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Saturday, February 18, 2012

See-Through Salem: An Innocent Explanation?

February 16, 2012

<< See-Through Salem: Dr. Salem al-Farjani Or, What Ever Became of Dr. Rajub? 

I just drafted a short interim report on the Khamis Brigade Shed Massacre, drafted first for the consideration of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). In it, I described the apparent deceit of Dr. al Farjani calling himself Dr. Rajub and claiming to be a massacre witness. Speaking to that group, who consulted Dr. al Farjani for their report on the massacre, made me feel compelled to include the following:
There are relatively innocent possible explanations for the apparent deceit of his testifying under a pseudonym (or even two of them), and PHR would be better situated than I to know. Did he mention to PHR that he was also a direct witness to the massacre, who tried to help, but was driven back by snipers? Or is Dr. Rajub supposed to be a different person from him? (that is, did he fail to ever mention that?)
That in turn makes me want to bring it up here for more group thoughts to consider before I finish up the final report. Is it possible, or very likely, that "Dr. Salim Rajub" had a relatively innocent reason for coming into existence? What if he makes some argument to that effect, true or not? If he's always been up-front about his witness activity, that would be a sign of no deception intended. I've never heard him mention it as Dr. Farjani, but I haven't heard a whole lot from him at all.

Is Rajub a False Name Even?
First, is this even a false name? Some Arabs, especially ones connected to this massacre, have rather plastic names that change from one report to the next. Perhaps his name is Dr. Salem Rajub al Farjani?

It's not terribly likely. I found few Internet hits for Libyans of his name in English beyond his recent "professional" work. Some of those refer to a soccer player of the same name. Only one seems to help here: The Arab Society for Plant Protection had its 9th congress organized in al Baida, Libya, 2003. The year before, the 8th Congress had a "Dr. Salem O. El-Ferjani" on the organizing committee, and a "Dr. Salem Omar El-Ferjani" on the fundraising one. He doesn't seem to pop up in later conferences.

He's not a plant science guy, we hear, but a cardiac surgeon perhaps (that remains vague). But the skills he's shown - knowing people, saying things, networking - work great for the committees he's listed on. It could well be him.

So unless his name is Salim Omar Rajub al Farjani, this is not likely a version of his real name at all.

False But Innocent?
But even using a pseudonym can have a non-nefarious explanation. Petri Krohn brought this up in a very open-minded comment a while back.
I do not think you can discount or discredit al-Farjani for not revealing his true name. This happened on August 27th when the Battle of Tripoli was far from over – or if it was, you cannot expect locals to know about it. Dr. al-Farjani had every reason to be worried about his own security, even more so if he truly believed the shed victims were murdered by "Gaddafi" soldiers.

We also have to excuse Dr. al-Farjani for not disclosing his true mission to the base: documenting massacre sites. Living near by is a perfect cover story. In understanding the events we must keep in mind that people meeting the press are often dragged into far more publicity than they vouched for. Also, Sky News might have pressed him into giving a 1st person account of the events of August 23th – he must have seen something, didn't he just say he lives next door.
I gave these thoughts some consideration, but not in enough detail at the time. I've been making a big deal of the shady appearance of the whole thing, and need to re-think it.

Let's imagine the most honest version: he did witness the attack, and returned to the Yarmouk shed to learn and share. Although it rings false, maybe he really is a local and his witness account is true. Certainly the coincidence that this expert on loyalist massacres would happen to live right by and directly witness the worst among them is eyebrow-raising, but it's possible.

So, he returned and happened upon the media feeding frenzy, and perhaps out of fear, gave a false name, and explain how he was a close neighbor who witnessed it.

But here's a problem - if he really is a local who saw it, by saying so he gave his approximate address ("200 meters" from the base). He called himself "Dr. Salem" and mentioned Tripoli Medical Center. Not good ways for a Dr. Salem from TMC to obscure his identity. Adding his distinctive face to this mysterious Dr. Rajub on the news camera certainly sounds unsafe as well, but he did that.

But maybe being a local was part of his cover story along with the name. It's not a very good one, if so, but it would mean he's probably lying about witnessing the massacre, since he explained that with the fact that he's a local. If it's a false story, we can't be sure if he dreamed it up for his own reasons prior to arriving, or improvised on the spot to impress the news crews, as Petri postulated.

As for fear and the war, I think the battle of Tripoli was considered pretty much over by the relevant date. 90% of the capitol was claimed as under rebel control by the 22nd, and Bab al Azizyah was loudly overwhelmed on the 23rd. Both of these were simplifications of the issue, but four days later even Abu Salim was contained, all bases under control and, in my opinion, there should have been little to fear from the coming days from any effective loyalist reprisals.

Further, the vast majority of the witnesses gave full names that, as far as we know, aren't false ones. So, again, fear of Greens as a reasonable motive for dishonesty is possible but not well-illustrated.

As noted above, he showed his face, used half his name and his title, mentioned his workplace, and gave what he said was his rough address. Anyone trying to hide could leave out or changed any of that. He could drop "doctor," or "Salem," or "al Farjani," or all three. He dropped only one of those. (And he might have picked it right back up with Ahmed al Farjani, the unseen 42-year-old local construction worker who took in the same survivor - Mustafa el Hitri/Atiri - that Dr. Salim escorted to the world stage a couple of days later.)

Barely anything of his identity was, in fact, hidden here. So as effective camouflage for any deceit, it also fails, and that itself is a thing I've wondered about. Why be so transparent about it?

There's another possibility that answers a lot of these questions... eh, I'll explain that later.


  1. Dr Rajub/Ferjani may well have had some reason to provide a nom de guerre on 27th August interviews. Within the turbulent environment of Tripoli it could be rational, and I could accept.

    The truly objective and truthful official of the war missing and massacred, and one whom carries great responsibilities in the new democratic Libya, would certainly need to reasses the initial beliefs of what had exactly occurred at the base, when it had occurred, and most critically, who were the perpetrators of this crime.

    Witnesses need to be reconsidered and explanations sought in the contradictions of evidence supplied. While perhaps most importantly, a full explanation and investigation is required on the information provided by the Mistrata brigade on the 23rd August that 140 executed bodies had discovered on their push through Tripoli.

    What did this mass killing refer to? And why was it never apparently followed up? Does it relate the the evidence provided by Dr Rajub of the disturbance he alluded to on the 23rd and the subsequent discovery of still smouldering bodies on the 27th?

    Truth and impartiality are the test.

    1. Good to hear from you on this, Eddie.

      I could also let the name thing slide, at least give a benefit of the doubt (always with a note made-you can't let too many benefits pile up). But that he also just happens to live there and witnessed about what all the contradictory white witnesses say ... It's steep. That's already too much benefit, IMO.

      I confess I'm having a harder time than usual stepping back into impartiality, but I just can't see how he could be honest on both accounts, story and name. And that's too bad, as he's supposed to be one of the relevant guys in the most relevant government that should be given info about circumstantial clues, alternate scenarios, and suspicious "witnesses."

      I'm open to anything that can help me get over that hump of doubt, not to be convinced he's level, just more open-minded about it.

  2. This doctor featured in this video isn't a relative of the doctor in question is he?

  3. @Anon. thanks - I don't think so. That's Dr Mohamed Murabit, surgeon from Saskatewan, Canada, who was working alongside his daughter Alaa Murabit, a 21 year old medical student at Zawiyah "It is probably the most fun country in the world to be in right now (6 Sept 2011) said the co-founder of the Voice of Libyan Women, along with perhaps Issraa Murabit, who moved back to Libya SIX years ago. Ferras Murabit is no doubt another of his family. Quite a clan.
    Yet, when I listen to Mohamed speaking in English from Zawiyah to Al Jazeera, on 5 March 2011, the voice is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from that in the Guardian piece. Or is Mohamed the man being translated into English?? In which case again, Mohamed is not Dr Murabit.
    I have dug out the Sky coverage by Alex Crawford,[LIBYA] The Battle for Al Zawiyah, 08/03/2011 , showing the bridge in question.


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