Khaled Mattawa

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Survivors rescued from migrant vessels aboard the Geo Barents, a Médecins Sans Frontières ship in the Central Mediterranean, September 7, 2022. Jérôme Tubiana

Since the election of a far-right government in Italy in September, Europe’s debate over migration has flared up again. Although it has no legal basis for doing so, the new administration in Rome has been trying to impose a naval blockade against NGO vessels rescuing migrants, who continue to board overcrowded boats for the sake of crossing the Mediterranean Sea between Libya and Italy.

Summer, when the sea is calm, is the season of most of the crossings. Last August the two of us boarded the Geo Barents, a rescue vessel run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, for a “rotation” of an unpredictable duration (most last two to four weeks).…  Seguir leyendo »

I thought we had accomplished something bold. Twenty minutes earlier, we had finished screening several short films against violence on a makeshift stage set up beside the Maidan Al-Jazair Mosque. But as we packed up our equipment, I could not believe what I saw: A play was being performed on the very steps of the mosque. In front of an enraptured crowd of several hundred, an actor playing an old sailor was reminiscing about the time before Muammar el-Qaddafi’s regime when police officers did their jobs and protected the people.

It is a measure of their despair at the worsening security situation that the ordinary people of this city, who were removed and forlorn even during the 2011 revolution, are now gathering at a venerated public site to criticize the government in the open.…  Seguir leyendo »

Though Libyan government forces have killed and wounded hundreds of civilians in their siege of the western city of Misurata, one of the most telling examples of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s wrath has been the bombing and destruction of a dairy plant there.

In just a few years the Naseem dairy plant, owned by a local family, had achieved what Colonel Qaddafi’s regime could never do: provide Libyans with a decent glass of milk.

I was 5 when Colonel Qaddafi came to power, in 1969. One of my earliest pre-Qaddafi memories is of a small Peugeot maneuvering through a crowd of children playing on our street in Benghazi.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the winter of 1978, soon after I entered my teens, I began seeking solitude on the roof of our leaky house in Benghazi. I'd head up with a few thin books and a pack of cigarettes, and the wide horizon and dramatic skies of our warm winters were all mine to contemplate. I also began contemplating the Pakistani beauty who lived in the three-story apartment tower behind our house.

She was a few years older than I, so there was no chance of a relationship. And though I never got a close look at her face, I am certain that it did my growing aesthetic sensibility much good to study the straight lines of her slim figure dressed in various designs of shalwar kameez.…  Seguir leyendo »