“95% of the Libyans want to go back to pre-2011 situation” – interview with Mohammed Al-Fatah
Mohammed Al-Fatah (55) was born and raised in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. He belongs to both the Warfalla and the Gaddafa tribe. At the time of overthrow of the Jamahiriya he worked in Europe, where he also lives today. Some members of his family were killed in fights against militias in Libya. The below interview was conducted in English by Angelika Gutsche on August 18, 2014. It was published in German in weekly newspaper Der Freitag on August 19. Below is the edited version of the original interview (edited for readability reasons only).
Q. Mr. Al-Fatah, could you tell me what currently is going on in Libya?
A. Currently the elders (tribes) are taking over and cleaning Tripoli, Benghazi, Tobruk and other cities from the militias who are part of Al-Qaeda, Ansar Sharia [Benghazi militia], the Muslim Brotherhood and the Misrata militia [known as Fajr/Operation Dawn]. They consist of 250 militias throughout Libya. Misrata is a stronghold but has suffered heavy losses. The war is still ongoing so I cannot foretell who will win. But from my information the tribes are moving on high speed.
Q. The heaviest fighting at the moment [third week of August] seems to be in Tripoli and Benghazi. How is the situation of the people there?
A. 90% of the civilians have joined the tribes and are helping them to clean the mess that NATO left.
Q. There are heavy fights in Benghazi and Tripoli between troops of General Haftar and Islamist fighters. What kind of person is Haftar? Is he a friend of United States? Does he get popular support?
A. Haftar is a CIA asset. We supported him for a short time, while knowing he was funded by the CIA, but we needed all the help we could get. Unfortunately Haftar is not a strong military man. In fact he merely is a coward. When there was heavy fighting against the above mentioned militias, he fled many times. Haftar most certainly no longer has our support. He was a means to an end for us. The man inflicted a lot of harm on Libya. His sons robbed one of our banks and stole over one million of dinars. This incident happened in 2012. Such thing is not something you can forget about easily. Haftar always wanted to topple Gaddafi so that he could get his hands on our resources. He does not care about the Libyan people. With that in mind, the CIA used him to try to topple Gaddafi numerous times till the so-called Arab spring. Haftar does not have troops anymore, they joined the tribes.
Q. Where are the Islamist fighters from? From whom did they receive their weapons?
A. The Islamist fighters, as you call them, are just plain mercenaries who are hired, trained and funded by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey at the instigation of the United States. These mercenaries were used in Libya in 2011, where they managed to progress only because NATO supported them from the air. Their salary is about $2000 a month and they receive about $300 for each person killed or each severed head. Weapons are supplied by the USA via Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Q. The new Libyan parliament has met in Tobruk. They are calling on the United Nations for help. What kind of help could this be? What is your opinion about this? Does the parliament have the support of the Libyan people?
A. The so-called parliament that met in Tobruk is the long arm of America, a.k.a. the Muslim Brotherhood, Ansar Sharia, the Misrata militias and Al-Qaeda. They want NATO to intervene so that they again can control Libya. Thank God there is nothing they can do, as Resolution 1973 [the 2011 UNSC Resolution that led to a no-fly zone over Libya] has expired. NATO right now is very busy with Ukraine, but even if they would try to get a new UN Resolution, Russia, China, India and Latin America would vote NO, because they will not be fooled a second time. This parliament does not care about the Libyan people. Personally, I do not recognize them as legally elected and I think the tribes would not recognize them as well if you would ask them.
Q. What kind of person is the new elected president of the parliament, Aguila Salah Issa?
A. No one in Libya knows the man…
Q. What is going on in the other cities of Libya? How is life there? And how are things at the countryside?
A. Right now Tripoli, Benghazi, Tobruk, Sebha, Misrata and Derna are the hotbeds of conflict. As for the rest of Libya, things are more quite but sometimes they flare up. At the moment our main focus is to clean Tripoli and Benghazi from extremists, to isolate Misrata port and its inhabitants that are hostile towards the Libyan people. Subsequently the remaining smaller cities have to be secured. Instantly Libya has quite a problem with cash flow, as the Central Bank of Tripoli is closed. There are also problems with gasoline, electricity, water and telephone. We are trying to cope with these problems mostly by rationing. The hardest are the power cuts that could last for more than eight hours in a row, as the summer heat is making things difficult for the Libyan people. We hold the Misrati militias responsible for all the suffering, because they started the war against Tripoli in the middle of the fasting month of Ramadan. They set the fuel deposits at Tripoli airport on fire, which caused terrible air pollution as well as damage to the electric wiring and a lot more. The disaster they triggered is unforgivable.
Q. The tribes in Libya are very strong. Are the tribes fighting against each other or what are the exact coalitions?
A. All tribes have joined forces and fight against the Misrati militias, Zliten, and the Gharian strains. Those are minorities, but they are funded by the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda, Dash [an Islamist fighters squad] and al-Nusra [a Syrian terrorist group], via Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. In order to truly understand the situation, one must live in Libya for a while. The largest tribe is the Warfalla tribe with over 2 million people. After that comes the Rishvana tribe with more or less the same amount of people; then follow other tribes such as Zintan, which is known for its fighting skills, but only about 500 thousand people belong to this tribe.
Q. How is the situation in the south of Libya, in the Sahara desert?
A. This area is under the control of the Green resistance and tribes.
Q. What the position of Tuareg and Tibu [Libyan minority groups] in Libya?
A. They have joined the tribes and are fighting with us to liberate Libya.
Q. How is the situation in the cities of Bani Walid and Sirte?
A. By 2011, before the war, both cities were the pearl of Libya. Today these cities are destroyed and are strongly reminiscent of Gaza. They were bombed with depleted uranium, white phosphorus and Sarin. Meanwhile the United Nations did nothing to protect the civilian population! But there are still people living there.
Q. There is still Green Resistance in Libya? What consider people in Libya to be “Green Resistance”?
A. Yes, the Green Resistance always has been there, it was there from the beginning. We have been fighting until we were able to convince the largest tribes to join us and become active. We had the first two years [after the fall of the Jamahiriya] to reorganize, with over two million of us living in exile. This took some time. We also had to find a place, I cannot provide its name, where after a few months all tribes (elders) were able to gather to begin planning for the re-conquest of Libya. We see the results now. Of course, the Green Resistance since October 2011 has already led to acts of sabotage [against the NATO-installed government], it freed prisoners, took over the south of Libya as well as Sebha and some oil ports.
Q. Are there still a lot of Black Africans living in the south of Libya? How is their life?
A. There have always been black Libyans in Libya, take Fezzan as an example. Most of them have darker skin than people from Tripoli or Benghazi. Some of them have good lives, some don’t, same goes for all other Libyan citizens.
Q. It says that about two millions Libyans had to flee their country. Where do they currently live?
A. This means about one third of the entire population! There are over 3.5 million Libyans living in forced exile. About 2 million are living in Tunis, 1.5 million are living in Egypt and the rest of them are living in Europe. Until a few days ago there were more than 100,000 prisoners. 82,000 of them were freed. 18,000 are still imprisoned in Misrata and Tripoli, which are controlled by the Misrata militias.
Q. What is going on at the Libyan oilfields? Who controls them? Who sells the oil and who gets the revenues?
A. Most oilfields are controlled by the tribes. We sell very little oil to China and Russia. I think that we need most of it for ourselves.
Q. As I understand, there are foreign forces inside the country? Where are they from and what are they doing?
A. The foreign forces that I am aware of are from Qatar, Dash [Islamist fighters from the region], Turkey, Syria and Tunisia. All of them are mercenaries who assist the Misrata militias.
Q. How can the events in Libya be classified in the context of other Arab countries such as Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Egypt etc.?
A. I don’t understand the question. But if you mean the wars in Palestine/Gaza, Syria, Iraq and Ukraine, we of course are unhappy about what is going on in those countries. However, it also gives us the opportunity to change things in Libya. With that I mean, while the international community and the Western powers tried to bring about a revolution in those countries, they were not focussing on Libya. So by the chaos created in those countries, we can take care of Libya without fear of an intervention by NATO or the UN.
Q. There are some interesting archaeological sites in Libya, such as Leptis Magna and Sabratha. Have those been damaged? And what about the famous prehistoric rock paintings in the Sahara?
A. The archaeological sites are all intact, but many archaeological objects were stolen and taken abroad. This includes the latest discovery before the war in 2011, an abacus [a cover plate with columns in an ancient temple].
Q. Iraq is a failed state and the country is falling apart. Do we see a similar situation in Libya now?
A. The situation in Libya is completely different. The population of Iraq is much larger and the tribes have fallen apart, a greedy sell-out has occurred. Libya does not have this kind of population. We are only six million, and not even that anymore. We have lost over 600,000 people from the beginning of the war until today. Our Libyan tribes are closely intertwined for eight thousand years. We have survived worse than this. When looking back at the 42 years of Gaddafi’s leadership, we become aware of what we had and what we lost. We lost our freedom, our dignity, our pride, our livelihood. The West tried to colonize us and established a Western form of dictatorial democracy in our country. They imposed extremist parties upon us, which we had abandoned over twenty years ago. 95 percent of the Libyan people want to go back to what we had before the 2011 war, and we will achieve this. Therefore, I believe that we are very different from Iraq. The Iraqis did not love their leader, but the Libyans loved Gaddafi. We showed this when two million of us marched in Tripoli in July 2011. The Western media chose not to report on this march. I quote [former Chairman of Libya’s National Transitional Council] Abdul Jalil, who in an interview with television news channel Al-Arabiya in May 2014 declared: “Gaddafi never ordered to kill protesters. This was done by snipers from the West, France, United Kingdom and United States (FUKUS). The deaths that were shown to us were foreigners, we dressed them up in Libyan clothes, and nobody came to claim their bodies. I knew about this plan when I was still in Gaddafi’s government, but at that time I could not say anything about it. But that was the plan and we had to carry it out.” If this had been known in 2011, there never would have been a UN Resolution 1973. Even General Haftar said in an interview with Al-Arabyia: “The Al-Fatah Revolution was a real revolution and Gaddafi was the true leader of all Libyans. What we have now is an invasion.”
Q. What do you wish for your country?
A. I wish for my country that we will go back to where we were in 2011, before the illegal war, with very minor changes. What we had was a real democracy, even if the West had a different opinion on that. Housing was free, as well as health care and education. We only needed to pay maintenance charges for electricity and water once a the year, which together was not more than a hundred euros. We had free water and electricity, something that the West doesn’t have. We did not have to pay income tax, only shops and businesses paid taxes. Loans from banks were interest-free. Libyan women had the same rights as men. Food was not subject to tax. There were no homeless people. The poverty rate was below five percent (according to UN standards). And much more. Now from all of this there is nothing left. Therefore, I firmly believe that the tribes, together with the Green resistance, are able to become victorious, and that we once again will have all those benefits and probably even more.
Q. What is your personal opinion on how this all will end?
A. Well, I hope it will end with our victory and I hope in the end our country will have the much needed peace, stability and security. Only Allah knows how this war will end. All I can do is speculate, and hope that in the end everything will be fine.