“One of my sisters, who’s abroad at the moment, she’s planning to come back within the next two days, so that if we’re going to die, we’re going to die altogether.” Those were the words of Hutaf Shanna, speaking to The World‘s Lisa Mullins one year ago.
Hutaf was speaking from the Libyan capital, Tripoli, as Colonel Gaddafi clamped down violently on demonstrations in the city, and the country began its descent into civil war.
Hutaf used a false name, Arwa, to protect her identity. For the same reason, she didn’t tell us she worked for the British embassy, or the fact that she was eight months pregnant. Now Hutaf brings us up to date.
“It was a big concern for me and my family, and my husband specifically,” she says, “how he would get me to the hospital.” Gas was scarce, but her family managed to get a couple of gallons at 100 times the normal cost.
Then there was a war on. “When my husband took me to the hospital in the morning, we saw tanks, around the airport road.”
“It was very stressful for us,” Hutaf says, “thinking, if we get to the hospital, will be able to get out?”
In the end, she delivered her baby, Maria, safely on April 19th.
Her family was lucky. They all survived the war. Tens of thousands of Libyans did not.
Hutaf is now back at work, and full of confidence for the future and for her daughter, growing up in the new Libya.
“I am very excited to see how Libya would look like in the next five years.”
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Lisa Mullins: One year ago it was Libya that was in the midst of a violent revolution. It began on February 17, 2011. Within a week and Libyan rebels had seized the east of the country but protests in the west were met by violence by the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. Throughout this uprising we spoke to several Libyans. They risked their lives to say what was going on at the time. One of them was a woman in Tripoli whom we called Arwa.
Arwa: I could leave but I choose not to and in fact one of my sisters who is abroad at the moment, she’s planning to come back within the next two days. So if we’re going to die we’re going to die all together. Leaving the country is not an option for us.
Mullins: Today, one year later we caught up with Arwa again. Her real name is Hutaf Shanna. She is still in Tripoli. Hutaf, welcome back to the program. First tell us how you are and how your family’s doing right.
Hutaf Shanna: Thank you very much, Lisa. I’m doing fine. In fact, when you interviewed me last time I was in my 8 months of pregnancy, my first pregnancy and I had delivered my baby in April 19 during the war. We’ve been through a hard time but now now we are happily free, enjoying our freedom, and living in dignity and looking forward to having a better future for us and for our children as well.
Mullins: Well when we spoke you didn’t mention of course that you were pregnant. I think you were very concerned about your own safety. Let me just ask you, do you remember the time you were not even able to leave your home because of what was going on outside? Were you able to get to a hospital for your delivery?
Shanna: It was a big concern for me and my family, my husband specifically on how he would get me to the hospital if we don’t have fuel with both gas for the cars I think maybe I think it was 100 times of the original price. It was very, very stressful time for us, especially that I knew that I would have a c-section operation and it wasn’t elective for me. So it was very, very stressful but I’m glad that we passed it.
Mullins: So you had a c-section. I mean this is in the midst of a war.
Mullins: Things went OK I take it?
Shanna: Yeah, everything went okay but til that time we didn’t know what’s going to happen especially with the electricity cut off. We didn’t know if the road was safe or not. I remember when my husband took me to the hospital in the morning and we saw tanks around the airport road. It was very stressful for us thinking that if we get to the hospital will we be able to get out of it and if they leave me at the hospital will they be able to come to visit me on the next day. One of the moments that I cannot forget that all my family troubled themself to come and visit me on my first day of delivery at the hospital because they couldn’t guarantee they can see me after that or not. So I find all my cousins and relatives and from my husband’s side as well and some friends as well all in the hospital. After the operation is finished I find them all in the room waiting for me and congratulating me and it was very happy moment for all of us. Maybe short moments but at least it made us want to keep going on and on.
Mullins: One of the things that came out very clearly in our conversation was your determination which was surprising given everything that was going on and even more surprising now to know that you were eight months pregnant at the time. Let’s listen again to a little bit of that interview we did with you one year ago.
Arwa: We’re ready to stay here until Gaddafi leave.
Mullins: What makes you think that he’s going to be leaving?
Arwa: We’re going to make him leave.
Mullins: You say it with certainty. How?
Arwa: People are ready to do anything and everything to get rid of him. Our souls and blood are very cheap now to pay that price.
Mullins: Hutaf, I wonder a year later really where that determination came from because you know better than people on the outside how much blood was shed to get Gaddafi out.
Shanna: In fact, we had no other choice than making Gaddafi leave because Gaddafi if he stays he would kill at least one million of us and it’s my husband’s grandma who say that if Gaddafi stays in power he will kill even the senior citizens like us. So everyone knows that if Gaddafi is staying in power he will punish and he will take a revenge of everyone. I think that he didn’t give us much of choice. Either we get our freedoms or we die.
Mullins: Hutaf, did you have a baby girl or boy?
Shanna: It’s a baby girl named Maria and she’s 10 months old now.
Mullins: She’s 10 months old now. She’s going to have quite a different life if she stays in Libya, if you stay in Libya then you had under Colonel Gaddafi because you lived your entire life under his rule. How does it feel now that he’s gone and to know your daughters going to grow up in quite a different Libya? We should say a free Libya right now but one facing still enormous challenges.
Shanna: We believe we’re going to take a lot of time. It’s not a one night solution for the 42 years problems that Gaddafi create. It will take a lot of effort, money, time to achieve our dreams and our Libya but I believe we’re going to get there eventually and I’m very excited to see what Libya will look like in the next five years.
Mullins: Going back to the very first piece of audio we heard from you there you had mentioned that your sister wanted to come home to Tripoli. She was going to be traveling specifically so your family could be together. As you said if we’re going to die we’re going to die together. Did you sister make it back to Tripoli?
Shanna: In fact, she couldn’t because they stopped the flights. She was in London at that moment and by the road it was very difficult for her so she stayed for quite a long time. But it brings a strange feeling for me that my sister wasn’t there and she was suffering alone. In fact, it was more difficult for her because the whole family was in Libya and she was abroad.
Mullins: Well right now it sounds like everybody in your family made it through safely. Is that the case?
Shanna: Yes, yes, and we’re happy that we’re all safe and we’re enjoying the free Libya. In fact, we enjoyed the celebration of the first anniversary of 17 February. You could tell that everyone was happy and we really enjoyed it with the fireworks and with the helium balloons and I took my daughter even.
It was cold a bit but just to take photos of her so she can be proud that she attended the first anniversary of 17 of February.
Mullins: Thank you for telling us your story. We look forward to talking to you again at some point and maybe finding out how your life is going there in Tripoli. Hutaf Shanna, who we spoke to in February of last year as Arwa. That’s the name that she used then during the uprising in Libya. Very nice to talk to you. We’re glad your family is well.
Shanna: Thank you very much, Lisa.
Mullins: Hutaf Shanna is now back to work at her old job at the British embassy in Tripoli. You can see Hutaf and hear our interview with her last year at theworld.org.
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