x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Qaddafi is dead so it's time for a shave

Muharram Salem Sharbet, a 27-year-old volunteer soldier for the Libyan interim government, decides that the fighting is done and it's time for a shave.

Muharram Salem Sharbet, 27, a volunteer fighter for the National Transitional Council, shaved Saturday for the first time after Qaddafi's death and the impending announcement of the liberation of the country. Ahmed Ibrahim Zhaiter, 38, is the barber shaving him at the famous Shbelia barber shop in Tripoli.
Muharram Salem Sharbet, 27, a volunteer fighter for the National Transitional Council, shaved Saturday for the first time after Qaddafi's death and the impending announcement of the liberation of the country. Ahmed Ibrahim Zhaiter, 38, is the barber shaving him at the famous Shbelia barber shop in Tripoli.

TRIPOLI // Two days after Muammar Qaddafi's body was hoisted into the streets of Misurata by fighters as a symbol of the end of the uprising, Muharram Salem Sharbet decided it was time for a shave.

The 27-year-old volunteer soldier for the interim government forces, like many of his fellow fighters, had not shaved since the moment he was handed an AK-47 and asked to defend his hometown of Tripoli.

"I decided my time as a fighter is over," he said, sitting in a 1970s-era Scuderia barber chair in the Shbelia barber shop just a few blocks from Martyrs' Square. "Today, I will shave. Tomorrow, I will hand in my gun and take off my uniform."

It was a simple gesture, but deeply meaningful for many of the revolutionary fighters who experienced a war with Qaddafi's forces over the past eight months. Students, IT workers and mechanics took up arms from Benghazi to the western mountains around Zintan to oust the brutal 42-year regime.

Mr Sharbet was a relatively recent recruit, joining a neighbourhood brigade on August 22, just two days after fighters rolled into the capital with little resistance. His beard was only a couple of inches long before Ahmed Ibrahim Zhaiter, 38, his barber, sheared it with an electric clipper and finished the job with a straight-edge razor.

"He's my first revolutionary," Mr Zhaiter said. "We are expecting a lot of business in the next few weeks. A lot of beards must go."

Throughout the barber shop, men were speaking freely about Qaddafi's final moments - mirroring similar conversations across the country. Mr Zhaiter said people used to sit silently while they got a trim, afraid of spies, but now it was "talk, talk, talk".

Many of Mr Sharbet's friends disappeared in the days near the liberation of Tripoli. Fifteen men in the Nouflin neighbourhood were arrested by secret police in the days before August 22. Two months later, only 10 are alive after five were executed at Abu Saleem prison, he said.

By late next week, Mr Sharbet said he expected to return to his gold shop in the old medina of Tripoli. He hasn't opened the shop since the revolution started in February. But in the new Libya, he also hopes to return to school to improve his prospects.

"We have happiness in our hearts," he said, a smile on his newly smooth face. "I see a bright future."

 

bhope@thenational.ae