FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Where Have Libya’s Children Gone?

by FRANKLIN LAMB

Tripoli, Libya.

The quality of life continues to degrade in certain areas of western Libya while public anxiety noticeably rises over missing Libyan children as the first week of an unusually stressful Ramadan passes.

The shortage of gasoline has become acute and despite government efforts to curtail price gouging, one taxi driver told this observer yesterday that while the usual price of ‘benzene’ was five liters (one gallon) for $.40 (forty US cents) he is now having to pay as much as ” 4 dinars for one liter of petrol!” That is roughly the equivalent of 13 US dollars for a gallon of gasoline, a huge price surge in a country long accustomed to cheap, heavily subsidized fuel. “Informal economy” (black market) fuel arrives in car trunks from the Tunisian border and its increasingly common to see fellows with a make shift funnel trying to get more benzene into their vehicle tanks than they splash and spill on neighborhood streets.

Walking around the “medina” off Omar Muktar Street near my hotel yesterday afternoon, the angst over deteriorating conditions is apparent. Shops, like homes, are now subject to rolling blackouts and quickly become hot and stuffy, discouraging would be customers from entering. Some food stores have to discard milk and other perishable items given the up to 11 hour power cuts that send temperatures above 100F. One gentleman on Rashid Street in downtown Tripoli said his family had not had power for five days and the pump that supplies water to his apartment building stopped working so they lack two essential utilities.

NATO’s arguable act of piracy earlier this week in commandeering the fuel tanker ship Cartagena off the coast of Malta that was bringing gasoline to Tripoli and sending it instead to rebel militia based close to Benghazi is yet again explained from NATO HQ as necessary for “protecting the civilian population of Libya.”

According to Libya’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim, “The age of piracy is coming back to the Mediterranean because of NATO.”

Some frustrated shop keepers just shutter their shops and seek relief at the beach or take a nap waiting for sundown and their Ramadan Iftar (feast) to begin. But lack of electricity even affects its preparation. ( note: 15 minutes ago NATO bombed the public beach near my hotel as three other bombs landed nearby—targets unknown)

Every time a bomb blast is heard, a chorus of passersby and kids invariably point toward the bomb site and watch the rising white or black smoke (the color depending on the type of bomb or missile) and some shout, “F— NATO! F—Obama!” Etc.

If a foreigner is confronted by angry citizens who may blame Americans for NATO’s bombing, a sure fire way to quickly reduce crowd tension is for the foreigner to make the peace sign and make a fist with his other hand and chant a few times: “Allah! Mohammad! Muammar! Libye! Abass!” (God!, Mohammad!, Qadaffi!, Libya!, that’s all we need!”) The locals appreciate the sentiment and pre-teens often join the popular chant and dance.

As of the morning of 8/7/11 NATO statistics show that since 3/31/11, NATO forces have launched 18,270 sorties, mainly against Western Libya, including 6,932 bomb/missile strike sorties. Last night (8/6/11) there were 115 sorties including 45 bombings of which 12 were in central Tripoli starting a 10 p.m.

To their great credit, some Congressional staffers on the US Senate Armed Services Committee who liaise with the Pentagon, have acted on constituent complaints and have criticized NATO’s incomplete description of its bombing of Libyan civilians.

For example earlier this week NATO reported its bombing of the village on Zlitan, about 160 miles east of Tripoli in the Western Mountains as follows: “In the vicinity of Zlitan:1 Ammunition Storage Facility, 1 Military Facility, 2 Multiple Rocket Launchers.”

However, still absent from this particular NATO report on its website is the fact that its bombing attack killed the wife and two children of Mustafa Naji, a local Zlitan physics teacher. Mustafa’s wife Ibtisam, and their two children, Mohammad 5 and Muttasim, were pulverized. Once again, NATO said it could not confirm the “accidental killings” but would investigate.

Where are the children?

Also of growing public and government concern in Western Libya is the whereabouts of 53 female and 52 male children aged one to 12 years and another group ranging from 12 to 18 years, both part of a government-run home for orphans and abused children that until February was operating in Misrata, now under rebel control. According to several reports over the past three months and testimony presented last Thursday evening to the international media gathered at the Tripoli Rexis Hotel, by the General Union for Civil Society Organizations:

The 105 children, part of more than 1000 missing, were “kidnapped” by rebel forces as they entered Misrata and went on a killing spree, some of which has been documented by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International among other groups. There is no question that the children are no longer in their sheltered facility. But from there what became of them remains a mystery.

The Libyan government claims the youngsters were kidnapped by rebels who went on a rampage in late February. Several reports from eyewitnesses claim that the children were last seen being put onto either a Turkish, Italian, or French boat. More than one witness claimed to have witnessed some of the children being sold in Tunisia. On his tweeter page, the local Russian Telesur reporter said that “several sources have affirmed that the 105 children were taken out of the country in a ship that could be Turkish, French or Italian.”

Libyan Social Affairs Minister Ibrahim Sharif told reporters in Tripoli this week that, “We want the truth and we hold those countries responsible for the well-being of these children who are neither soldiers nor combatants.” Sharif added that a rebel doctor captured by government troops testified that some of the orphans had been taken to France and Italy.
Given Misrata’s history as a main North African slave trading port, a fact that today partially explains tensions among the one third of Libya’s population that is black and who are descendants of slaves and many of whom live in western Libya in villages now fighting the Misrata and Benghazi based rebels, concern is acute.

While Libya has had perhaps the most strictly enforced child protection laws in the Middle East and Africa, people here remember clearly that France was at the center of a scandal in 2007 when aid workers from the Zoe’s Ark charity attempted to fly 103 children out of Chad, to the south of Libya, who they said were orphans from neighboring Sudan. International aid staff later found that the children were in fact Chadian and had at least one living parent. People here fear a similar fate for the Libyan youngsters.

Also on people’s minds in Libya is what happened two years ago in Haiti when “orphans,” according to local authorities, were kidnapped. Given the epidemic of human trafficking in this region, especially of children, fears are well founded.

NATO has not replied to inquiries demanding information about the disappeared children nor has UNICEF, Save the Children or Secretary of State Clinton’s office. Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich has agreed to demand that the White House order an immediate investigation and of course any human rights advocate could raise this issue in the West and demand an urgent inquiry from her/his government.

The Libyan government as well as both the Roman Catholic Papal representative Bishop Giovanni Martinelli, and Father Daoud of the Anglican Church of Christ the King, in Tripoli have demanded that the UN investigate and find the children.

As for the National Transition Council, its spokesman denied charges that they have sold the children and claim that the Libyan government in Tripoli have all the children and that they are using them as human shields at the now five times bombed Bab al Azizya complex in central Tripoli. No known human rights organization or journalist who has investigated this claim has reported seeing any sign of the children at Bab al Azizya. The General Union, noted above, has photos and names and ages of all the missing children and have widely publicized them.

More than a dozen social welfare organizations, women’s groups and Libya’s Lawyer syndicates have launched an intensive media and public involvement campaign to find the children who have now been missing for nearly six months.

Franklin Lamb is in Libya and can be reached at fplamb@gmail.com

 

Franklin Lamb is a visiting Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, Damascus University and volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (sssp-lb.com).

More articles by:
May 31, 2016
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Imperial Blues: On Whitewashing Dictatorship in the 21st Century
Vijay Prashad
Stoking the Fires: Trump and His Legions
Patrick Howlett-Martin
Libya: How to Bring Down a Nation
Uri Avnery
What Happened to Netanyahu?
Corey Payne
Reentry Through Resistance: Détente with Cuba was Accomplished Through Resistance and Solidarity, Not Imperial Benevolence
Bill Quigley
From Tehran to Atlanta: Social Justice Lawyer Azadeh Shahshahani’s Fight for Human Rights
Manuel E. Yepe
Trump, Sanders and the Exhaustion of a Political Model
Bruce Lerro
“Network” 40 Years Later: Capitalism in Retrospect and Prospect and Elite Politics Today
Robert Hunziker
Chile’s Robocops
Aidan O'Brien
What’ll It be Folks: Xenophobia or Genocide?
Binoy Kampmark
Emailgate: the Clinton Spin Doctors In Action
Colin Todhunter
The Unique Risks of GM Crops: Science Trumps PR, Fraud and Smear Campaigns
Dave Welsh
Jessica Williams, 29: Another Black Woman Gunned Down By Police
Gary Leupp
Rules for TV News Anchors, on Memorial Day and Every Day
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail