Young Libyans chose danger at sea over peril at home

The perils of trying to cross the sea were still preferable to what they had left behind in their war-torn home. (File/AFP)
Updated 19 August 2019
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Young Libyans chose danger at sea over peril at home

For three young Libyans plucked from a deflating dingy in the Mediterranean, the perils of trying to cross the sea were still preferable to what they had left behind in their war-torn home.
Salah, Khalil and Ibrahim, aged between 19 and 22, sat in a corner of the Ocean Viking vessel operated by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without Borders as it waited for permission to dock at a port.
They sat apart from other migrants from Sudan, Chad, Ethiopia, Senegal and the Ivory Coast who have fled torture and abuse in Libya where most of them had gone to seek work.
“I had no idea how dangerous the sea could be,” says Khalil, 20.
“But Libya is collapsing — you cannot live there,” he adds, pulling an imaginary trigger.

Before he fled Libya, Khalil was a taxi driver.
While driving the route from Sabha, his hometown in the center to the eastern city of Benghazi, he was stopped by militia loyal to Khalifa Haftar, a strongman who holds sway in the region.
He said he was thrown into prison where he languished for three months alongside hundreds of others and was beaten daily, pointing to a scar in the corner of his mouth.
He later made a break for freedom with about 15 fellow prisoners, running the gauntlet of their jailers who fired on them as they fled.
“People were shot around me but I didn’t stop,’ he said. “I was hit too.”
Luca, the ship’s doctor who removed the bullets embedded in Khalil’s body, says such wounds are nothing new among those fleeing from conflict areas.
With his taxi taken from him, Khalil returned to his family. “I just wanted to live a normal life,” he said.
But a month later fighting broke out in his town and his mother told him to flee.
“She had no idea of how dangerous the crossing could be,” Khalil says. “Neither did I. I was happy to try the sea.”
But by the time he was rescued by Doctors without Borders on August 12, the blue rubber dingy he was sharing with 104 others was on the verge of sinking.

Nineteen-year-old Salah joined the forces of the Government of National Accord of Fayez-al-Sarraj. But he soon realized that he was not cut out for war.
“If I had stayed, I would have been killed — either by Sarraj’s men for fleeing, or by Haftar’s men for fighting for Sarraj,” he said.
He got a number from a Sudanese, and left the same day — with just time for one last selfie with his family.
Ibrahim’s reason for fleeing was the color of his skin.
“My father was black — he is dead. My uncle died in the fighting. My school was bombed. My mother said to me ‘Libya is not a country for you’.”
“My Sudanese friends were like a family to me. One from Darfur was killed right in front of me as we were on our way to play football,” he said.
“I didn’t want to fight. I was terrified on that blue boat, but Libya is more dangerous than our sunken vessel.”


Pompeo arrives in UAE for talks on Iran crisis, Zarif warns of ‘all out war’

Updated 2 min 28 sec ago

Pompeo arrives in UAE for talks on Iran crisis, Zarif warns of ‘all out war’

  • Zarif warns that any attack will lead to ‘all-out war’
  • Mike Pompeo is currently in the UAE where continues to discuss the crisis

DUBAI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Abu Dhabi on Thursday for further talks with Gulf allies about responding to major attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure which he has denounced as an “act of war” by Iran.

And Pompeo arrived in the UAE capital as Iran's foreign minister warned that any attack on his country over Saturday’s drone-and-missile strike on Saudi Arabia's oil industry would result in “all-out war,” further pushing up tensions across the Persian Gulf.

The hardening of the US position raises the risk of a dangerous escalation in the tinderbox region after weekend strikes on the heart of the Saudi oil industry knocked out half its production.

Pompeo flew to Abu Dhabi from the Saudi city of Jeddah, where he met late Wednesday with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler who has said the assault poses a “real test” of global will.

The two sides “agreed that the Iranian regime must be held accountable for its continued aggressive, reckless, and threatening behavior,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in statement after their talks.

The “unacceptable and unprecedented attack... not only threatened Saudi Arabian national security, but also endangered the lives of all the American citizens living and working in Saudi Arabia,” she added.

Pompeo denounced the unprecedented strikes as an Iranian “act of war”, as Riyadh Wednesday unveiled new evidence it said showed the assault was “unquestionably” sponsored by Tehran.

The comments by Mohammad Javad Zarif represent the starkest warning offered yet by Iran in a long summer of mysterious attacks and incidents following the collapse of Iran's nuclear deal with world powers, over a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord.

Zarif's comments also appeared to be in response to Pompeo, who a day earlier while traveling to Saudi Arabia referred to the attack as an “act of war.”

Asked by CNN what would be the consequence of a US or Saudi strike, Zarif said: “All-out war.”

“We won’t blink to defend our territory,” he said.

Saudi officials displayed what they said were fragments of 25 drones and cruise missiles fired on Saturday at two facilities in the country’s east, engulfing them in flames.

“The attack was launched from the north and unquestionably sponsored by Iran,” Saudi-led Arab coalition spokesman Turki Al-Maliki said, but would not be drawn on whether Saudi officials believed Iran would ultimately be found to be the culprit.

(With AFP and Reuters)