A Libyan Prisoner Lives to Tell His Story
HE was my confidential source in the Libyan military this spring, an officer who passed on secret information about disaffection in the ranks of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. And then as the Libyan revolution spread, he made bombs and smuggled weapons into
That proved unnecessary.
When rebels liberated the Abu Salim prison in
Madhoun studied electrical engineering in
I’m not in the business of providing air cover, but I wrote a blog post then urging the Obama administration to create a safety corridor to protect Libyan ships seeking to defect. Then Madhoun heard from fellow officers that he was about to be arrested, and he changed plans. He recorded a video on board his ship, announcing his defection and calling on other military officers to join his mutiny.
I was in
“I told him it’s a big mistake,” she recalled to me. “ ‘Why don’t you think before you do this?’ ”
Somewhat sheepishly, Madhoun sent word that I shouldn’t mention his name after all, and we dropped the idea of showing the video. He disappeared into hiding, along with his family, and began to help organize the underground resistance in the
Working with a force that he says consisted of around 1,200 underground rebels, he smuggled weapons in by boat and bombed security offices. He sent targeting data to French government contacts so that NATO could bomb military sites.
Libyan women have received little attention in the uprising, but, behind the scenes, they played a significant role. Even Madhoun’s daughters, ages 11 and 14, volunteered to sew rebel flags, which other family members then hung from mosques and schools to spread the message of resistance.
“This is the time to fight Qaddafi,” Madhoun’s 18-year-old niece, Rehab, remembers telling him, and she pleaded for any assignment in the underground. An engineering student who speaks excellent English, Rehab also began painting dramatic anti-Qaddafi graffiti around
In May, Madhoun was picked up in a routine police sweep, but he lied about his identity and claimed to be a simple vegetable seller. After four hours and a beating, he was released. But then, on Aug. 10, police found Madhoun’s hide-out, and his world collapsed.
“When they arrested me, I knew I was going to be killed,” he recounted. He says he was subjected to horrific electric shocks in interrogations overseen by Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, one of Muammar’s sons.
“What helped me endure torture was reciting the Koran,” he said, adding that he never gave up names. After less than two weeks, rebels stormed the prison and named Madhoun the military commander of the newly liberated Tajoura area. He now has an escort of bodyguards as he strolls through the neighborhood — rapturously greeted by neighbors.
Americans are wondering and worried about who
Madhoun acknowledges that the hard work is only just beginning. Yet he is guardedly optimistic that
“My death was inevitable,” he said, “but I am alive thanks to God and NATO.”
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs