UPDATE: Exclusive Interview with Libyan Refugees

Note: The following piece is a followup interview by PolicyMic Contributing Writer Nathan Lean with a Libyan woman who escaped from Tripoli to Dubai.

Last week, as part of PolicyMic’s exclusive coverage of Libya, I caught up with a Libyan refugee from Tripoli who had fled to Dubai. Her account of the scene in her hometown was haunting. Leaving her 78-year-old father and many family members behind, she expressed her anguish and was hopeful that out of the darkness, some light would soon come. Sadly, however, that has not happened and today, in another conversation, she updated me on the status of her family and the harrowing events that have transpired in the past few days. As before, her name has been withheld for her protection.

Nathan Lean (NL): When we last spoke, you were in Dubai, unsure if your father and other family members would join you. Has your situation changed?

Interviewee (I): Yes, yes, I am still in Dubai. This morning at 4:30 [local time] Gaddafi’s people sent eight soldiers with guns. They broke the doors inside my house while everyone was sleeping and came [towards] everyone at gunpoint. They said “Give us all of the money. Give us everything.”

They took my dad — he was the only Libyan. The girls in the house, our nannies, are from Indonesia. He was looking after the house and trying to take care of them and get them out. They told him, “You are giving information. We are now going to teach you.” He told me that they broke everything — everything in the house. They smashed it. They stole all of the money we left with him. I gave him money in case things got really bad and told him to give the ladies money too, you know, to look after them — they took everything. They raped one of the young women. Two men raped one young worker. They put my father on the floor with their foot on his head. He didn’t want to see them but they made him watch [the rape].

NL: And then what — Gaddafi’s men left? What about your father and the nannies?

I: Yes, they left. Thankfully. We are trying to get him [father] out now. He was staying there to protect the house, you know. And the poor Indonesian women who help us — the nannies. What can they do? They are not Libyans. Why do they deserve this? If Gaddafi wants to take his aggression out on Libyans, fine. But why innocent foreigners? And they can’t escape. If the Embassy takes them out, they go to Tunis. They would be sent to the Tunisian border and a bunch of homeless, helpless ladies at the border of Tunis is not safe. They are really stuck.

NL: As things heat up, what do you think will ultimately help? What will stop all of this?

I: I’m in favor of outside help. But...

NL: Outside help, like what? Like a foreign military intervention?

I: I am in favor of that, yes. I mean, I know us Libyans can cope. We are united in opposition to him [Gaddafi]. If he is out, fine, we can solve anything from there. We don’t have religion to divide us like Iraq, we are all of the same culture. We need people to help these poor ladies that happened to be here at the wrong time. It is impossible to get to the airport now. If that means American military or some other help, fine. Just help us. Please just help us.

NL: How about Arab states? The international community has become more vocal about their displeasure with the situation, but Arab states have remained relatively quiet. Does this surprise you?

I: No, I am not surprised. The Egyptians are going through their own problems. So are people in Tunis. And, the people in Morocco are suppressed. They can’t say anything. Qatar has been sending aid. They have been our biggest help. They have sent medication, milk for kids, and so on. We saw the planes coming down and giving aid. But Arab states, they are all corrupt. Unfortunately. But yes, all corrupt. And because a lot of Libyans have not been educated, we don’t know any better. We compare him [Gaddafi] to Saddam [Hussein]. But really, we are not like Iraq. Oh, and the UAE has been trying to help as well. But they don’t much involve themselves in politics so it’s limited.

NL: Thank you for the update.

I: Thank you.

Photo CreditWikimedia Commons

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Nathan Lean

Nathan Lean is the Research Director at Georgetown University's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. His three books include, most recently, The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims (Pluto 2012). Nathan's writing has been featured in the New York Daily News, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, CNN, Salon, The New Republic, and others. His newest book, The Changing Middle East, will be released by Rowman and Littlefield in 2015.

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