treated well, he insists, because "(we) want them to know the difference between us and them."
The main difference is unlike Gaddafi's people, these guys seem intent on privatizing things, opening the oil spigots up to foreign control, and so stand a good chance of being demonizedfarless, and even the opposite, by their Western benefactors.
A few regime figures have been captured already, he says. These included "the 'Secretary of the Jamahiriya's Secrets' [...] and the dictator's 'money guy.'" The former, "Ahmed Ramadan, Gadhafi's private secretary of two decades" was arrested after being shot in the head. He shot himself, they swear, and I suppose it's quite likely. He didn't die, and so if he recovers consciousness before Gaddafi's death or capture (or even after), he may be in for some telling or torture.
A Human Rights Watch researcher, the Tribune added, "has visited the prisoners and found them well-treated. "What they do complain about it the utter lack of judicial procedures," he says." And I suspect that's just beginning. I predict over-dramatic, unverifiable, illogical, and venom-filled testimony will be used, with no defense evidence allowed, to hang as many of these problem people as possible.
Besides those captured, some have surrendered, says Mr. Sherif, to avoid the vengeance of the mob, where "people would kill them and cut them into pieces."
Sadly for some people of Libya worried about street justice and not quite detained, the rat-hunters' "eyes everywhere" fact-finding capabilities aren't so great. To be fair, I'm not sure the same people were responsible for the following bold operation, but it could be. The suspects involved were apparently considered possible members of the ruler's own extended family. A Yahoo story explains it so:
A woman and her family were shot by Libyan rebel fighters in a deadly attack because their last name was Gaddafi, it has been reported.Now if they had actually been Gaddafi loyalists, would it have been okay? This question is left unanswered. But even those mistaken for them - parties with babies and especially the babies - are being shot dead. This case isn't as clear-cut as I aft first thought, in that the victims were in a car, which raises the prospect of some fault of their own - refusing orders to halt, mainly. But why were they even singled out to be detained?
Mother-of-three Afaf Gaddafi was attempting to flee the war-torn country with her children and other family members over fears that their surname would land them in trouble.
Mistaken for Gaddafi loyalists, rebel fighters opened fire at them near an airport - killing the couple’s two daughters Yam, 20 months, and Aden, three weeks, as well as Afaf’s mother and sister.
Afaf's husband, Essam Arara, lives in London, a graduate of the London School of Economics. He's obviously devastated, and now lobbying to have his wife (minus her right eye) and surviving 3-year old son join him in safety, away from the dangerous liberation this family (among others) has been maimed by. To the London Evening Standard, Mr.Arara spoke to the factors behind their misfortune:
"None of them are even related to Muammar Gaddafi - it is just a surname given to many thousands of members of his tribe. But my wife and all our relatives were afraid that they could immediately be subjected to revenge attacks just because of their names. So they decided to flee to a safer place. If their names had not been Gaddafi they would have stayed at home and all be alive today."And what luck the cars they spotted in that direction contained people actually named Gaddafi? Had they been tipped off by some overzealous idiot that those weird, nervous Gaddafis across the street were fleeing suspiciously in such and such cars? Ironically, in trying to flee from imagined harm that would seem unlikely to most of us over here, she may have provoked just the violence feared, proving it was there, wriggling stupidly and venomously beneath the surface.
His family were driving near the airport to escape the violence when a group of rebels spotted the cars [on the lookout for them?]. Everyone but Mr Arara's wife and three-year-old son Ahmed were killed.
"They thought the cars might be carrying Gaddafi loyalists, because there had apparently been some shooting not long before from roughly the same direction," said Mr Arara.
Is this what's now emanating from the "Terrorism Against the Libyan People" building?
The lesson here for anyone in recently liberated cities named Gaddafi, Sennoussi, etc. (you'll know the list far better than I) is this: you should not attempt to run in fear. Do not "run like rats." Sit quietly in fear instead, and your chances of being massacred by the nation's new rat hunters/exterminators will be slightly reduced. Just remain calm - you have nothing to fear unless you start acting nervous, or move your hands at all, or are interviewed after one of the far-too-armed beardy kids has had his eighth cup of coffee.