Part 2 of 2. Part 1 is here. By Liz Lucas
Eventually Mohammed and his family had to leave. The school they currently call home is a welcome relief from living in fear in Sirte. They sleep in peace, without the sounds of bullets whizzing past or planes flying overhead.
“My children get crazy when they hear the airplanes,” he explained, referring to NATO. “It’s horrible when you hear the explosions.”
But leaving the city was not easy. He needed to get scarce fuel for the car, which cost 400 dinars (about $325) for 20 liters in Sirte. There were rumors that civilians would be harmed on the way out. And with indiscriminate fire throughout the city, there was a risk that he and his family could be killed anywhere outside their home. But he felt there was no choice, conditions had become “miserable.”
He continued, “In Sirte we don’t have petrol, we don’t have food. We don’t have any necessary things for life.”
The lack of supplies is a big problem for civilians remaining in the city, as is the lack of information on what’s happening. Houses are without electricity and most information heard is propaganda. It’s difficult to make out what is real and what is not, to have all the information available to make an informed decision. And many of the civilians left are those that are stuck without the means or connections to get out. In Sirte civilians are unnecessarily bearing the brunt of the conflict.
“Let me tell you something. We don’t have anything there. [The rebels/NATO] could wait on us to leave. We would come out, we would need food. So why the bombing?” he asks us. When we asked if he feels it’s in retaliation for being Qaddafi’s hometown (and a loyalist stronghold) he answered, “Yes, of course.”
Mohammed considers himself not to be political and feels that many in the city were like him, just ordinary civilians. He was surprised by how well he was treated by the rebels when he left the city. They gave his family fuel and food. His daughter was sick and was met by a doctor at the gate and taken to a clinic.
But he doesn’t yet trust them or anyone yet. He worries about his family’s safety. “I just want to live in peace. I don’t care about politics,” he said. But he cannot return until the fighting stops, until it is safe to go home.
“I want to go back to my city. But I don’t think I’ll find a city when I return,” he said.