Foreigners Flee Libya Violence

Aya Elbrqawi in Benghazi, Monia Ghanmi and Mawassi Lahcen contributed to this report for Magharebia – 30072014

Clashes at the Tripoli airport resumed Tuesday (July 29th), the day after top world leaders urged an immediate ceasefire and called on the United Nations to help restore stability to Libya.

More than 100 people have been killed in recent fighting in the capital and Benghazi, as Libyan soldiers and Khalifa Haftar’s “Operation Dignity” forces confront Ansar al-Sharia and other Islamist militias.

The collapse of security is forcing foreign nationals to flee the country.

France, Portugal, Britain, Turkey, the Netherlands, Canada, the United States and Bulgaria are the latest nations to ship out their citizens or close their embassies in Tripoli.

According to Liberal Party founder Walid Alafi, the evacuation of foreign diplomats shows the severity of the crisis.

“The diplomats left because they know the reality of the situation. The essential components of life are missing in Tripoli, services are shuttered entirely, and the danger is imminent because of the ferocity of the battles and their expansion,” Alafi told Magharebia.

“We are in dire need of an international intervention to put pressure on the parties to the conflict,” he said.

But it is not too late for diplomatic channels to negotiate a cease-fire, he said.

Tripoli health worker Moad Ahmed Elhasy made the same point: “The UN should send a peacekeeping force to protect citizens and help them get rid of militias.”

Libya is suffering from “the absence of the state and the armed gangs that shed blood, money, and the honour of the citizens”, Elhasy said.

Fathi Salem Abuzakhar, a founding member of the Libyan Amazigh Congress, agreed that a Libyan initiative for dialogue under the auspices of the United Nations Mission in Libya was needed.

The use of violence and the power of the militias threaten to take us back to the era of the dictatorship,” he said.

People must be convinced “through the ballot box, not through violence and killing”, Abuzakhar added.

Benghazi political activist Samira Albaraasi told Magharebia: “The root of the disease we are experiencing is the use of religion by some parties as a mask to protect their interests and lure youth to wage their dirty wars.”

She described the chaos in her country as “a war between militias, a war for influence and control over resources, a war between various armed groups for money, oil and power”.

“The victims are the Libyan people who are being killed and terrorised while their homes are being destroyed,” she added.

While things are bad in the capital, many say it is worse in eastern Libya. The Tripoli violence exploded in mid-July, but conditions in Benghazi have been desperate for months.

“Benghazi is scary and unbearable,” said Fatima Ali, a teacher and mother of two. “Electricity is cut off and rockets are falling on our houses. Many people have left Benghazi, fearing for their lives.”

“We’re going through a very tough transition,” agreed Ali Maagravedani, who lives in Sidi Faraj.

His neighbourhood on the outskirts of Benghazi saw extensive shelling last month, when Haftar’s forces launched aerial and artillery strikes on Ansar al-Sharia bases.

“I respect the decisions that countries have taken to close their embassies and withdraw their nationals to protect them, but I hope this will only be a temporary measure and not a message of abandonment of our country,” Mohamed Abou Bridagravea of Tripoli said.

“As much as Libya needs internal dialogue and reconciliation, it needs foreign assistance,” Abou Bridagravea told Magahrebia. “Libyans have to accept that.”

He added: “Libya is part of the international community and urgently needs the world to stand by its side in its calamity, before it is too late.”

Source : Magharebia