Friday, October 14, 2011

Warzone tourism

Today was a bit of an unnerving day. I had one too many guns carelessly pointed in my direction, including an RPG. Tripoli has been chaotic since last night. I feel for those living in Iraq, Palestine, and other warzones. You live with a certain level of stress - it's no wonder people in this part of the world age so much faster.

I have had very little sleep lately - there's been a lot of gunfire. Around 3am last night, I knew something was going on because I could hear a lot of shouting, shooting, and I watched freedom fighters zooming through our neighbourhood. They looked like they were on their way to battle. Sure enough, there were gun battles all day today in the Boosleem neighbourhood. Boosleem is one of the poorest ghettos in Tripoli. It's not too far from where my dad's family lives, which also had gun fights today. As luck would have it - we decided to go there today. All through lunch we could hear fighting outside. My aunts family locked themselves in at home because there were gun battles on their roof. 

The people of Boosleem decided to protest in support of Gadaffi today. It's incomprehensible to me why anyone would want him to stay in power. But there's a common thread between the majority of his supporters - they are the poorest and least educated members of society. Many of them rely on pensions from the government which are their only source of income. These pensions aren't even anything to write home about - I don't know the exact amounts, but judging by the state of these neighbourhoods, it's gotta be very little. The homes are rundown and small. There are 2-3 families living in each home. Many of the roads aren't even paved - they're dirt roads from the time of donkey-drawn carriages. They have no backyards, and homes are side by side. Everything in these neighbourhoods just screams poverty. Many of the inhabitants drop out of school early to support their families. The most striking feature is that they're just ignorant and have completely bought into Gadafi's propaganda machine.

My father started to get nervous and didn't want us going home after dark. We decided to call it a day early (6pm) and head home in case the fighting worsened. Good call. But we were met with one checkpoint after another - the roads were insanity. I sat in the car and to my left was a truck load of macho freedom fighters. I pulled out my camera to take a picture, and they totally posed! Unfortunately, the picture came out blurry. Sorry ladies, no pictures today sadly ;-)

My father had to serve in the army when he was younger, so he knows a thing or two about handling guns. He kept pointing out fighters who were totally holding their guns improperly. But even my gun-ignorant self knew many of these fighters were not handling their guns properly - especially the dude who pointed his RPG at us today!!! You just don't walk around with those things pointing straight ahead. 

The trip home involved 98239482039820 checkpoints. Every dude with a gun stopped us, checked my brother's car registration, and popped our trunk. My mom got so annoyed at one point she got out of the car and got into an argument with them (for those who are wondering where I get it from). The punks actually argued back! Thankfully, we eventually made it home safely and in decent time. I have other friends that are still stuck in traffic as we speak who left around the same time we did.

I had plans to see my cousins and their friends tomorrow. Unfortunately they were called off because one of the friends lost her cousin the night before to celebratory gunfire. This madness is tragic.

I have not been able to get out much to take pictures. My family has been busy seeing their relatives, and I don't think it would be wise of me to wander out on my own. It kinda sucks, but I guess that's what vacations in warzones are like. But I can describe what I've been seeing on my car rides to various relatives homes. Tripoli was already in bad shape under gadaffi. The roads are awful, full of potholes (Montrealers will never complain if they spent a day with Libyan potholes). Some roads are just one gigantic continuous pothole that extend for several blocks. Buildings are worn, and have not been painted in ages. Overall, given how rich Libya is - it looks like one of the poorest countries in Africa.  And now, with all the fighting, there are bombed out buildings, remnants of gunfire on homes, gates, and walls.

When the madness subsides a little, I hope to pay a visit to Gadafi's compound (Bab Al Aziziya) and maydan al shuhada.

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