Five years ago he picked up a gun and joined Libya’s rebels to depose Muammar Gaddafi in a blaze of patriotic vigour. Half a decade later the Tripoli medical student will mark Wednesday’s anniversary of the Arab spring revolution treating militia fighters wounded in battles with Islamic State.
Libya marks the fifth anniversary of its revolution with the country torn by civil war and Isis expanding quickly into the chaos. “Back then it was simple, we fought for freedom,” says the medical student, who asked to remain anonymous. “But a lot of time, you wonder was it worth it?”
His new job involves patching up wounded militiamen battling Isis at Surman, a small town close to the ancient Roman city of Sabratha, 30 miles west of Tripoli. When the militias are not fighting Isis, they fight each other.
Civil war between a militia coalition, Libya Dawn, which holds Tripoli, and the elected parliament in Tobruk has raged since the summer of 2014. It is a war that has left 5,000 dead, the economy in ruins, half a million homeless and the dreams of 2011 shattered.
“Everybody was optimistic back then,” said Guma El-Gamaty, who was the rebel government’s London envoy during the revolution. “We are now suffering the legacy of Gaddafi, the lack of institutions, no democracy, the lack of knowing how to come together.”
With Isis now attacking the country’s oil ports, talk is of western military intervention, with the UK Foreign Office confirming this month that RAF jets are in the skies over Libya.
Diplomats caution that airstrikes against Isis should take place after Tripoli and Tobruk have ended their civil war, allowing a unified state to turn its guns on the militants.
But the latest United Nations deadline for a peace deal to end the civil war came and went on Monday with bickering over a unified cabinet. Leaders of an embryonic unity government are exiled in Tunisia and Morocco, facing hostility from both Tripoli and Tobruk.
“Libya is becoming a scenario whereby you will have three governments,” says Ludovico Carlino of IHS Jane’s, a London defence analyst. “An intervention [without a unity government] will probably cause more anarchy and chaos.”
El-Gamaty says he remains hopeful, insisting talks are progressing. “It is process, it is in the right direction.”
Diplomats say there is no alternative to more mediation, with Britain’s Libya envoy, Jonathan Powell, telling a parliamentary inquiry in London last week: “If what we are doing fails, plan B is going to be very much like plan A, trying to get a government that the country will accept.”
Others are losing patience. The Pentagon said last month it has special forces in Libya seeking “partnerships” with local militias to take on Isis.
Meanwhile, the population can only suffer. “Some people say they want to go back to the time of Gaddafi,” says the medical student. “I don’t. Where I want to go is out, out of the country.”
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