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Setting an example for reconciliation: Injured rival militants call for dialogue in Libya

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By: Mohamed Rabie*

Mohamed Rabie
Mohamed Rabie

I believed that it would be difficult, or impossible, for the fighters in the ranks of Qassoura (the initial movement of Libya Dawn Operation) of the General National Congress in Tripoli, with their rivals in the ranks of Karama (Dignity Operation) of the House of Representatives government in Tobroq; or if you like, of General Haftar, following all this fierce war that toppling Qaddafi and whose dust has not settled yet.

I did not believe that the two rivals would sit at one table to drink coffee accompanied by many comments and sarcasm on a dirty war, in which all the Libyans made a mistake, as believed by Abdul Rahman, who now walks on one foot.

In the end, they lost their limbs in a war where all the fire was friendly fire. Some of them lost both feet, and other lost an entire arm. Many of them walk on one foot and undergo physical therapy and prosthetic operations following a fierce war in which everyone was a loser.

This is where the story starts, in Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, from where I returned from a visit recently. The injured of Karama are staying at Hollywood Hotel and the Qassoura injured are staying at the Tierma Hotel.

After they fought against each other, until they were tired of fighting there, in Libya, now they look at their amputated limbs with bitterness, recalling that impulsiveness accompanied by the revolution of the youth towards the unknown after the Qaddafi regime fell, and it was hoped everything would end with it.

Jalal, a Qassoura casualty, injured in the airport battle, admits, “We crowded the fronts without prior knowledge of what is going in Libya. I now admit that I was walking behind something that was not in the interest of Libya at all, they used us!!” Jalal

fell silent, and I remain attentive to what he was saying even when he stopped talking. I did not interrupt or comment. Jalal went on to say without being asked, look, “I am now with one foot”.

I moved between Tierma Hotel, where the Qassoura injured lay, and Hollywood Hotel, where the Karama injured lay, throughout my stay in Sarajevo. However, staying at two

different hotels for the rivals was not a barrier to meeting, even half way after crossing the bridge over the river, or at the shisha café that lies almost in the middle between the two.

I was walking close to the café when I was greeted by a number of youth I immediately recognized as the victims of Libya’s war. The most prominent characteristic was an

amputated right foot. I approached them and exchanged wishes of a speedy recovery and return to family and to Libya. One of them moved his chair and gave me a chance to sit by them.

They ordered me a cup of coffee, and then one of them joked, “We learned you are a Libyan journalist from Holland”. He then asked, “Do you realize you are sitting at a table with someone from Musrata and another from Zintan?” A Musrati young man said this, suffering from severe atrophy in the feet and legs as a result of a methodological torture process including water and electricity. According to him, he was tortured by a group from Zintan.

Abdul Latif Al Zintani, who lost his right leg, laughed and said, “We fought there, in Libya, and now as you see we are having our coffee at one table, wishing each other recovery”. He then added seriously, “We all made mistakes. All the Libyans made mistakes, against themselves and against Libya”.

Abdul Latif’s last remarks raised a flag, perhaps a warning. We all fell silent for a while that felt like a lifetime. It touched all when he said, “We all made mistakes. All the Libyans made mistakes, against themselves and against Libya”.

Abdul Latif will undergo several operations, by a specialized Bosnian physician, who is experienced in the details of amputation and cutting. He succeeded in reviving 1700 Bosnian fighters who almost lost their limbs in the war, this doctor had to only amputate the limbs of 75 of them.

It is the same dirty war, similar to the Libyan war, a war that went on for four years, during which hundreds of thousands were killed from both sides – Bosnia and Serbia. Two million books were burned at the Central Bosnian Library, 700 of them were very rare books. Then the international community intervened.

Adel was going to undergo next a harsh operation, before being able to take easurements of his right leg so that in months he can walk on two feet.

The conversation led us to the South African runner, Oscar Pistorius, who runs on a prosthetic foot, and how he won international gold medals in running.

In the evening, everyone went to Adel’s room on the third floor of Tierma Hotel and they all helped him to go down to the hotel lobby. Adel had his last coffee with them amid wishes of a speedy recovery before having the important operation. They were a mix from Musrata, Beghazi, Zintan, Cabo, Tripoli, Kekla, Sabha, Zuwara, Zawyeh and Mizda.

Are we before a wide scale Libyan reconciliation project, even if at a narrow scale? Abdul Latif Zintani has an idea to develop these meetings with the amputees as a result of the Libyan – Libyan war, across Libya, in a single meeting inside the homeland.

Abdul Latif said, “We are the real persons affected by this dirty war, we will concede all the injustice, we will forgive everyone, let the fighting stop in Libya”.

*A Libyan Journalist and Author