Where Have Libya’s Children Gone? Long Time Missing…

Franklin Lamb
Tripoli, Libya

The quality of life continues to cascade in certain areas of Western Libya while public anxiety noticeably rises over missing Libyan children as the first week of an unusually stressful Ramadan passes.

The shortage of gasoline has become acute and despite government efforts to curtail price gauging, one taxi driver told this observer yesterday that while the usual price of ‘benzene’ was 3.75 liters (one gallon) for $.40 (forty US cents) he is now having to pay as much as ” 4 dinars for one liter of petrol!” That is roughly the equivalent of 13 US dollars for a gallon of gasoline, a huge price surge in a country long accustomed to cheap, heavily subsidized fuel. “Informal economy” (black market) fuel arrives in car trunks from the Tunisian border and its increasingly common to see fellows with a make shift funnel trying to get more benzene into their vehicle tanks than they splash and spill on neighborhood streets.

 Tripoli residents trying to fuel a car on 8/5/11 with black market benzene—often spilling a fair bit in the process. Photo: flamb

Walking around the “medina” off Omar Muktar Street near my hotel yesterday afternoon, the angst over deteriorating conditions is apparent. Shops, like homes, are now subject to rolling blackouts and quickly become hot and stuffy, discouraging would be customers from entering. Some food stores have to discard milk and other perishable items given the up to 11 hour power cuts that send temperatures above 110F. One gentleman on Rashid Street in downtown Tripoli said his family had not had power for five days and the pump that supplies water to his apartment building stopped working so they lack two essential utilities.

NATO’s arguable act of piracy earlier this week in commandeering the fuel tanker ship Cartagena off the coast of Malta that was bringing gasoline to Tripoli and sending it instead to Rebel militia based close to Benghazi is yet again explained from NATO HQ as necessary for “protecting the civilian population of Libya.”

According to Libya’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim, “The age of piracy is coming back to the Mediterranean because of NATO.”

Some frustrated shop keepers just shutter their shops and seek relief at the beach or take a nap waiting for sundown and their Ramadan Iftar (feast) to begin. But lack of electricity even affects its preparation. (ed. note: 15 minutes ago NATO reportedly bombed the public beach near my hotel as three other bombs landed nearby—targets unknown)

Every time a bomb blast is heard, a chorus of passersby and kids invariably point toward the bomb site and watch the rising white or black smoke (the color depending on the type of bomb or missile) and some shout, “F— NATO! F—Obama!” Etc.

If a foreigner is confronted by angry citizens who may blame Americans for NATO’s bombing, a sure fire way to quickly reduce crowd tension is for the foreigner to make the peace sign and make a fist with his other hand and chant a few times: “Allah! Mohammad! Muammar! Libye! Abass!” (God!, Mohammad!, Qadaffi!, Libya!, that’s all we need!”) The locals appreciate the sentiment and pre-teens often join the popular chant and dance.

As of the morning of 8/7/11 NATO statistics show that since 3/31/11, NATO forces have launched 18,270 sorties, mainly against Western Libya, including 6,932 bomb/missile strike sorties. Last night (8/6/11) there were 115 sorties including 45 bombings of which 12 were in central Tripoli starting a 10 p.m.

To their great credit, some Congressional staffers on the US Senate Armed Services Committee who liaise with the Pentagon, have acted on constituent complaints and have criticized NATO’s incomplete description of its bombing of Libyan civilians.

For example earlier this week NATO reported its bombing of the village on Zlitan, about 160 miles east of Tripoli in the Western Mountains as follows: “In the vicinity of Zlitan:1 Ammunition Storage Facility, 1 Military Facility, 2 Multiple Rocket Launchers.”

However, still absent from this particular NATO report on its website is the fact that its bombing attack killed the wife and two children of Mustafa Naji, a local Zlitan physics teacher. Mustafa’s wife Ibtisam, and their two children, Mohammad 5 and Muttasim, were pulverized. Once again, NATO said it could not confirm any claims of  “accidental killings” but would recommend an investigation.

As was apparent one week after UNSCR 1973 was adopted, NATO is the instrument of the Obama administration’s policy of regime change in Libya. NATO has virtually assumed the “rebels” command and control function in Libya’s civil war. This afternoon, Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmoudi claimed that most of the rebel leadership has left Libya and he challenged them to hold a meeting during Ramadan. Mahmoudi claims that NATO is using Islamic extremists because they are more reliable in carrying out NATO orders as it seeks to break the civilian population’s will to resist, similar to Israel’s bombing campaign targeting the civilian population of Lebanon during the July 2006 war.

WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN?

Names and dates of birth of Libyan children missing from the orphanage at Misrata. Photo: flamb 8/4/11

Also of growing public and government concern in Western Libya is the whereabouts of 53 female and 52 male children aged one to 12 years and another group ranging from 12 to 18 years, both part of a government run home for orphans and abused children that until February was operating in Misrata, now under rebel control. According to several reports over the past three months and testimony presented last Thursday evening to the international media gathered at the Tripoli Rexis Hotel, by the        General Union for Civil Society Organizations.

 Libyan NGO’s invited foreigners to a conference last week seeking help finding the 105 children missing from Misrata

The 105 children, part of more than 1000 missing, were “kidnapped” by rebel forces as they entered Misrata and went on a killing   spree, some of which has been documented by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International among other groups. There is no question that the children are no longer in their sheltered facility. But from there what became of them remains a mystery.

The Libyan government claims the youngsters were kidnapped by rebels who went on a rampage in late February. Several reports from eyewitnesses claim that the children were last seen being put onto either a Turkish, Italian, or French boat. More than one witness claimed to have observed some of the children being sold in Tunisia. On his tweeter page, the local Russian Telesur reporter said that “several sources have affirmed that the 105 children were taken out of the country in a ship that could be Turkish, French or Italian.”

Libyan Social Affairs Minister Ibrahim Sharif told reporters in Tripoli this week that, “We want the truth and we hold those countries responsible for the well-being of these children who are neither soldiers nor combatants.” Sharif added that a rebel doctor captured by government troops testified that some of the orphans had been taken to France and Italy.

Misrata’s history as a main 18th-19th century North African slave trading port,  is a fact that today partially explains tensions among the one third of Libya’s population that is black. Most are descendants of slaves and many live in Western Libya in villages now fighting the Misrata and Benghazi based rebels. Their concern for the disappeared children is especially acute.

While Libya has had perhaps the most strictly enforced child protection laws in the Middle East and Africa, people here remember clearly that France was at the center of a scandal in 2007 when aid workers from the Zoe’s Ark charity attempted to fly 103 children out of Chad, which borders Libya to the south, who they said were orphans from neighboring Sudan. International aid staff later found that the children were in fact Chadian and had at least one living parent. People here fear a similar fate for the Libyan youngsters.

Also on people’s minds in Libya is what happened two years ago in Haiti when “orphans,” according to local authorities, were kidnapped.  Given the epidemic of human trafficking in this region, especially of children, fears are well founded.
NATO has not replied to inquiries demanding information about the disappeared children nor has UNICEF, Save the Children or Secretary of State Clinton’s office. Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich has agreed to demand that the White House order an immediate investigation and of course any human rights advocate could raise this issue in the West and demand an urgent inquiry from her/his government.

The Libyan government as well as both the Roman Catholic Papal representative Bishop Giovanni Martinelli, and Father Daoud of the Anglican Church of Christ the King, in Tripoli have demanded that the UN investigate and find the children.

As for the National Transition Council, its spokesman denied charges that they have sold the children and claim that the Libyan government in Tripoli have all the children and that they are using them as human shields at the now five times bombed Bab al Azizya complex in central Tripoli. No known human rights organization or journalist who has investigated this claim has reported seeing any sign of the children at Bab al Azizya. The General Union noted above, has photos and names and ages of all the missing children and have widely publicized them.

More than a dozen social welfare organizations, women’s groups and Libya’s Lawyer syndicates have launched an intensive media and public involvement campaign to find the children who have now been missing for nearly six months.

Franklin Lamb is in Libya and can be reached c/o fplamb@gmail.com

London riots: Divine justice?

What happened in London last night – the torching of private property, wanton destruction, looting and generalized violence, was lamentable and unacceptable. Yet does it not provide a perfect answer from God, underlining the sheer hypocrisy with which western governments view and conduct policy, especially when we draw lines of comparison with Libya?

 So, let us draw parallels and see how the UK authorities come out of this. On Thursday, the British police shot dead a man in the street. Tensions escalated during Friday and on Saturday night, some 300 youths congregated outside the local police station in the London area of Tottenham in a peaceful demonstration which got out of hand as members of the public from other areas of London and beyond ran amok in the streets, torching buildings and vehicles as they went on a looting spree.

 Now let us imagine that for months – nay, years…I repeat, years, foreign powers had been arming and aiding not 300, but rather, 30,000 (thirty thousand) Islamist fanatics, who, equipped with heavy machine-guns, tanks, self-propelled artillery and anti-aircraft munitions, ran amok in London, Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol. If the police shot dead one man in Tottenham, if the police shot dead the Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, because he, er… “looked Asian” back in 2007, what would they do with 30,000 marauding thugs? Why, according to the British Government, evidently nothing, they would just stand back because “the people were deciding”.

So why the brouhaha about Tottenham? But wait a minute, the police did react, against unarmed civilians! And if one civilian death is the result of a two-day incident involving 300 people, then we can extrapolate the figure of 100 civilian deaths at least, in the early hours of a general uprising, more or less exactly the real figures now coming out of Benghazi, and among these were Gaddafi supporters. Interesting.

 Now let us imagine these “unarmed civilians” being attacked by the British police were actually heavily armed, had links to Al-Qaeda, were led by a convicted terrorist, were going around slashing people’s throats in the streets, were torching government property and ransacking public offices. Let us imagine someone placed a stash of Viagra tablets on the floor of a police station and another stash of condoms inside the cells of Scotland Yard HQ, and then some American Congresswoman could claim there was proof of mass rape by the British authorities.

 Then let someone call in the UN to bomb the crap out of Britain for five months because unarmed civilians were being attacked, to bomb the British armed forces fighting against this scourge so that the Islamist fanatics could gain ground, let us imagine the international media carried out an orchestrated campaign involving a blackout of the truth and the dissemination of lies, blaming the British authorities for atrocities it did not commit, blaming the RAF for sorties it did not fly…

Let us imagine the leaders of this UN clique of cowards, bombing British civilians from 30,000 feet for 5 (five) long months claimed that this was not about removing Cameron and Hague, then claimed that it would be better if they went, then claimed “They have to go”. Then the British people could decide whether they were allowed to remain in Britain but of course, exile in Burkina Faso would be more appropriate (perhaps not, I insult the good Burkinese people)…

 Let us imagine that the British Armed Forces put up a struggle and Cameron and Hague and The Queen appeared on State TV (whose antennae were bombed systematically), let us imagine that the equivalent of 20 million Britons took to the streets supporting their dearly beloved leaders (and only a handful of Islamist extremists were actually against them) and let us imagine their defiance was heralded by the British people who vowed to fight on the beaches and shores and cities and hills and villages and promised solemnly never to surrender…

 Let us imagine that in face of this defiance, the UN coalition of cowards started lashing out in frustration, calling for the destruction of civilian structures to break the will of the British people, and bombed the main water supplies, bombed hospitals, bombed centres for handicapped children, bombed children’s schools and in a wanton criminal act of first-degree murder, targeted the house of David Cameron, murdering his family in cold blood because they thought he was there. How would David Cameron feel?

 In fact, given the behaviour of God-fearing Christians in Libya, I tend to side with Allah and the good Moslems trying to celebrate Ramadan as cowardly Christian crusaders try to kill them, destroy their civilian structures and impose foreign values on their society with a top-down approach. I only hope and pray that the clique of nations involved in this outrage reap what they have sown, tenfold.

 By this, I mean that I hope that what they have wished and meted out to others comes back to them multiplied by ten. After all, they claim they are acting in goodwill. So…Allaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahu Akhbar!

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Pravda.Ru

Bahrain Hires US Company to Change Negative Image

Bahrain is seeking the help of a US-based public relations firm to change its image which was damaged after its brutal crackdown on peaceful anti-government protests in the country.

 The Manama government has hired Qorvis Communications in Washington DC for a monthly fee of $40,000 hoping the firm would improve the image of Al Khalifa’s monarchy, AllVoices.com reported. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia along with big companies like Adobe and Amazon.com are reportedly among the firm’s customers.

The Doctors Without Borders group was the first target of the firm. The group announced that its office in the Persian Gulf sheikhdom had been attacked by the Saudi-backed Bahraini forces and one of its employees had been arrested. The company slams the high profile humanitarian group in a statement for treating Bahrainis “without any license issued by the health ministry.”

 Tens of people were killed by Bahraini security forces during the crackdown on peaceful demonstrations and thousands have been arrested over charges of plotting against the monarchy. The brutality used by Saudi-backed Bahraini forces and the government’s infringement of human rights has severely been criticized by  Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

How 10,000 Protestors Multiply Overnight to be 500,000

The Hama Affair

By Pierre Piccinin

 

This July, I travelled to Syria, with the purpose of finding out for myself the origins of the present political conflict.

I was able to roam the country at liberty, from Dera, Damascus, Homs, Hama, Maraat-an-Numan, Jisr-al-Shigur, on the Turkish border, even Deir-ez-Sor, all places where the media had signalled outbursts of violence.

I was able to witness the different internal struggles, some of which were violent and had completely different objectives from those of the democratic pacifists. The Muslim Brotherhood, for example, seeks to bring about an Islamic republic, which in turn terrifies the Christians and most other minorities.

Yet, outside the scope of my research, I was surprised that the image of Syria, portrayed by the Western media as a country undergoing full scale revolution, does not correspond in any way whatsoever to the reality of the situation.

Indeed, the large-scale protest movements have run out of steam, this due in part to the repression, so that these days the protests only number a few hundred at most, usually focused around mosques, bearing the mark of Islamist influence.

Therefore, it is only in the city of Hama, cultural stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood, under a state of siege, that full scale protests are to be found.

Centre of a violent revolt, in 1982, which was crushed by Hafez al-Assad, father of the incumbent President, Hama is today surrounded by heavy armor. This said, the government have decided against a bloodbath, for fear of repercussions from the international community.

On Friday 15 July, I entered Hama. Very quickly I found myself surrounded by the youths in control. Upon presenting my Belgian passport the situation calmed down: ‘Belgicaa! Belgicaa!’; as the only foreign observer on the ground, they escorted me through the protestors. The highlight of which was reaching the top of a high rise, from which I took a series of snapshots, revealing the extent of the debacle.

On Asidi square, at the bottom of the large El-Alamein Avenue, prayer had finished, to the sound of thousands of people appearing from all across the city, uniting under a shout of defiance ‘Allah Akbar!’

That same night on July 15, I received news feeds from the AFP announcing a million protestors all over Syria, of which 500,000 in Hama alone.

In Hama however, they could not have been more than 10,000.

This ‘information’ was even more absurd due to the fact that the city of Hama counts only 370,000 inhabitants.

Of course, there will always be a margin of error and numbers do vary with sources, estimations are never quite so straightforward.

Yet, in this case, it was not a simple estimation: this is blatant disinformation, propaganda at its finest. 500,000 protestors can shake the very foundations of a regime, 10,000 however are of no consequence.

Furthermore, all the ‘information’ regarding the Syrian situation has been twisted similarly for months now.

So what sources does AgenceFrancePresse (AFP) cite?

The same which crops up systematically throughout the media and has now become a monopoly in its own right, regarding the Syrian protests: the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

Behind this superficial veneer of respectability and professionalism, hides a political organisation based in London, its president none other than Rami Abdel Raman, a man who has consistently sided against the Baath regime, who is loosely linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Therefore, for many months now, the Western media have diffused an edited reality, corrected by a single source which nobody has deemed it necessary, it seems, to question.

This portrayal of a Syria in full scale revolution and of a Baath party on the brink do not correspond in any way whatsoever to the reality of the situation; that the government hold control and what is left of the protests have in effect splintered and become considerably marginalized.

However, the consequences of this latest case of disinformation regarding Syria are far reaching: the lessons of Timisoara, the Gulf War or events in Yugoslavia haven’t been learned. Still, European media continue to be lured into basing reports on loosely assembled news reports and risk depicting a virtual reality for their readers/viewers.

Yet, when the media fail their duty of assembling genuine information, it is democracy itself which is in danger.

 

Pierre Piccinin is a professor of history and political science in Brussels.

 

 

Pakistani-Led Army Supports Bahrain’s Crackdown

Thousands of Pakistani soldiers will provide Bahrain with military backup to crackdown Bahrainis’ anti-government protests.

Many Pakistanis are reported to join Bahrain military forces since the uncommon advertisements of “urgent-requirement” started appearing in Pakistan media. The advertisement read:  “For service in Bahrain National Guard, the following categories of people with previous army and police experience are urgently needed,” a member of Bahrain National Guard said. At least 2,500 Pakistani troops came to Bahrain for helping Bahrain’s government, Al Jazeera reported.

 Saudi Arabian soldiers were the first foreign forces that moved to Bahrain and now Pakistani troops are supposed to aid crackdown protesters who seek equal rights after many years of tyranny. The Saudi Arabia- Pakistan common interest in the Middle East led Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani to support the Saudi stance in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East. He told Prince Bandar that Pakistan would stand by Riyadh for regional peace, Shia Post reported.

Pakistan exports its servicemen to foreign countries like Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain while the country itself suffers from insecurity and violence and it needs its own troops to settle down peace within their country. Many poor Pakistanis join the army just for a job without paying attention to what they are supposed to do. But definitely the Pakistani government knows what is going on and the silence is not justifiable.