The ongoing fighting between rival militias in Tripoli, the capital of Libya, has forced thousands to flee the country and prompted a number of embassies and international companies to evacuate their staff. The residents of Tripoli left behind live in constant fear of bombings, abductions, and food and petrol shortages.
The fighting that broke out in Tripoli in mid-July pits Islamist militants from the city of Misrata against the Kaâkaâ and al-Saouek brigades from the city of Zintan. The fighters use heavy artillery and have been fighting to gain control of Tripoli’s airport, which is held by the brigades from Zintan.
On Tuesday, the violence intensified in the western part of Tripoli in the Ghot al-Chaâl and al-Drebe neighbourhoods, where at least five civilians were killed. The same day, Tripoli’s chief of police, Colonel Al-Souissi, was assassinated by an unknown group of masked men that opened fire on his vehicle. The following day, the Libyan parliament asked the international community to intervene in Tripoli and Benghazi to protect the civilian population. Benghazi, in eastern Libya, has also suffered from severe violence.
To date, two hundred people have died in the clashes. This marks the largest spurt of violence since former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed in 2011.
“There are endless queues in front of the few bakeries and gas stations that are still open”
Normally, I work in Ghot al-Chaâl, but I haven’t been there for over a month because the area has become very dangerous. However, Souk al-Jamaâ, the neighbourhood where I live, has largely been spared, which is mostly in the western and southern parts of the city near the airport. But many residents have left and most stores have closed. There are endless queues in front of the few bakeries and gas stations that are still open, which causes a great deal of tension. A few days ago, a man opened fire during a fight in a gas station, killing three people.
The administration has also been extremely slowed down by the events. Two days ago, my husband tried to renew his work permit because we wanted to go to Tunisia to be safer. However, once he got to the government office in charge of renewals, he was told that none of the employees were coming to work anymore.
My children have been very worried by all this violence. I had enrolled them in language school for the summer, but the lessons were stopped when the security situation became too dangerous. Moreover, gunshots during the night keep them awake.
"A premature baby died because there was nobody at the hospital who could take care of him”
Some of my friends and family live in the western part of the city, which is constantly under fire or hit by explosions. Many have fled to other neighbourhoods or cities. You typically see dozens of families walking alongside the roads, because there is a gasoline shortage. Young volunteers have helped some of them by picking them up in their cars and driving them to safer areas. Then there are people like my brother, who had to flee from the Saleheddine neighbourhood in a great hurry in late July because gasoline reservoirs near his home were set on fire.
Moreover, the Tripoli hospitals had largely been run by expats, who have all all evacuated from the city. Accordingly, the hospitals now only take the most urgent cases, which are people who’ve been hurt from the fighting. Several days ago, one of the hospitals refused to admit a premature baby. He died because there were just not enough staff to take care of him.
“About 30 mentally handicapped girls were left to fend for themselves for several days”
The neighbourhood is suffering from daily bombardments and most of its residents have fled. Since I work for the municipality of Janzour, the centre’s director called me to explain that he could not come to work because the roads are too dangerous. The situation was the same for the rest of the personnel. About 60 boys and 70 girls live in the centre. Since the start of the fighting, we were able to evacuate 60 boys and 35 of the girls to other centres. But more than 30 girls were essentially left to fend for themselves for several days.
Volunteers finally were able to procure some gasoline in order to use generators, so as to have electricity again. Power shortages are very common and can last up to 8 hours in a row. They also brought back some butane gas so that we can cook for the girls. We are now in continuous contact with the water and electric utilities in order to ensure a minimum basic service. I can say that, thanks to the support of our local volunteer youths — who sometimes put their own lives at risk — the patients are finally being taken care of again. I am proud of this spirit of solidarity.
“In Fechloum, we are above all worried about abductions”
The neighbourhood is considered to be a haven for liberals, who oppose the Islamists. Accordingly, most people here support the parliament’s decision to ask foreign intervention to protect civilians. The neighbourhood is relatively calm, but there have been several protests recently calling for an end to the fighting and the liberation of several liberal activists abducted in this area. Abductions have become a worrisome phenomenon in recent months.