Note: In the following exclusive interview, PolicyMic Contributing Writer Nathan Lean caught up with a Libyan refugee from Tripoli who has escaped to Vienna. The interview was conducted over the phone. For her safety and the safety of her family, her name has been changed to protect her identity. PolicyMic will continue to provide updates as we receive them on the situation in Libya, through continuing interview coverage.
“He is a Dracula. He likes blood. He is a terrorist.” Those were the words that Fatima, a Libyan refugee who recently fled to Vienna, used to describe Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi. In an effort to escape the increasingly gruesome scene in her hometown of Tripoli, she arrived at the local airport and boarded the first flight she could find — a passenger jet whose 270-person capacity had a meager 20 people aboard. “It was so difficult to escape,” she said. “I was one of the lucky ones.”
I caught up with Fatima on Friday afternoon by phone, just one day after her dangerous breakaway from Libya. She was obviously shaken by her ordeal but willing to share her story, and the Libyan people’s story, with me. What follows is a portion of our interview.
Nathan Lean (NL): So tell me a little bit about your escape.
Fatima (F): Well, I just left yesterday. I left Tripoli. But originally I am from from Benghazi. My family is from Benghazi. We had to leave. It is so horrible. I wish people could understand how bad it is. I went to the airport and there were people everywhere. Just bodies, people everywhere. Everyone wanted to leave. Everyone. I had a foreign passport and I got to the front of the line. Our plane was supposed to have 270 passengers but there were only 20 people on board. It was so difficult to escape. I was one of the lucky ones.
NL: Where do you see all of this going? In a potentially post-Gaddafi Libya, what will the country look like?
F: First, you must know that Gaddafi is a monster. Everyone asks about a post-Gaddafi world as if it’s something that will come easily. The situation there is indescribable. He is willing to destroy the whole country even if it costs him his life. He does not care. He is proud. He is giving weapons to the tribes and telling them to kill people. People are short of everything — food, water, blood, medicine. But he does not allow aid to come through.
NL: But certainly, in the event of his fall, which is becoming increasingly likely by the day, Libya must have some way to maintain stability. Let’s say the people take control of the government — how will it work?
F: All you have to do is look at eastern Libya. It works fine there, doesn’t it? In the eastern part, Gaddafi is not there. And, the army is now in the streets protecting the opposition from his cruelty.
NL: So are you suggesting that post-Gaddafi Libya will be under military rule?
F: No. No. This is just for now. We had a minister who resigned recently who was in charge [Mustafa Mohamed Abud Al-Jeleil]. He was taking care of everything — the salaries, the government, etc. But he couldn’t take it. He realized that this was no way to live.
NL: So western Libya would eventually see the same thing? Wouldn’t the country then be split in half, with two ruling governments? That may cause problems down the road.
F: There is only one Libya. We would have a central government in Tripoli.
NL: Ruled by who? Would it be democratic? After 42 years of Gaddafi’s rue, surely such a revolution would produce a freer society. Right?
F: Yes. Libya will be united and everything will eventually be okay. There are a lot of possibilities. We have the army — good ranks in the army. We have the ministers and the crown prince in London [Muhammad al-Senussi].
NL: And these are people who could possibly come back to create a central government, based in Tripoli?
F: Of course. Listen, there is no west, there is no east: there is Libya. This is not like Europe, not like Germany. There is not eastern Libya and western Libya. We are just Libya. And our future government, whether its led by former ministers, the army, the prince, or a combination, would be united. You know, this is what must happen. This is what must happen. We have very educated people abroad. These people are capable of handling our government, our economy...
NL: And how about the oil exportation? Obviously that is a major source of income and would need to be revived now that it has essentially collapsed?
F: Everything. Don’t worry, everything will be restored. These people are educated. But they live in other countries. And do you know why? Because Gaddafi does not want smart people surrounding him. He does not want people who will question him, or propose better ideas, or realize that he is a murderer and a terrorist. He only wants illiterate, uneducated people to stay in the country. They bow to him. Listen, he just spoke now and the people in Benghazi are celebrating. They are lighting fireworks and dancing on top of cars and beeping their horns and cheering. They are doing this because they have heard about more violence in Tripoli. These are his people.
NL: Fatima, thank you for your time and for telling your story. It’s important for the world to know about the situation in Libya.
F: We say to journalists, thank you, thank you, thank you.
Stay tuned to PolicyMic.com for more exclusive coverage of the events in Libya as the unfold.
Picture Credit: Jetalone