[Marxism] Freedom

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Aug 26 12:46:06 MDT 2011

(For the anti-anti-Qaddafi left, the world begins and ends with 
NATO. Too bad that they can't appreciate something like this.)


Libyans find freedom at Moammar Gaddafi’s Abu Salim prison in Tripoli

By Thomas Erdbrink, Updated: Friday, August 26, 2:20 PM

TRIPOLI, LIBYA — In the fourteen years that Islamic activist Saad 
al-Eshouli spent in a small cell in one of the most notorious 
prisons of Moammar Gaddafi’s Libya, the outside world had become a 
distant memory.

So when rebels opened the gates of the Abu Salim prison Wednesday 
and he joined the other 2,500 detainees pouring out, he was amazed 
by novelties such as mobile phones and satellite dishes.

The prison had been the black hole of Gaddafi’s reign — many went 
in, but few came out. The Libyan autocrat used the facility to 
make his political opponents disappear. In 1996, when prisoners 
revolted over living conditions, some 1,200 inmates were massacred.

It was the arrest in February of a lawyer representing the 
families of those killed that sparked the uprising that toppled 
Gaddafi this week.

Within the prison’s walls, Eshouli’s life revolved around 
conversations with his eight cellmates, who shared a shower, small 
kitchen and toilet in the 100-square-foot room. He was not allowed 
to receive visitors, and he had been given no contact with his 
twin brother, Mehdi, who was arrested with him in 1997 but was 
released five years later.

As time passed, the guards and interrogators forgot why Eshouli, 
40, was imprisoned in the first place. He started thinking that 
the Abu Salim prison, one of the many concrete detention 
facilities that dotted Libya, had become his final destination.

“This room is where I expected to die,” he said Friday, standing 
in front of cell block 13, which was lined with mattresses and 
plastic bags containing inmates’ belongings.

Largely unaware of the storm that had broken Gaddafi’s 
four-decade-long grip on the country, Eshouli thought the rattling 
of gunfire and thuds of explosions this past week were God’s 
trumpets heralding the moment of his death.

“We expected another massacre,” he said while guiding rebels and 
journalists through the now-deserted prison. Instead, the guards 
suddenly ran off.

There are moments of happiness that are unexplainable, Eshouli 
said, and this was one of them. A day later, he was reunited with 
his twin brother, who had come from Benghazi to search for him.

The two men stood next to each other Friday.  One was pale. The 
other’s skin was dark from years of exposure to the sun.

“I thought he was dead,” Mehdi said.

The brothers had arrived at the prison a year after the massacre. 
Ali Maktouq, another former inmate, pointed Friday to the site 
where he said the victims had been buried in a mass grave.

“First they killed those who they wanted to kill,” said Maktouq, 
41. “Then they lined us up against a wall, cocking their weapons.”

Maktouq was spared, however, and he was freed some time later.

He said the guards made the survivors clean the blood from their 
cells. After earning his freedom, he remained in the neighborhood 
and visited the prison every day to show solidarity with his 
former cellmates.

Now that the rebels control the vast majority of Tripoli, Maktouq 
said he wants them to convert the prison into a park, or a 
university, or anything that builds society instead of crushing it.

Already on Friday, he was learning to stand in the prison without 
feeling fear. For the first time in his life, he said, the 
prison’s walls symbolized freedom for him.

“I can’t believe I am here, in this place, speaking my mind,” 
Maktouq said. “I am no longer afraid.”

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