Adonis Diaries

“A Taxi to Benghazi” by Marie-Lys Lubrano

Posted on: May 2, 2012

“A Taxi to Benghazi” by Marie-Lys Lubrano 

Marie-Lys Lubrano is a French girl with a camera and of about 25 years. She is doing freelance to the French magazine Marianne and she missed out on Tunisia revolt.

As she landed in Cairo, she realized that she missed out on the Egyptian revolt: Mubarak was ousted.

Marie-Lys’ girlfriend Gratiane is planning from Paris to pay a visit to Yemen in turmoil, but obtaining a visa to far away archaic Yemen will have to wait for a long time. Marie-Lys stumbles on an email claiming that an insurrection has started in Benghazi (Libya) and is trying to change Gratiane mind to reconsider and go together to cover the revolt in Libya.

Marie-Lys had no idea that east Libya is on the border with Egypt, and she thought Tripoli was the Lebanese norther port city, and she could not recall the name Qadhafi and who he was: Qadhafi actually erected his tent in 2007 in the Elyse (Paris) before meeting with President Sarkozy…

Marie-Lys is totally ignorant about geography and the Arab world, but she has a camera and is willing to ask plenty of questions and take a lot of risks on front lines battle fields…Marie-Lys’ has not yet experienced fear and how battle fields look like…

Foreign young foreign photographers and correspondents rush to cover dangerous events, not knowing that the country is in a state of war…as long as they have a freelance job…

Marie-Lys converges to the headquarter of Egypt medical association and asks to join the volunteering medical staff heading to Libya. The convoys are organized by the Moslem Brotherhood Party that has the means and the capability of putting together convoys, but a very few physicians and surgeons are members of that Islamic political party.

From Cairo to Alexandria to the border with Libya and off to Benghazi, the eastern Capital of Libya where the insurrection started 3 days ago and hundreds of peaceful demonstrators were killed and injured by Qadhafi forces, shot to kill point-blank.

The hospitals in Benghazi were crumbling with seriously injured demonstrators and the morgue were already overflowing. But the inhabitants managed to chase out Qadhafi armed loyalists that regrouped in towns west of Benghazi.

The first lesson for Marie-Lys was to differentiate between Libya regular army and the battalions of the Presidential guards, formed mostly of African mercenaries: Qadhafi kept the regular army poorly armed because he learned not to trust it.

First, Qadhafi came to power by a military coup d’etat and never relinquished power for 43 years and crushed several military attempts to depose him…

Qadhafi main power relied on his own well armed battalions (kataeb), strong with tanks and modern missiles and airforce and navy…One of the 7 sons of Qadhafi, Khamis, headed a katiba and was considered as the real bloody nemesis to the armed insurgents. You could compare Khamis with the ruthless Maher el Assad, brother of President Bashar of Syria, who head a Syrian katiba and is found everywhere, bloodily putting down upheavals in major cities like Deraa, Homs, Hama, Edleb…

You will discover that Qadhafi has eliminated the postal service 20 years ago and Libyans could not send letters inside or outside Libya and the eastern province of Benghazi was forgotten in the government “budget” for decades and surgeons were paid less than $250 per month and only tribes that were loyal to Qadhafi received stipends…and women had no idea that birth control pills existed or what is a tampon for their monthly periods.  Even the physicians were totally ignorant on birth control and women hygiene practices…

For example, a medical graduate girl of 33 of age had no idea how tampons are used and what for, and she believed that having intercourse during the period could result in certain death: She thought that this knowledge was in medical books until she recalled that it was the Koran that prohibited this practice…

It dawned on Marie-lys that Libya is in a state of war when she realized that women were nowhere to be found: Women were locked in their houses for fear of being raped if they stepped outside, kind of opportunities waiting to be taken advantage of…One surgeon begged his sister physician to visit the hospital and help with her skills, but she would not dare come out and stayed home cooking to the extended family (living a dozen in crowded two rooms) and doing laundry…

However, during mass demonstrations, it was the women who raised the most politically oriented slogans of liberty, equality, freedom, job opportunities… while the men kept shouting “Allah wa Akbar” ad nauseam

Marie-Lys insisted to joining insurgent and medical teams to the front lines and she was sheltered and cared for and kept close to the heads of the groups.  One insurgent admitted that he would have retreated many times but refrained as Marie-Lys kept pushing forward and he was not to be considered a coward by a girl…

Qadhafi counteroffensives were close to entering Benghazi when the French young philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy showed up in Benghazi and claimed that France officially recognized the transitory government CNT, taking care of the Benghazi city services…

Marie-Lys was speechless because Bernard-Henri was not a political emissary, even if he claimed to have a direct phone line with president Sakozy…Bernard-Henri and Sarkozy have demonstrated for years their antipathy to Arabs and to Islam, and Bernard-Henri missed out on the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt.

It turned out that France got engaged in insuring a “No fly Zone” over Libya and its airforce bombed the advancing columns of tanks in south Benghazi… Before France military engagement, Libyans had vacated the towns and cities in the eastern provinces and were heading toward Egypt border…

Marie-Lys followed the medical teams and ambulances to the front lines and witnessed gruesome cases of atrocities…At one point, the NATO purposely bombed advancing insurgents because the “red lines” kept shifting and the revolt had to obey the NATO military and political strategy

The insurgents were organized by professional colonels, officers and soldiers of the regular army, otherwise, the insurgents headed too often to certain slaughterhouse expeditions…

Marie-Lys kept misplacing her backpack where she kept her pills and laptop…Her brother had to travel to the borders in Egypt to bring Marie-Lys two bags of everything she lacked. The brother was weeping and was totally terrorized that his sister is insisting on remaining in Libya and he stayed on the border for another week, waiting for his sister to change her mind and go back with him to France…But he respected her wishes…and she stayed another month to witness very depressing events and glorious ones too.

For example, you had this insurgent who blew an ambulance with the team of medical personnel inside, simply because the car was turned toward the opposite direction of the front line: He thought the ambulance belonged to the loyalist Qadhafists…

Many Libyans with secure jobs and easy comfortable life-styles in the USA, England and France returned to Benghazi to join the insurrection and volunteer driving ambulances if they were not surgeons or skilled in matters needed by the war…

There was nothing much to eat in Libya: packs of juices and the French “Laughing Cow cheese” (La vache qui ri).  Now and then, the insurgents would cook pasta with tomato sauce,and Marie-Lys learned to dip her hand in the common pate and eat voraciously.

Electricity was frequently cut off and thus, no running water to drain the toilets in the small overcrowded houses. The members of the extended families had to walk 200 meters to the closest dune for relief in order to keep the stench at a manageable distance…

Marie-Lys didn’t have to spend a nickel: everything was free, including staying in hotels and meals.  A few illuminated Libyans would give her all the money in their pocket, on the ground that the Libyan dinar was worthless.

Families had no shame welcoming the photographer in their poor homes and sharing the little they had.  You witness all kinds of weird mankind brotherhood behaviors in such kind of drastic revolutionary spirit…against a loathed dictator…

Libyans who got fight training in Afghanistan were not that many in Libya when the revolt began, but you could recognize one: They are aloof with long beard, whisling as they walk amid bombs and rockets pouring around…They are not soldiers but expert in manipulating rocket launchers and RPG…

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