The story below is based on mainly fiction with a hint of history and some controversies surrounding the character in question. This post in no way represents the political opinions and beliefs of the authors. It is also not a complete representation of any of the real life characters involved. Some issues mentioned in this particular post may be triggering so please be advised.
Get up, Rania!!
I jolted up from the bed at the sound of that voice, checking the time.
It was 2:00AM.
I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep ever since I joined the Haris al-shebi training camp. Everyday we were woken up at odd hours in the night, instructed to bath, apply makeup, style our hair, dress up in camo or our other official uniform and rushed out for our inspection parade all in a span of 15 breathless minutes. Initially it all seemed like madness, but as the days and weeks passed by, I had adapted… almost to the point it felt normal now.
I wonder who is coming to see us this late at night.. I thought as I rushed through my usual routine. I hope it is someone interesting this time… like the Colonel… it had been a while. My heart began to race at the thought.
I hadn’t seen him up close ever since I was selected a few weeks ago. He had walked up to me in the recruitment line, smiled and whispered in my ear “you will do” in husky Arabic. The rush I felt then was indescribable. .. He had chosen me (well and a few others that day) but still with me, it felt different… it felt special.
Rania of Gharyan.
In Gharyan where I had spent most of my life helping my mother to farm olives and saffron in the mountains. Every other week, she would send me to Sirte to sell our goods at the local market. It was during one of these trips that I had stumbled upon the Haris Al-Shebi. These tall, beautiful yet strong women made me feel insignificant.
I wanted to be like them. I wanted to feel important, special and not just be a nobody from Gharyan. These strong women had one of the most important jobs in Libya: they were the Colonel’s perfect entourage and protection. It was then I made my decision. I wanted to be just like them. To have meaning, be noble, be an Amazon as they were popularly referred to by the West.
My mother strongly opposed my decision. She had never really liked the Colonel and thought him to be extreme, eccentric and brutal. She had never bought into his Green Book philosophy and usually criticized him (in secret) which was quite unusual for women in Gharyan. I had never paid her any mind though. She was just a simple farmer up in the mountains… who was she to criticise our Brotherly Guide and Revolutionary Leader. The noble, brave and outspoken man that I had grown to admire and respect.
And He had selected me… I smiled to myself at the thought.
Here I was now, one month after enduring the brutal training of the Haris al-Shebi...enduring the extreme martial arts, firearms drills and living under an oath of chastity. I was one of the new girls in a camp where trainees would either be selected as Amazons or female soldiers, however the camp was rife with rumours.
We were all from different parts of Libya and spoke different tongues but the few of us who understood and spoke Arabic were able to speak to each other. From the rumors and stories, it was clear there were two camps. Those who admired the Colonel and volunteered to be part of this group (like me) and those who claimed to be coerced by one situation or another… like anyone could coerce to enlist in such a noble cause.
For example, one woman, Fauzia claimed she had been forced to join the group to recover a debt owed by her father.
There were even extreme claims of some of the girls disappearing..of some dark things happening with the girls but no one ever shared those details.
Those that eventually made it back were usually different …very reserved, lost and always oblivious to what was happening in the camp.
To me, these were exactly what they were, stories. Stories being made up to discredit the Colonel and his work. Stories with no backing and triggered by people who did not support the Colonel.
The Haris al-shebi is and will always be the safest space for women in Libya, I thought proudly as I stepped out of the tents, dressed and headed to the parade grounds with the other girls. All the guards and female soldiers lined up for inspection, eager to find out who was visiting the camp so late in the night.
Just then, a phalanx of black cars began to pull up through the gates of the camp. Then a ceremonial car flanked with two Libyan flags pulled up with a convoy of black cars in tow. Then I saw the Commanding Officers of the Haris al-Shebi get out of the car following the ceremonial car.
Libyan flags, commanding officers, too many black cars…It could only be one person.
It was Him!
I almost jumped out of line, in excitement as the officers rushed to open one of the doors of the ceremonial car, and He stepped out.
The Colonel was here! He was really here!
Garbed in the most beautiful clothes as ever.
I stood ramrod straight and proud, admiring our amazing leader as he walked towards the parade flanked by the highest ranking officials in Libya including his sons. Here He was. Our Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution. Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council of Libya.
The Colonel , Muammar al-Gaddafi
He began the initial inspection and I was so sure he would recognize me. I stood proud, bold and made sure I was perfect for inspection to ensure this. From the corner of my eyes, I watched him as he walked through the lines, glossing over every single detail of each woman present that day.
He called out a few women who forgot simple things like mascara, nail polish or even forgot to tuck all their hair into a ponytail. I wasn’t worried though. I was perfect. I thought to myself smugly
Then his eyes rested on me. He stared at me, taking me in from top to bottom. I fought so hard not to meet his eyes. Not to try to figure out what he was thinking. Did I do something wrong? Did I forget something? My mind began to run nervously.
Then he smiled… well a half smile. And leaned towards me whispering something that was almost inaudible to anyone else but me… PERFECT!
At his words, I was bursting with glee and pride. Then the Colonel turned to one of the commanding officers and said something to her. She glanced at me and nodded in response to him.
The Colonel walked away and continued the rest of the inspection.
My entire being was beaming with pride and excitement. I was still processing what had just happened when I noticed the Colonel had completed the inspection and was at the podium ready to address the parade.
He smiled at everyone and spoke in fluent, husky Arabic:
My lovely future al-rahibat al-thawriyyat (revolutionary nuns). I, your leader and guide, greet you. I am proud to be here today to observe all the beauty and skills present. I am here today to select the new cadre of bodyguards for my upcoming visit to the UN Assembly in September.
This meeting is important to us.. To Libya, because it is my opportunity to remind the world of the truth.
That no matter how the global media portrays me, I am an international leader, the dean of the Arab rulers, the king of kings of Africa and the imam of Muslims, and my international status does not allow me to descend to a lower level.
In my earlier years of rule, I was a hardliner with regard to colonialism, which had occupied Africa and large parts of the world. We were waging an armed struggle, then and therefore, one had to be strong. But now, no one asks for weapons but for economic aid, which changes your position.
These are the kinds of conversations I hope to bring to the UN assembly.
I want them to get us. I need them to get us.
The world doesn’t understand the system here. The authority of the people.
For 40 years, I have not been the ruler – the authority has been with the people.
You are the authority and I am the mouthpiece and as your mouthpiece:
My presence is merely to instigate and incite the people, you all, for any change they want, and for not having a change that they don’t wish to do.
So now your mouthpiece needs you. I need you. I need you wonderful women to show the world who we are… why this calibre of what the call Amazons or Amazonian Guards is unique and an example to all. Why you are all perfect…
I want the world to see that there needs to be limits… there needs to be an end to all materialistic conditions hindering woman from performing her natural role in life and driving her to carry out man’s duties in order to be equal in rights.
They need to understand that women cannot do both. That only when women like you give up their natural role: of being a mother and take up oaths of virginity; then truly can they be very effective and powerful forces to reckon with. So I am urging all of you that will be chosen today, to seize this opportunity.
Be the representative that your nations needs. Represent your nation, our nation, our Libyan Arab Republic to the world. Let us put these international media claims to shame. Let us put the falsehood of brutality and mistreatment to shame.
Help me to represent you.
With that, He open his hands in an exaggerated wave and stepped down.
His words had struck me at the core. Yes he was noble! Yes! He was brave! Yes! He was honorable.
He had just been misunderstood by so many people, the West and even my mother.
As he walked towards his car, the commanding officers began to tap some women in the parade. All around me, left, right, people were being tapped and gestured to move towards a van which suddenly appeared at the rear of the entourage. I was so confused at the commotion and events unfolding that I didn’t notice I had been tapped. It wasn’t until I was pushed by the commanding officer in the direction of the van, did my mind register what was happening and my legs begin to move.
Where were we going? What is happening? I tried to ask all those heading to the van with me but no one answered. Everyone was as confused and afraid as I was. I glanced back to the parade and my eyes locked briefly with Fauzia, the older woman who claimed to have been coerced. She just stared blankly at me. Not smiling. Not happy. No expression, but her eyes… they were troubled. They looked sad and broken.
I didn’t know why but that look troubled me. I felt a cold shiver ran through my spine as I stared at her. Something in her eyes told me that she knew something. Something that her eyes seemed to tell me, I will found out very soon….
Watch out for part 2!!
What will happen with Rania??!
Comes out soon!