Last night I sat and watched the Chinese representative chairing the UN security council asking those who were against the resolution to raise their hands. It took me a while to ascertain that neither he nor anybody else actually did so. Great, I thought. That marks the end of Gaddafi and his thugs, and the people of Libya can finally look forward to freedom.
I remembered my father, who was kidnapped by Gaddafi’s regime nearly three weeks ago along with three of my brothers (the youngest has since been released), telling me before his capture that he was perplexed about why a no-fly zone was not being discussed.
“Well, dad,” I thought, “four weeks after that discussion, it seems that the world is now taking some notice of the plight of the innocent civilians in Libya.”
On Friday morning I was woken by a phone call from a colleague in Misurata, Libya’s third-biggest city and about 120 miles to the east of Tripoli. The caller said: “He [Gaddafi] really means it this time, he wants to kill as many of us as he can before he is finished.”
My friend could hear intensive shelling from where he was in the hospital. This radiologist, who I had met on my last trip to Misurata as a visiting psychiatrist over Christmas, told me how the casualties were pouring into the makeshift accident and emergency department (the government has been building a new department over many years – like many other projects in Libya it has not yet been completed). One old man had a leg blown off. He described how a family had brought in charred pieces of flesh and explained that that was their teenage son.
The radiologist also reported bodies of a family, including those of a 22-year-old woman and a five-year-old girl, were recovered from a targeted car which was seemingly fleeing the onslaught. The radiologist was not aware what had hit the car. He denied there had been air attacks, but told me that tanks had been seen on the outskirts of the city. He pleaded with me to ask the world to help the people of Misurata.
The Gaddafi regime’s foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, who had been declared persona non grata by the UK in 1980 following remarks stating his approval of planned assassinations by Gaddafi, has come out today in a press conference declaring that the regime is prepared to implement resolution 1973, and reiterated his deputy’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire.
It seems that Misurata has not been included by the Gaddafi regime in this ceasefire. There is no civil war in Misurata. There has been no fighting amongst the people of Misurata. Indeed, they have been able to form a local interim council to run the affairs of the city since it declared its freedom from the tyrannical rule of Gaddafi nearly three weeks ago. There is, however, a resistance by its people to the return of Gaddafi and his men. This is a stance echoed throughout Libya.
On 2 March a human rights group declared that 6,000 people had been killed in the crackdown on protesters. If we were to put this number in relative terms to the population of Britain, it is the equivalent of 60,000 lives lost (Libya has a population of approximately 6 million).
Why is the world watching a regime massacre its own people? A regime headed by a man who believes that the whole Libyan population loves him. A man who denies there were ever any protests in Libya. A man who has shown ruthlessness on a par with Saddam Hussein, if not surpassing it. A man who is in complete denial of the atrocities he has perpetrated.
For many years the international community has been doing business with Gaddafi, “the mad dog of the Middle East” as described by Ronald Reagan a quarter of a century ago. It is now time for this international community to put an end to the suffering of the Libyan people, who have had to pay time and time again for Gaddafi’s transgressions on an international scale.
Resolution 1973, although late, has given the people of Libya hope. However, hope in itself will not save them from the brutality of Gaddafi. Theory needs to turn into action, as the death toll continues to rise in Misurata.
Dr Ahmed Sewehli, a British-Libyan psychiatrist living in Manchester. His parents and most of his siblings live in Tripoli, many of them have been kidnapped by the regime.