• kwankew

The Twarga Clinic for the IDPs

Despite the fact that we were told medications were ready for us to start the mobile clinic for the IDPs in Twarga, we did not find them. At the IMC office, we went through all the boxes of the International Emergency Health Kits (IEHK) and realized that the promised medicines to set up the clinics were not all there. Amjab wanted me to e-mail a list of needed medicines to the field coordinator who had been unreachable. Fearing that we would lose another day Falid Abood and I requested that we be allowed to buy the medicines. In the end Hassan drove us to an unmarked pharmacy and we spent a few hours purchasing medications. The owner graciously donated some boxes of medications and went to the polyclinic Hospital and obtained some more free medications for us. He even discounted our total bill. Hassan stopped at a make-shift road-side store for me to stock up on vegetables and fruits: onions, cucumber, tomatoes, apples and pomegranates with my new dinars.


I checked with Amjab whether it would be safe to run in the streets of Misurata, he said it would be alright to run in the back roads. One morning I was not sure whether I heard some gun shots when I was running close to the hospital so I avoided the Polyclinic area. Another morning I went running by the heliport, a few blocks from the guest house, this time I distinctly heard gun-shots. I quickly turned around and decided to run on the street that ran by the front of the guest house. This street led straight up to Tripoli Street. It being Friday, all the streets were eerily quiet. I stopped for a moment at the road side display of ammunition and tanks captured from Gaddafi's army.


Twarga was one of Gaddafi’s strongholds. When fighting reached this area, the occupants who supported Gaddafi fled and the town was emptied. Now the rebels use them as transitional camps for the IDPs. On one of the check points there scrawled on some enormous pipes in English and Arabic: We fight for freedom and justice. We will never surrender, we win or die.


In the evenings when we left Twarga for Misurata, we could see smoke arising from burning buildings. When I asked Walid why the building complex was being burnt, he turned around and laughed but refused to answer me; he only jokingly mentioned that Zoro was at it again. From what I could piece together from the translator, the Misuratans display their vengefulness towards the people of Twarga by burning their houses so that they have no place to return to when the war ends



At Twarga the Committee swept a room clean for us for our clinic. There were no tables so we sat on chairs to see our patients. In the back of the complex there was a room with an examination table. There seemed to be a whole lot of pregnant women almost all of them near term or past their due dates. They were often accompanied by their protective husbands and mothers-in-law. We transferred them to Misurata after writing them an official pass to enable them to get through the check points. The solders check the passengers and the trunks for possible infiltrated persons from Sirte. Most of our patients had minor problems. Our very first patient was a 7-year-old girl with a gun-shot wound in the left thigh. According to the father, the bullet came through her bedroom in Sirte, ricocheted off a wall and hit her in the thigh. It did not go through the thigh and the father had to cut it out. X-ray later showed that it just grazed the bone. A young boy who looked healthy came in with diarrhea but seemed quite happy showing off his victory sign. Most women were reluctant to come out and often asked the men to come asking for medications. As oppose to other African countries, here in Libya, fathers not mothers brought their children to see us.



One pregnant woman was brought in by her husband. She was covered from head to toes with a black veil over her face and black abaya. When I was ready to see her, the men left the roomincluding my translator who stayed right outside the door, refusing to come in. She remained with her veil covering her face and only lifted it up when the room was closed. I thought she was rather pretty. After I was done examining her, she gestured whether she could put her veil back. When she got out of the room, her husband immediately took her to the back room away from the prying eyes of the public to wait for her transfer paper.


Muhammad told me that there is a wide variation of how much a woman should be covered. Universally all Islamic Libyan women are covered down to their ankles only exposing their faces and hands. However there are groups that require the women to be covered entirely except for the eyes. At home they could be uncovered but men and women remain in separate quarters.


Marriage is arranged by the mothers and sisters for the men. The woman then meets the man in the presence of her father or brother for a few minutes. The men and the women could say "no" to the match but sometimes the women are not given a choice if their fathers insist.


Walid our driver lost three uncles in the fierce fight for Misurata in April and May. Like many young Libyans it was the first time he ever held and fired a gun. Cats were used by the Freedom Fighters as decoys for Gaddafi's snipers. At night Freedom Fighters tied light to the cats and let them free. The snipers fired at the lights thinking these were the Freedom Fighters and in so doing revealed their positions and were in turn fired upon. I feel sorry for these cats which probably had no idea what all the shelling was about.


Curious about Tripoli Street one evening I found my way there by foot. A lot of buildings were destroyed; some were riddled with bullet holes and there were enormous gaping holes from bombing. It was said that Gaddafi sent more than twenty tanks there and fired indiscriminately. On one side of the street, the victors displayed missiles, warheads, tanks captured from Gaddafi’s forces. Libyan families gathered there, young and old, women and men to view the spoils. Boys climbed up the tanks, their backdrop being the bombed-out and burnt buildings. At one point an elderly man called out slogans in Arabic and at the end a soldier who stood by him fired, “Tat, rat-tat-tat…” into the evening sky. Now things are quiet in Misurata with occasional shots of celebratory gun fire. Outside our accommodation is a sign that said” Misurata is Misurata, we have broken the dictator”.



I ran in Haiti after the earthquake dodging rubble, live wires, gaping cracks in the roads, scavenging pigs and goats and now in the early mornings I ran in the streets of Libya and on Tripoli Street where one of the fiercest fighting in Misurata took place, it was quite surreal.



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