Monday, March 7, 2011


Libyan Rebels Come from All Walks of Life
By Graeme Smith
The Globe and Mail, March 2011
"They sit crammed together in trucks headed to war in the desert, thousands of rebels throwing themselves into battle against Colonel Moammar Gadhafi. They stand united in their hatred of his regime. Three weeks ago, however, these men lived different lives. They wore hard hats, not military berets; they carried hammers, not assault rifles. Their bands of fighters consist mostly of amateurs, facing off against professional forces. In its first public appearance this weekend, the newly formed rebel council in Benghazi promised it would send more seasoned reinforcements from the ranks of defecting troops.
In the meantime, however, the ragtag warriors on the front lines say their passion keeps them going. For many, the wellspring of emotion is their bitter personal history.
'The Businessman' Saif-al-din Sa'd, 33.
Saif-al-din Sa’d, 33, was born in Zwetina, a port town where his father worked for an oil company as a ship's captain. He graduated from a nearby university with a degree in business administration and joined a local construction company. He is now executive director of the firm, with responsibility for 150 employees. He chuckles when informed that his status as a wealthy businessman breaks the stereotype of poor youth rising up: 'Rich or not,' he said, 'it's been like living in prison in this country.' Before the revolution, his proudest accomplishment had been building a water reservoir in the desert. Now, it's the assault on the sandy hill of Ras Al-Nasr, a bluff outside the town of Ras Lanuf. Government forces held the high ground with artillery and heavy guns, but the businessman and his comrades forced them to retreat during a battle waged in a dust storm on March 3. He's more accustomed to wearing hard hats and steel-toed boots during the workday, but Mr. Sa'd seems to take naturally to his rebel uniform. He does not flinch when young fighters bang out practice shots on their anti-aircraft guns nearby and seems unfazed when others panic at the sound of jets overhead. His quiet resolve comes from witnessing the government forces' attacks on civilians, he says. 'I saw with my own eyes, one of them shooting their recoilless rifle at a carload of civilians, all of them killed immediately,' he said. 'We have Libyan blood, this is our blood. This is our country. We will fight with every weapon. We don’t mind dying.' [...]"

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