x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Libyan expatriates seek contact with loved ones

In the wake of the rebellion and no-fly zone, many residents here are planning to return to their troubled country in a desperate search for loved ones.

ABU DHABI // Ongoing fighting in Libya and the subsequent enforcement of a no-fly zone has left Libyan expatriates in the UAE cut off from friends and family, with many planning to return to their troubled country in a desperate search for loved ones.

Suliman Gaouda, an information technology student in Abu Dhabi, said internet chat forums had been shut down a few days ago, and only limited communication was now possible online. Phone calls were no longer being answered as lines were disabled or down.

“If I could, I would go tomorrow. Otherwise I will try to go next week,” said Mr Gaouda, who protested at the Libyan Embassy when the unrest began weeks ago.

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“I expect it all to be over by Thursday, or Sunday at the most, and I want to be there for that.”

Mr Gaouda has uncles, aunts and grandparents in or around Benghazi, and has not heard from them in at least a week.

His grandparents live on a farm near the town of Gwarsha, which borders Libya’s second city Benghazi to the south-west and was under heavy fire from forces loyal to Col Muammer Qaddafi. Mr Gaouda said he used to spend his summer holidays there.

“I haven’t heard from anyone. There has been heavy bombing all around. There was heavy bombing near my grandparents’ farm. I am worried about them. I don’t know what happened to them.”

But Mr Gaouda said he supported the no-fly zone decision.

“I think it is a very good idea that there has been a no-fly zone over Libya. This should continue,” he said.

Mansour Sergiwa, a college student in Abu Dhabi, said it had been a week since he had heard from his parents or his siblings.

“I have not been able to reach my family,” he said. “I have no idea of what is going on there. I am leaving tomorrow to find them. They may have moved to another city. I don’t know but I will look for them.”

Elham Hobba, 24, a Libyan student from Tripoli who has been living in Sharjah for four years, said she also supported the no-fly zone but thought it should have happened sooner.

“The decision was slow. Lots of lives which were lost could have been saved if they had moved faster,” she said. “However, although I appreciate the imposing of a non-fly zone as this is what we wanted, I would oppose ground intervention by any foreign troops.”

Miss Hobba also urged countries like the UK and Canada to follow in France’s footsteps and recognise the National Libyan Council – a loose coalition that speaks for the rebel alliance – as it would empower the council to represent Libya diplomatically on an international level.

Sara Ali, 37, an investment banker from Misrata who has been living in Dubai for eight years, said the military intervention had given Libyans, especially those inside Libya, a lot of strength and confidence.

“I do not know a single Libyan who is against the intervention. Of course we do not want any civilian casualties, but if this is the price the Libyan people have to pay to get rid of Qaddafi, then let it be. They are being killed by Qaddafi anyway.”

She said she would like to see Libyans taking care of their own affairs and not depending on foreign powers to solve their problems, but would rather have foreign troops in Libya than Qaddafi.

“We as Libyans know that these powers are helping because they are interested in our oil and are looking after their own national interests, but if I had to choose between them and Qaddafi I would choose them. We would rather sell our country to the West and live of their scraps rather than live under Qaddafi,” she said.

sbhattacharya@thenational.ae
wissa@thenational.ae