Human rights campaigner Farida Allaghi tells me for a VOA radio piece that Islam is being hijacked. That’s her reaction to a Libyan Supreme Court ruling overturning a marriage law that required a husband to secure the approval of a first wife before taking a second.
Allaghi says: “Here again, it is very disappointing and it is very sad that now they play with the interpretation of Islam in the 21st century to fit their agenda and to fit their interests and to fit their own ideology as men.”
You can read the web-version piece here.
My latest piece in Newsweek/Daily Beast explores how Libya has tapped local militias including the one blamed for the attack on the U.S. consulate—to patrol Tripoli and Benghazi amidst a spiraling crime wave.
“Libya’s leaders have given the go-ahead for revolutionary militias, including the powerful Islamist Nawasi brigade and Ansar al-Sharia—the militia blamed for the assault last September on the U.S. consulate—to combat drug dealers and a crime wave that is disrupting daily life in the capital and in the eastern city of Benghazi.” Read the full article here.
From my Daily Beast exclusive today: “What makes someone join Al Qaeda? In the case of Abu Yahya al-Libi, the Al Qaeda luminary killed in an American drone strike in Pakistan last June, his older brother has no doubt. Americans are culpable for his sibling’s embrace of terrorism. He draws a direct line between al-Libi’s recruitment by al Qaeda and the suffering he endured at the hands of American interrogators using techniques similar to those portrayed in the movie Zero Dark Thirty.
Lamenting American missteps in the war on terror, Abd Al-Wahhab Muhammad Qaid says his brother had been in Afghanistan for 15 years, as a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, but that he, ‘like all of us shunned Al Qaeda.’ That is, until his mistreatment at Bagram Air Base. ‘He was tortured very aggressively and humiliated. Naturally, for each action there’s a reaction,’ he sighs.”
“’Egypt is Islamic, it will not be secular!’ Islamist supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi have taken to chanting this slogan during street protests in Cairo. While the mantra fills opponents of the Egyptian president with dread, as does a Morsi-backed draft Constitution ensuring laws and rights will be strictly subordinated to sharia law, such chants would hardly prove controversial in Libya, Egypt’s neighboring Arab-Spring country—nor would they propel tens of thousands onto the streets of Tripoli or Benghazi to express dissent.”
Read my Daily Beast here.
“A year on from the ouster of Col. Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan revolution is turning sour for women, who had hoped that they would find the new Libya open to them to play a far greater role in public and political life—and on their terms rather than those defined by men.”
Now they are battling to get women on a planned constitutional body tasked with coming up with a new constitution for the new post-Gaddafi Libya. Read full report here.
Hard not to chuckle at the ill-timing of a Daily Telegraph travel piece that extolled the virtues of Libya as a destination for tourism. The article was posted online on the night of Nov 4/5 and opened: “Tripoli, Libya’s capital, is known for its walled medina and relaxing old-world ambience, and is home to a number of grand mosques, statues and fountains.”
It is home also to several unruly militias. As the article was posted a couple of rival state-sanctioned militias started skirmishing — it lasted for more than 12 hours — in Tripoli, firing rocket-propelled grenades at each other, leaving nearly a dozen wounded and adding to ordinary Libyans’ sense of powerlessness.
The puff piece was part of a PR effort encouraged by the Libyan government to entice tourists to the North African country. A few months ago USA Today ran a similarly premature travel article urging tourists to visit the country.
Question: Do travel editors pay any attention to what is actually happening in a country?
“After his men had tied up the morgue supervisor, who had refused to hand over the body, Febrayir, fearful of an attempt to snatch the corpse, ignored instructions about what route to follow to the airport and misinformed his superiors with false updates. His caravan traveled fast, driving straight onto the runaway. Six Americans approached. “They looked totally fatigued. Their faces were blackened,” Febrayir says. “I think they had been in the consulate. One of them clambered onto the back and uncovered Stevens’s face and started to cry.”
From the second part of my Stevens’ investigation for Newsweek. Read here.
On Eve of Eid: Bani Walid refugees near the town of Tarhuna
Slow in blogging this but this from my Daily Beast report on October 24 on the fall of Bani Walid after nearly a month-long siege and four days of fierce fighting and bombardment.
“Militiamen in pickup trucks poured into the wrecked and smoke-filled center of the desert hilltop town of Bani Walid, home to one of the country’s biggest tribes, the Warfalla, amid cries of “Free Libya” and “Allah Akbar” in scenes reminiscent of the uprising against Col. Gaddafi.
They waved the post-Gaddafi tricolor flag of red, black, and green and claimed they had routed the late dictator’s diehard followers and saved the revolution. But they admitted many hardcore Bani Walid fighters had slipped away during the night.
Bani Walid’s leaders argue that Misrata was engaged in an exercise in collective punishment with their assault as punishment for the town having sided with Col. Gaddafi during the uprising.”
You can read the full report here.
And more pictures from Bani Walid below:
Afternoon of October 24 Bani Walid Burns
New Uniforms: Libyan Shield on the outskirts of Bani Walid
Heading Out: Misrata Militiamen flicks victory sign as he pulls out of Bani Walid with dusk approaching
Near Bani Walid
“For three days now, Bani Walid—one of Gaddafi’s holdouts during the rebellion last year—has come under intense assault, and defenders inside the town say by phone that they fear government-backed attackers are preparing to storm them on today in a bid to vanquish them on the first anniversary of the rebels’ triumph over Gaddafi.” My Daily Beast report near the besieged town.
I examine in the Daily Beast where Libya is a year on from the fall of Col. Gaddafi, noting that 12 months ago in Benghazi, as cheering onlookers waved the country’s new red, black, and green flag, one rebel leader told the crowd: “Raise your heads high. You are now in a free Libya.” Exactly one year after that historic day, heads are not being held as high in Libya.