After photos surfaced on Facebook of 12 gay Libyans captured and tortured by a radical militia group, The Times profiled gay men living in the North African nation who say attacks like these are all too common, making life for LGBT people worse than under the previous regime of Muammar Gaddafi.
The Times (via Pink News) reports that the Nawasi brigade, Tripoli’s largest Islamist militia group, are behind the series of abductions and beatings throughout the nation’s capital. The Nawasi officially work under the Ministry of Interior and regularly take people away just for being gay.
Ahmad, a gay man living in Libya, requested to meet with The Times at a café frequented by Europeans – “they are less likely to come and take us away” – to describe the events leading up to the abduction of the 12 men:
“We think they were on a routine patrol when they heard the music,” explained Ahmad of the militia. “They were sitting outside for nearly half an hour. Then they saw one of the guys wearing a wig and a dress so thought it was girls having a party with boys.
“When they came inside, everyone panicked and the man pulled off his dress and wig. They wanted to know where the girls were, so they beat them until one of them admitted he was gay and that’s when they were taken away.”
The infamous pictures of the men then appeared on the Nawasi brigade’s Facebook page, with text including “flog them hard”, “ride them like camels” and “let’s see the bullets fly.” The militia maintains, however, that the men’s lives were never in danger; they were released a week later with their heads shaven and bruises on their backs and legs.
Furthermore, the Nawasi claim that homosexuality was not “the main reason” in the men’s abductions:
“These guys are not straight, but that’s not the main reason we arrested them. The main thing was the big noise they were making to the neighbours, as well as the large amounts of alcohol and hashish we found.”
Ahmad believes the situation in Libya is worse now than it was under Gaddafi, saying, “Back then, the authorities were afraid that if they took us, we would say which officials were gay.”
After he had his teeth knocked out during an arrest last August, Ahmad is still harassed by one of his abductors:
“Now one of them calls me every two days asking to have sex with me. At other times, he says he will catch me for a second time, that I am not going to live.”
Ahmad said these types of abductions and beatings are commonplace and so he and his friends intend to move to Egypt at the end of the year then, eventually, Holland.
“There,” he said, “we can be finally be who we are.”