A little more than a year ago… the fighting in Libya was still raging.
Then came news of the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.
And his subsequent capture and death.
Reporter Marine Olivesi is a frequent contributor from Libya.
And she was the first western journalist to view Gaddafi’s corpse.
Olivesi came by our studios this week.
She told us about her surreal hunt to find the dictator’s remains on October 20, 2011.
Olivesi went back to Misrata a year later.
She said life there has pretty much returned to normal.
But you can see signs that people don’t want to forget what happened on the streets.
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Marco Werman: A little more than a year ago the fighting in Libya was still raging. Then came news of the fall of Muammar Gaddafi and his subsequent capture and death. Reporter Marine Olivesi is a frequent contributor from Libya and she was the first western journalist to view Gaddafiâ€™s corpse. I spoke with Marine yesterday in Boston and she told me about her surreal hunt to find the dictator’s remains. It was October 20th, 2011; she was in Sirte where Gaddafi was said to have been hiding. Then, she said a crazy rumor started going around that Gaddafi had been captured and that he was dead but there was no information on where his body might be. So Marine headed to Misrata to check the morgue.
Marine Olivesi: In Misrata, everybody was celebrating and was sure that Gaddafi was dead, but nobody knew where he was. On various news channels Al Jazeera was saying he was at a souk, Al Arabiya was saying he was at a mosque but no one had pictures. So, me and another photographer, we kept going to these places and we didn’t find Gaddafi’s body. We didn’t find any indication he was dead or alive. At one point we received a tip from a business man we met a few days before who tell us that he can help. He’s a little mysterious; we’re not really sure where we’re going with that. But he arranged to pick us up and we exit Misrata. We really have no idea where we are going and we arrive at that mansion – a really nice residence outside of Misrata with hundreds of people gathering outside. We pulled in that sort of garage and when we arrived there we cannot even see anything. When we pulled up really close, we see lying down the bodies of both Muammar Gaddafi and his son Moatassem Gaddafi just there.
Werman: Marine said at that point it wasnâ€™t clear that even the authorities knew Gaddafi and his son were in that house in Misrata. Marine Olivesi went back to that city a year later and she said life in Misrata has pretty much returned to normal but you can see signs that people don’t want to forget what happened there.
Olivesi: So, you have businesses that have moved back in the stores and rebuilt completely the first floor of the stores. But then you have buildings in the second, third floors that are still completely shuttered and some people want it to stay that way as a reminder…daily reminder of the suffering and what they’ve been through. Misrata is really the town that probably paid the highest price and the number of people who died during the siege of Misrata is, of all the towns of Libya, the highest. They just make the case that they want people to have a daily reminder of how much it took for them to topple Gaddafi.
Werman: So visually, what does it look like? Storefronts on the ground near the street kind of very flashy and spruced up and the building above it just kind of still pockmarked and shattered?
Olivesi: Exactly. The first building that I saw when I arrived on Tripoli Street a couple of months ago was that very nice bridal store with those really fancy, nice, white wedding dresses. And then, you look up and you see a second floor that’s still completely destroyed – blackened by smoke and craters. So, you have that contrast.
Werman: Marine, many of these countries in North Africa, and Libya is no exception, have this really bulging population between the ages of 18 and 30. What’s it been like for these people, the youth effectively, going through a transition from Gaddafi (the only leader they ever knew in their whole lives) to now, essentially, a blank slate?
Olivesi: Well really, these people that you described, guys in their early 20s, these are the ones who fought. A lot of them spent months with their Kalashnikovs, enrolling in these militias – these catibas, and fighting the regime. These young people…what really strikes me every time I go back there is that I find them quite depressed and this is not a feeling that’s going away. I felt that a few days after Muammar Gaddafi was killed when you had that realization that it was over and that “what are we gonna do with our lives?” Because, the choice quite quickly was between going back to school or finding a job, but none of that seem too appealing after months of really being pumped on adrenaline and being on a high on action. A year later, I see the same people who basically are either trying to get a visa to go to Europe, to spend some time in Turkey, to just get out of the daily life but they are still very depressed and not sure how to find that sense of excitement and comradery that they had before. So it is a population that is not struggling economically the way the Tunisians are, for instance, because jobs are there; they’re making money. So, it’s not really about being jobless, it’s more about how do you go from these 8 months of action and empowerment to going back to regular, dull life.
Werman: Well Marine Olivesi, thank you for coming in and thanks for covering this part of the world.
Olivesi: It’s a pleasure. Thank you.
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