A Visa for Ahmad: Escape from Libya

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He didn't see the significance. It seemed like no one did. From then on, the idea ticked away at the back of my brain. I had never imagined you could surf the Mediterranean coast of North Africa.

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I started asking around. Did anyone know anyone who surfed here? Did anyone know where I could get a surfboard? My initial research quickly hit a dead end. As far as I could tell, most people in Libya only had the vaguest idea of what surfing was. There seemed to be no active surfers and it was impossible to purchase a board inside the country, though there were dozens of jet ski riders and a handful of kite surfers and wind surfers.

At the time, my frivolous pursuit of waves seemed reasonable. Early was a period of optimism in Libya. There were still regular incidents of horrifying violence and the political situation was extremely fragile, but at the same time there was a consensus that the country was on its way to becoming a better place. Although there was no real police force or army, security in the country remained relatively good, thanks largely to the overflowing goodwill and euphoria that followed the end of the Gaddafi regime.

All I could do was watch the white-capped waves dance in the distance as I sat on the sand amid large families enjoying elaborate barbecues and young men having rowdy football matches.

Ethnic market owner finds refuge in Colorado from Libyan war | The Seattle Times

Eventually it was time for a visa run: On the way back from the airport, the taxi driver asked me if I used it for fishing. When I tried to explain what I actually used it for, he looked at me like I was describing the biggest waste of time imaginable. With mid-summer approaching, decent swells were infrequent, but they still came along every once in a while. I trawled the Internet for hours, but found very little useful information. It depicted perfect barrelling waves and detailed a surf trip to Wadi Naga in the Green Mountains. Eventually I approached Mahmoud, a young doctor and local windsurfer, to ask whether he knew of a spot where suitable waves might break.

Intrigued by my hunt for Libyan waves, he recommended Janzour Tourist Village, a resort beach in eastern Tripoli. After somehow jostling my board into the car, I handed the driver a piece of paper with the directions Mahmoud had written out for me. As the taxi pulled up at our destination, the resort buildings seemed abandoned, with cracked windows and sand piled up against walls. When I asked the taxi driver whether he was sure this was the right place, he pointed at the piece of paper and nodded his head.

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In a daze, I dragged my board out of the car and watched the taxi drive off. Standing in the derelict resort with my surfboard under my arm, watching the car recede into the distance, I was filled with regret. It was the only car in sight. I warily carried my board through the dense network of small, decaying bungalows that made up the resort, weaving my way to the beach in the hot afternoon sun.

The first thing I noticed was that, to my astonishment, perfect waist-high waves were rolling into the crescent-shaped bay in front of me. Outside some of the tiny, tumble-down cottages that bordered the bay and made up the Janzour Tourist Village, there was washing hanging on lines. The cousins got in a car, turned on the lights and started the engine. But before they could leave the driveway, a device fired from a nearby bridge exploded just behind the car. Ali and his cousin immediately bolted back into the house unharmed.

The Misurati family eventually obtained a U. Taher had previously visited for months at a time.

He had previously patronized the grocery store stocked with supplies from all over the world. Misurati is the sixth owner of the business. A Libyan national flag hangs behind the cash register. There are signs scattered throughout the store in both English and Arabic. In addition to collecting money for the transfer of migrants across Libya and the Mediterranean, Fitwi has been accused of extracting payments for the release of migrants from detention centers.

Ahmed Dabbashi Dabbashi has been the leader of one of two powerful migrant smuggling organizations in Sabratha, Libya. Dabbashi used his organization to rob and enslave migrants before allowing them to leave for Italy. In October , when forces opposed to Dabbashi ousted him from Sabratha after 19 days of fighting, they found malnourished migrants locked inside his operations center, which had been turned into a makeshift jail.

Surfing After the Revolution

The fighting that ousted Dabbashi killed migrants in crossfires, caused thousands more to flee the city, and resulted in the destruction of schools, hospitals, and municipal buildings. Dabbashi has threatened to return to Sabratha by force. For identifying information on the individuals designated today, click here.

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