Last Monday the streets of Tripoli were filled with flags. Each lamppost, building, school, office, roundabout, traffic light and shop had one: three horizontal lines, one red, one black and one green, symbol of Fezzan, Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, in the center the crescent and a white star.
A united country, a single Libya. The flag is the same that was the sign of the Kingdom of Libya and then adopted by the National Transitional Council, after the 2011 revolution.
The revolution celebrated last week, the ninth anniversary of February 17, 2011.
Piazza dei Martiri, which was once the Green Square of the rais, was filled with lights and posters, speakers, speakers and boxes, photos of other victims, martyrs of new wars.
To the right of the square, with the sea behind, the balcony from which Gaddafi spoke. From there to the end of February 2011, he shouted inciting his supporters: We will all defeat, as we have done in the past. Resist, he said to his, fight against the rioters.
And dance, rejoice, he said, and finally: The people love me, his last words from the balcony of power.
The rest is history.
His people stopped loving him, as did the allies who reserved for him parades of riders on horseback, respectful welcome in Europe and money – a lot – in exchange for checking the borders and therefore migratory flows.
Europe has changed moods and interlocutors, no more models to welcome the dictator. The habit of offering money in exchange for refusals of migrants and border control has instead resisted time and wars. It was still winter in Tripoli in 2011, when the rais fled and went into hiding, and nine months later, in October, he was killed where he was born, in Sirte.
The autumn of the dictator.
The blockade of wells imposed by Haftar is bending the country already on its knees for the war. Speak Mustafa Sanalla, president of the NOC, the Libyan oil company. «Don't reward those who break the law. The other nations raise their voices so that the rule of law is respected »
Since then, nothing has been known about his body. Some say he was buried in the desert, someone who the rebels threw him into the sea.
Others whisper that the body is no longer there, but that “He is alive, he is among us”.
And it is difficult, listening to these words today, to think of them only as a provocation, an excess.
What remains of Gaddafi's body is and will remain one of Libya's secrets.
The vanished body of the rais has become the ghost of the past that returns. The appearance of the omens and damnations that Gaddafi handed over to his country before being killed.
You will never be free, and so it is. Nine years later.
The square that in 2011 asked for Hurria, Libertà, still does not rejoice, mourns other victims. And shouts Salam. Peace. Peace at last.
Akram Abruiss he is a very tall man, he wears the traditional Libyan suit, a long thick black woolen robe, and the cylindrical felt hat, embroidered in white. His face is elongated, the muscles of his face seem to pull to resist a pain that hunts him, wrinkles deform around his lips while shouting Pace. Peace.
In his left hand he has the Libyan flag, in the other, a celestial flag, with a dove in the center.
Salam, says Akram's voice, echoing the protesters around him. Peace. Next to him is his wife, holding a photograph in his hand. A frame one meter high, slightly less wide, and the serious face of a young man, is his son Salah, who died two months ago at the age of twenty-three, fighting to defend Tripoli.
Colonization before and diplomatic turns afterwards increase the intolerance of the Libyans towards us. The fifth installment of the diary from Tripoli on the eve of the anniversary of the revolution
Hana's face is elsewhere, her gaze never meets anyone's eyes, she looks at a point in space and her lips always seem to be about to speak, but she says only one sentence, one only, repeated like a prayer: kulluhum shabab. They are all young. Kulluhum Shabab. They are all young.
And as he says it he squeezes the frame with his hands, as if that image could become a living body again, and his son was still about to go home from the front.
«They called our terrorist children, they called them militiamen, but our young people wanted to study, not to fight. Those who had to flee Tripoli have already done so, those who remain fight for all, and die for all, »says Akram.
While everyone is nodding around.
“Do you want to know where the militia chiefs are? The militia chiefs have fled ».
So it is rumored in Tripoli that the young Haithem Tajouri, an ambitious and rich warlord, who left the capital at the beginning of the offensive in April 2019, did so other small leaders, minor leaders, enriched in the years of the chaos and civil war.
They dominated large areas of the capital, managed illicit trafficking, maneuvered the government, blackmailed ministers, changed uniforms to become interlocutors of international powers and liquefied when that capital that gave them wealth and power was attacked.
And to fight Haftar who launched the war on Tripoli with the cry of “via terrorists and militants from the capital” remain the armed forces of Misrata and hundreds of boys and boys. Someone fought in 2011, someone learned to fight in the meantime, in the wars that came after – four – as a necessary training, a survival recipe. And next to them now, men and women from Turkey, an ally of the Sarraj government that has complained for months about the abandonment of Europe. Italy in the lead.
Over the past ten days, United Nations Special Representative Stephanie Williams in Libya called the arms embargo “a joke” and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called it “a scandal”.
The Kaniat are the main allies of Haftar. Up until two years ago he called them massacres. And the blood they got stained with remains in people's stories. The fourth installment of the diary from Tripoli on the eve of the anniversary of the revolution
General Haftar has released an audio message saying that the conquest of Tripoli is upon us and will not give up until his goals are achieved.
For his part, Fayez al Sarraj, head of the government supported by the United Nations, in a press conference in Tripoli, said that it is not possible to negotiate as long as “the capital is bombed and there are continuous bloodshed and destroyed infrastructure”.
During the Berlin Summit, organized by Angela Merkel to facilitate the ceasefire and political negotiation, Cyrenaean troops continued to bomb the southern suburbs of the capital and the tribes related to General Haftar closed the oil wells in the territories under their control. .
In less than a month, the NOC, the National Oil Corporation, that is, the only institution entitled to sell gas and oil from the country, estimated an irreversible loss of one and a half billion dollars.
Ten days ago, the Zawya refinery in the west also closed, a few tens of kilometers away from Mellitah, where Eni works.
The President of the NOC, Mustafa Sanalla, was very hard: “These losses will translate into a humanitarian emergency,” he told Espresso in his Tripoli office.
And it can only be so, because the Libyan economy is not only based on energy resources, it is dependent on it.
The proceeds from gas and oil pay services and wages, for everyone. Even for soldiers. And both sides.
And he added, Sanalla: «There must be no prizes and rewards for those responsible for this blockade, because if the international community does not exercise its ethical role, a severe condemnation of this conduct will not only create a dangerous precedent, but the Europe will be complicit in the end of the rule of law in the country “.
As if to say: closing your eyes today means impoverishing people, and when people are poor, tired, disheartened and feel abandoned and resentful towards those who believed themselves to be allies and instead assist silent, they feel they have only two alternatives: running away or embracing extremes.
It is always so, the always equal outcome of all wars, predictable yet never prevented.
In the meantime, a small boat with sixteen Libyans arrived in Lampedusa a week ago. Two families, six small children.
Thus, despite the missiles, the closure of the valves of the oil wells and the civilian casualties, the international community, this phrase that now seems to define little more than an exercise in diplomatic style, is resisting to name the responsibilities of some specific international actors who exert influence in Libya, the Emirates in the lead.
After the Berlin summit, the Libyan factions met again in Geneva to establish a lasting truce. Again nothing done.
Then in mid-February the UN Security Council in Munich.
At the press conference, Luigi Di Maio, foreign titular, said: “It is our duty to commit ourselves to the stabilization of Libya, it is in the interest of the Libyans who deserve a future of peace and prosperity after nine years of crisis”.
The war between Haftar and al-Sarraj seen through the eyes of those on the front. Between international agreements and tribal ties. The third installment of the diary from Tripoli on the eve of the anniversary of the revolution
Only four days before, he had flown to talk with the government of Tripoli and then to Benghazi by General Haftar, the official photos portrayed him satisfied, smiling.
While Di Maio was posing for the photo opportunity in Cyrenaica, a mortar from the Haftar forces hit the University of Tripoli neighborhood, Alhadba Albadri, the students were evacuated and a second mortar hit a car nearby, injuring five people and killing one. All civilians passed by there. In the car, a few hours later still the signs of blood on the seats, on the steering. On the ground outside, on the asphalt, the drops tell the trajectory of the bodies dragged away, quickly, for fear of another blow.
It is the rule of mortars. When one arrives one has to hide, run away, because usually the second arrives.
The owner of the paint shop in front of the car hit, while evening collects the shattered pieces of his shop window, has a broom in his hand, his head makes a constant wave movement. It is an uninterrupted No, an uninterrupted stop. He turns and says: “Think, the man who died has a green flag at home, he was a Gaddafi and since the war started he was with Haftar, waiting for him to conquer Tripoli, and instead this is the result. The poor have no allies, the powerful have allies, the poor have only enemies ». It is the dark and black irony of wars.
The next day, nine mortars and rockets hit the Salah al Din area, a residential neighborhood two kilometers from the front.
Almost all of them left the neighborhood, too much bombing noise, too much artillery echo, too much fear. Those who remain live a time that is a gamble. The woman who lived on the second floor of a faded pink building lost her. She was cooking, at noon and little more and the splinter of one of the nine mortars took her in full. A single sliver in the head died instantly. The volunteers of the Libyan Half Moon Red arrived shortly after to help family and neighbors, collected the body, a kitchen apron and pieces of brain.
Since the Berlin conference, less than a month ago, the United Nations estimated 150 violations of the arms embargo, 5 per day.
The only airport in Tripoli that still works has been closed four times in ten days because of the rockets.
The war in Libya is turning into a war of attrition.
And not at the front, not only at least. To wear out is the psychological strength of the people, who have stopped defining the fall of the rockets “random and arbitrary”.
Missiles don't hit civilian areas by mistake, they hit civilian areas to wear people out. To bring them down. And that a war is destined to be long you realize it because people no longer complain, no longer as before. They don't scream, they don't scream, even when a mortar hits their house at eight in the evening. This is what happened to Ali Esanusi, thirty years old, a civil engineer.
Six people around a rectangular table to divide the meal and suddenly a blow and the ceiling of the next room has a hole a meter wide and the bed underneath is disintegrated. Ali only thought: thank goodness. And he touches his arm, while repeating less badly and says: I survived. His mother Fatima collected some clothes and towels in an envelope, his father Mohammed, a dentist, filled a suitcase with objects from his office and they went away, without shouting, without crying and without screaming. Tired, resigned, survivors.
Displaced to join the other three hundred thousand displaced people in this war.
The United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Libya, Yacoub El Hillo, called the impact of the Libyan war on citizens “incalculable”. “The conflict is affecting civilians in all parts of the country on a scale never seen before,” he said in words that would add to the list of scornful statements by political representatives and United Nations officials condemning the violations of the embargo and of the truce without appointing those responsible for these violations and without providing for sanctions.
The day after the big demonstration on February 17, Haftar bombed the port of Tripoli, the media that support it said that the target was a freighter containing weapons and military vehicles.
Josep Borrell, EU High Representative, also explicitly condemned Turkey for the violations of the embargo.
On 17 February, Europe also declared to stop the Sophia mission and create a maritime patrol mission to guarantee respect for the embargo.
No one, however, names the violations by air, the military flights that arrive daily in Cyrenaica in support of Haftar. Seventy-nine only from the Emirates, after the Berlin Conference.
The front of Wadi Rabia is located a handful of kilometers from Tajoura, south of Tripoli. It's countryside, seeing a front line in it is an exercise in imagination, there are fields and olive groves, large houses and farms.
In the air, the stale smell of decaying bodies is the animals, abandoned and starved, or dead under artillery strikes.
Soldiers guard positions. “We have orders from the Military Operation Chamber not to advance and not to shoot,” they explain, and so we do. We only respond if attacked ». And they tell an enemy on the doorstep, or a farm beyond, or behind the mosque on our right, looking closely you can see a tank. “They can strike at any time.”
Initiated in the Gaddafi era, they still remain surrounded by cranes. And they are the perfect symbol of what the country could have been and was not. While the war that was to last a short time seems never to end.
The diary from Tripoli on the eve of the anniversary of the revolution
Like ten days ago, says Feisal Dermish, 22. He is from Misurata and has a family in Benghazi and when he speaks he covers his face. He does not want photographs and does not want to be photographed with his face exposed. “Because Haftar controls us,” he says. “And if he sees me here fighting on the Tripoli front, he will kill my relatives who are still in Cyrenaica.”
Feisal says that the last time the men of Haftar surrounded them and for two days they lost the last positions conquered. “There were mercenaries,” he says, “janjaweed, the Sudanese militias, and Chadians. And the Russians. Wagner, Wagner ».
Soldiers from the private security company close to President Putin.
On the side of Sarraj's troops, the presence of Syrian fighters is estimated. Two thousand analysts say.
They can't be seen around, but access to the front is limited. It is no longer like in April, at the beginning of the war.
Turkish military vehicles and nobody pass at the checkpoints
it does not hide the presence on the ground of Turkish personnel who train Libyans to use new anti-aircraft means.
It is estimated that between two and four hundred mostly conventional soldiers and drone operators. On the other hand, the Erdogan-Sarraj agreement is a public agreement, a military deal between two governments. “Besides,” they say, “we have to defend ourselves. Here there is an attacker and an attacker, even if you treat them equally. “
On the other hand, they say, you others have abandoned us.
Four years ago Feisal was a boy, he lived in Misurata and mourned the dead of the war on terrorism.
The military coalition was called Bunyar al Marsous and was supposed to free the North African capital of Isis from the Caliph militiamen.
Then there were Europeans on the ground. Intelligence above all, and then, of course, the bombings that razed a piece of the city.
They were holding the list of foreign fighters who had gone out to fight with ISIS and didn't want them back. Supporting the soldiers of Misrata meant guaranteeing their national security.
At the end of that war, in December 2016, there were parades and great compliments, the troops of Misrata were always the most trained and capable on the field, Gaddafi kept them under siege for months in 2011.
Today it is the same men who defend the capital. Haftar calls them militiamen and terrorists, and they who cried seven hundred fallen among the troops, are not there.
Four years have passed since the end of the war in Sirte and whoever does not mourn a dead man has an invalid at home, the wounded were three thousand, and the state pays neither compensation nor compensation.
“But no one pulled back when the war started” and not even when the front doubled. Because two months ago Haftar conquered Sirte and part of the Misrata troops moved to Abu Grein, to prevent an advance.
Feisal is twenty-two years old and the head of the front trusts him, manages the tanks.
The day before the anniversary of the revolution he fought in Wadi Rabia. “I shot from an impossible position,” he says proudly, showing a grainy zoom video on the phone. A soldier of Haftar's troops is seen extending his arm and folding it quickly, his hand stretched across the forehead. The military salute.
It's a sign of esteem, explains Feisal, because they know I hit them from a very difficult point. And send the video back and forth a thousand times.
“After all, they are brothers,” he says. “They are Libyans too, but what should we do?”
Yeah, what should we do?
Feisal grew in a country of six million inhabitants, twenty million weapons, the largest ammunition stock in the world, estimated between 150 thousand and 200 thousand tons.
When he is not fighting, Feisal studies economics.
On February 17 he was at the front of Wadi Rabia, he got into the driving of an armored vehicle, looked at his companions and said, let's go, towards the capital. We also celebrate, Hurria, Hurria. And so he did, driving a convoy of young people, who also had the Libyan flag and the flag with the dove on their vehicles. Salam, and Hurria. Peace and Freedom.
«I don't know», he says arrived in front of Piazza dei Martiri already full, «I don't know how many Syrians are fighting in Tripoli, nor where. Too many mercenaries, too many interests. But I look around and see only Libyans, those who fight with me and those who fight against me. And the others around to exploit and suffocate us ».
Then he starts the armored car again, smiles and says: “Come on, let's go back to die.”