Become what you hate by Mohammed AlNaas, Libya

It was six years ago in Tripoli, when all the hate began to spread in my heart and soul. The Libyan civil war started on February 2011. On  February 25 my fears became bigger, demonstrations spread across the country, the streets were full with people, their shouting was increasing as their numbers were; everything was just changing.
A couple of gunshots and gas bombs were thrown in the air against us, people were trying to find a place to hide; I was in a group that was trembling inside the gas clouds, I was terrified, horrified; not because of the gas, but because for the first time in my life I heard the sound of gunshots.

Death passed by; I lost track of the scene. I found myself with a kid who was not more than 16 years old in the middle of  fire. Minutes flew just like seconds and then time stopped when a bullet found its way to the kid’s heart. The scene stayed in my mind. I ran imagining the kid full of blood for 20 Km , I ran from death, all I thought about that day was to escape reality.

The days after, I began to develop a certain kind of paranoia mixed with hate.  I lost sleep  over this scene for many nights. It made me realize that the Pro-Gaddafi forces would shoot anyone who demonstrates against the regime. I thought they were the devil itself. The media propaganda of the Gaddafi regime made the rebels look just as ugly as I imagine Pro-Gaddafi forces. Tripoli was a city outside of the world for months, no one could know for sure what was happening outside of it; but I saw who the real evil was, or at least it was I thought back then.

Life became nothing but a shade of a dreams until the rebels took control of Tripoli in August 2011; everybody after that was volunteering in charity work, civil society, and rebel task forces. As for me I volunteered as an administration officer at one of the rebel task forces, I was one of the few IT educated young men in my town, I was happy to be chosen.

The first day of work was like magic to me, after months of fear, I was working for the new Libya! When I entered the office I discovered something, it was the first thing I saw there: a man torturing a pro-Gaddafi soldier. He had him cuffed to a window, and he was hitting him with an iron chain. I knew the prisoner was a pro-Gaddafi because the man was screaming and swearing in his face cursing him and Gaddafi, I stood for a few seconds watching the scene, and didn’t felt anything; nothing.

I spent months working at the center, and forgot the scenes of torture happening there. All I had in mind was the kid from the demonstration. I thought the ones who torture the prisoners were doing it just for information, because “the movies” say that prisoners are always stubborn and could hide the truth, sometimes you need to torture them just to let the truth out.

One day in December 2011 I heard a story from one of the task force volunteers who was a military, he was a torturer whose job was to take the “confessions” of pro-Gaddafi supporters. He told me how he tortured one of the prisoners the day before and how he liked it, he looked satisfied, happy, glad and proud about what he did to him. He laughed when he mentioned the things he did to him. He was very happy about it like a kid who was fond of an old children’s game. That’s where it hit me,  when I realized the damage the war had done to all of us.

I spent days struggling with my own thoughts. I started to fear for the people I hated, to feel their pain, and it didn’t take long before I left the task force. I couldn’t feel at peace with myself until I started writing a novel about Pro-Gaddafi soldiers. I wanted to feel them, to become what I hated, to understand them; I wrote it… only then I could find peace again. I called the novel “ A Human”, I wanted to deliver the message I received from my writing experience: We, humans, we do good, we do bad; we can all become the “bad guy” or the “good guy”depending on the situation. We are all the same.

This is just one example of the important work produced YaLa’s citizen journalists, a program funded by the European Union’s Peacebuilding Initiative in order to enable young leaders from across the Middle East and North Africa to document and share their experiences of the region. 

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