Pain and loss hits every family in Misratah

By Amnesty International’s team in Misratah

Young and old, women and children, killed, injured, disappeared – every family we have met here in Misratah has had its share of pain and loss.

At a house in the Gheiran neighbourhood, south of the city centre, we met the family of ‘Omar Ahmad Al-Gweiri, a 74-year-old farmer and father of five, who was shot dead on the way to his farm on 11 March.
His son struggled to hold back the tears as he told us how his father was killed:  “He left home at 2.45pm to go to the farm to feed the sheep and bring back the milk. He went to the farm every day and I always tried to keep an eye on his movements and to find out if there were kata`ib (al-Gaddafi forces) around so that he did not get in their way as they might have harmed him.

“I always phoned him several times when he went to the farm until he came home. That day I did not get an answer when I called him and at 3.30 pm someone called me to saying that the kata`ib were in the area with tanks and lots of soldiers and weapons.

“Father’s car was shot at as he was going around the roundabout where the road to the airport begins. Two bullets went through the windscreen and hit him in the chest and several bullets hit him in the head and other parts of the body”.

We counted at least a dozen bullet holes in the car.  A witness who worked at the water reservoir nearby told us he saw the ‘Omar’s car being hit by a hail of bullets shot by soldiers nearby.

At another house in the Gheiran neighbourhood, south of the city centre, we met the family of ‘Abdelrahman Bashir ‘Obeid, a 67-year-old farmer and father of nine who was killed in the morning of 5 April as he drove to his farm.

His 18-year-old son who was with him in the car was injured. He told us: “My father wanted to go to check on his sheep.  He had not been able to go the farm for 10 days because there were soldiers everywhere in the area and he was worried about the animals.

“I went with him and when we got to the beginning of Zawiyat al-Mahjoub some guys from the neighbourhood shouted at us to go back, because the kata`ib were further on in the direction we were heading.

“So Father turned back towards the Saheli road and when we got there we were shot at. We stopped and crawled out of the car. Father fell and died almost immediately. I was in pain. A bullet had gone through my leg above the knee. I managed to reach a relative’s house nearby and they took me to a local hospital”.

Abdallah Salah Mohamed Abu Breida’a, an 82-year-old farmer and father of nine, was shot dead in his car as he was driving from his home in Tammina to the centre of town on the morning of 11 April.

According to the medical certificate, he was struck by two bullets. One, which killed him, hit the right side of his head and the other hit his right shoulder. His son told us: “Two of my brothers went missing on 7 April and my father decided to go look for them.

“As my father was driving on the Igzir bridge he was shot. He was right in the line of fire of al-Gaddafi snipers who were on top of the building of the Science College, opposite the bridge.

“Our neighbourhood was taken over by the kata`ib (al-Gaddafi forces) in March and movement in and out of the area and even inside the area became progressively more and more difficult because the snipers, who had taken up position on buildings in and around the area, often shot at people who walked or drove by.

“My father was old and he drove very slowly, and maybe that made it even easier to shoot him”.

As they grieve the loss of their father, Abdallah’s sons and daughters are now also beside themselves with worry about their two missing brothers. The two men, ‘Abdelwahab, aged 49 and father of five, and Mohamed, aged 46 and father of five, have not been heard from since the morning of 7 April, when they went out together in their car to get provisions.

The car has not been found either. Several other residents of the area have also disappeared after they were taken by al-Gaddafi forces, some from their homes and others from the neighbourhood’s streets.

Another 74-year-old man, Salem ‘Abdallah al-Feitouri, was shot dead near the place where he worked as a guard in the Kharrouba neighbourhood, south west of the city centre.

His son told us: “The whole family had left the family home because of the heavy presence of al-Gaddafi forces in the area but my father did not want to leave. At the beginning we went to see him and bring him food but later it became impossible to reach the area and father had told us not to brave the dangerous roads to get to him and that he could get food from some neighbours who had remained in the area.

“In the meantime he had taken the sheep to the place where he worked, not far from home, and stayed there, while al-Gaddadi’s forces had taken over our home.  We stayed with our relatives in a safer part of town and had no news of my father for more than two weeks because the telephone lines were cut and the roads were too dangerous.

“On 17 April we heard that our father had been killed at his work place along with a Bangladeshi colleague.  Another Bangladeshi colleague told a neighbour that soldiers had shot at them and he had managed to escape. Their bodies could only be recovered several days later, after the soldiers left the area”.

Ninety-year old Ali Abdallah Sliman Shkay was killed as a result of shrapnel injuries when his home in Ras Amar, not far from central Misratah where some of the fiercest fighting took place, was shelled on 30 March.

After hearing explosions, Mohamed Omar Abdallah Shay, 44, ran to his uncle’s home at about 11:30 to make sure that the elderly man was safe. Just as Mohamed was helping his uncle out of the house to take him to a basement, another shell landed and both men were instantly killed. Mohamed left behind his wife, and six children – the youngest born just four months ago.

On 16 March, Iftima Ali Kirzab, 69, mother of 11, was at her son’s house, adjacent to her own home, in Zawiat El-Mahjoub, in western Misratah, when the area came under heavy shelling.

She was fleeing to safety along with several of her female relatives and two young children, when she was fatally wounded by shrapnel. She sustained injuries to her chest and legs, and died immediately. Those with her were unharmed.

The day of her death witnessed the approach of pro-al-Gaddafi forces into Zawiat El-Mahjoub, who positioned themselves on the Sahili Road ( the highway connecting Misratah to Tripoli), not too far from the family’s homes.

These are just some of the many cases we have been investigating in recent days.  The victims were elderly people who were not involved in the fighting and who were killed and injured in Misratah in past three months.

In the Karzaz neighbourhood several residents told us about elderly people from the hospice who have gone missing.  There are allegations that they were taken by al-Gaddafi forces as they retreated to the outskirts of he city.  We will try to obtain more information to shed light on the case.

Read more:Libya: Civilians at risk amid new mine threat (News, 25 May 2011)
Families rent asunder by deaths and disappearances in Misratah (Blog, 21 May 2011)
Desperation and hope among Misratah’s wounded (Blog, 9 May 2011)
Misratah: A city of tears (Blog, 21 April 2011)
Misratah: the spiralling human cost in a city under fire (Blog, 18 April 2011)
Demanding change in the Middle East and North Africa (Amnesty International microsite)