Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – In a private hospital in the affluent Cairo neighborhood of Heliopolis, a number of anti-Gaddafi Libyan rebels are receiving medical treatment for injuries and wounds earned in their uprising against Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi. Asharq Al-Awsat visited with these wounded Libyan rebels who bear the physical, as well as the emotional and psychological scars of war, to talk about their experiences of the Libyan uprising.
Asharq Al-Awsat met with Hamid Wahdan, from the Jabal Al Akhdar region in eastern Libya. He is a former member of the Libyan security forces, and he spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat about how he defected from the pro-Gaddafi forces to join the rebels. He said “on 20 February the Libyan people’s anger began to boil over following an attack carried out by pro-Gaddafi battalions and mercenaries.” He revealed that Gaddafi had hired African mercenaries ‘who would kill innocent people in the street, even families…and then celebrate these killings…and this provoked the people who were witnessing their own children being killed in front of them.” He added that “following this, a number of military units defected from Gaddafi.”
Recounting some of the incidents that he observed during the Libyan uprising, Wahdan told Asharq Al-Awsat that “we were taking part in an operation to storm the La Abraq Airport [in Bayda]…I was accompanied by two of my brothers and we were in the vanguard of the attack when well-armed Gaddafi soldiers appeared…they fired at us, pinning us down, and that is when I saw my own brother die in front of me, with bullets raining down all around us. Following this, the rebels sent in reinforcements, taking control of the airport.”
As for how he ended up in an Egyptian hospital bed, Wahdan said that he lost his leg after being injured in an air raid. He added “the revolutionaries, thanks to God, are stronger and moving forward and will be victorious!”
As for Attiyah Abdul Rahman, another Libyan rebel hospitalized in Egypt, he refused to talk to Asharq Al-Awsat about his injuries. He said “I do not want to talk about this; I do not want to remember.” However Abdul Rahman’s uncle, who was visiting him in hospital, told Asharq Al-Awsat that he was injured on 18 February in the city of Shahhat in eastern Libya after being shot in the knee by pro-Gaddafi forces.
Shahhat was the scene of a significant battle between the Libyan rebels and Gaddafi forces, including African mercenaries, and Attiyah Abdul Rahman’s uncle said that his nephew is still suffering the psychological affects of being wounded, and witnessing the massacre of a number of his friends. Abdul Raman remained in Libya until 7 March, and he was then transferred to Egypt to receive further medical treatment.
Asharq Al-Awsat also met with a Libyan youth named Abdullah Faraj, who was injured after being betrayed by an undercover Gaddafi agent. Faraj told Asharq Al-Awsat that “on 22 March, whilst the rebels were fighting the Gaddafi forces in Jabal Al Akhdar,we were hiding out in a place that nobody but us knew of, we were preparing to leave to surprise and confront the Gaddafi forces when our hideout was fired upon by rockets, a rocket blew up in front of me, another behind me, and I was seriously injured by shrapnel!” He stressed that the fact that the Gaddafi forces targeted this rebel hideout directly indicates that they had been betrayed.
Whilst another patient, referring to himself only as Tariq, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Gaddafi forces randomly fired anti-aircraft weapons at citizens and buildings…I was shot in the leg with incendiary ammunition which has resulted in a disability in this leg.”
Asharq Al-Awsat also spoke with a Libyan rebel named Abdul Hafiz Aoud in Benghazi who was shot in the spine by Gaddafi forces and who is only able to talk and walk with great difficultly. He told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the situation was very difficult…we were betrayed by our own security forces!” However despite this, Aoud said that he believed that he was lucky to still be alive, thanking God, and praying for the victory of the revolution.