Monday, March 21, 2011


"A wall outside the Benghazi courthouse bears images of men who have been imprisoned or killed by Moammar Kadafi." (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

1996 Prison Massacre a Spark in Libyan Revolution
By Raja Abdulrahim
The Los Angeles Times, March 19, 2011
"Every month for nearly 10 years, Ezzedin abu Azza's family traveled to the gates of Abu Salim prison in Tripoli to deliver a package of clothes, food and medicine, not knowing whether it ever reached him. They hadn't seen him since the day in 1993 when the 23-year-old was taken away for questioning by state security agents. But still they made their journey from Benghazi every month. Then, in 2002, the family was told he had died, six years earlier. Here in this eastern city that has long simmered with resentment over the brutal rule of Moammar Kadafi, the Abu Azzas were among the lucky ones. Other families would wait another six years, or longer, to hear that their loved ones were among a reported 1,200 political prisoners at Abu Salim who were killed, in a matter of hours, in June 1996 as they fought for better living conditions and the right to see their families. Other families have never been officially informed and only assume that their loved ones are among the dead. When the government in 2008 began notifying many of the families of the deaths, they set up mourning tents and posted obituaries. 'We were notified 12 years after his death,' many obituaries read, brashly pointing an accusatory finger at the government. Now, a decade and a half after the massacre, the prisoners' stories and an unprecedented call for justice by their families helped spark a revolution.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Video of the Month

(Discovery Channel, 2006, 93 mins.)

This heart-stopping account of the attempt to prevent Europe being engulfed in nuclear disaster is one of the greatest documentaries of recent years. Though Ukraine is not formally part of the Global South, it could be considered as such, and in any case this documentary speaks to the wider phenomenon of males conscripted, or volunteering, for the most dangerous tasks in the public sphere. Five hundred thousand men battled the nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl. Thousands died, and as the documentary makes clear, they are still dying, long before their time. It is additionally powerful to view "The Battle of Chernobyl" in March 2011, as Japan undergoes its own nuclear crisis, with men again at the forefront of the disaster response.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


"Hundreds of African migrant workers, many from Ghana and Nigeria, live next to the airport in Tripoli, Libya, hoping to fly home." (Moises Saman/The New York Times)
Libya War Traps Poor Immigrants at Tripoli's Edge
By David D. Kirkpatrick and Scott Sayare
The New York Times, March 7, 2011
"As wealthier nations send boats and planes to rescue their citizens from the violence in Libya, a new refugee crisis is taking shape on the outskirts of Tripoli, where thousands of migrant workers from sub-Saharan Africa have been trapped with scant food and water, no international aid and little hope of escape. The migrants -- many of them illegal immigrants from Ghana and Nigeria who have long constituted an impoverished underclass in Libya -- live amid piles of garbage, sleep in makeshift tents of blankets strung from fences and trees, and breathe fumes from a trench of excrement dividing their camp from the parking lot of Tripoli's airport. For dinner on Monday night two men killed a scrawny, half-plucked chicken by dunking it in water boiled on a garbage fire, then hacked it apart with a dull knife and cooked it over an open fire. Some residents of the camp are as young as Essem Ighalo, 9 days old, who arrived on his second day of life and has yet to see a doctor. Many refugees said they had seen deaths from hunger and disease every night. The airport refugees, along with tens of thousands of other African migrants lucky enough to make it across the border to Tunisia, are the most desperate contingent of a vast exodus that has already sent almost 200,000 foreigners fleeing the country since the outbreak of the popular revolt against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi nearly three weeks ago. Dark-skinned Africans say the Libyan war has caught them in a vise. The heavily armed police and militia forces loyal to Colonel Qaddafi who guard checkpoints along the roads around the capital rob them of their money, possessions and cellphone chips, the migrants say. And the Libyans who oppose Colonel Qaddafi lash out at the African migrants because they look like the dark-skinned mercenaries many here say the Libyan leader has recruited to crush the uprising. 'Qaddafi has brought African soldiers to kill some of them, so if they see black people they beat them,' said Samson Adda, 31, who said residents of Zawiyah, a rebellious city, had beaten him so badly that he could no longer walk.

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.' [...]"