Tripoli, 14 April:
Margaret Henderson, originally from Canada, is married to a Libyan and has four children and three grandchildren. She has . . .[restrict]lived in Tripoli for 36 years, since September 1975. In all that time, she says, she has never been afraid for her personal safety. But that might change now after what happened to her last Sunday. The story of what happened to her that day needs to be told. She told it to Libya Herald in an email. We do not apologise for reproducing it in its entirety.
I just thought I would tell you that all my years of feeling safe in this country have come to an abrupt end.
Last Sunday I had the day off work, so drove into town for a haircut, my tickets to Tunis in the evening and a bit of shopping. I drove the usual way home down Suani Road and stopped the car in front of our farm gate. It is the last at the end of a dead-end dirt road with 8-10 houses, mostly extended families.
I have (or had) a Hyundai Santa Fe with keyless ignition, so left the motor running and the key in my pocket.
As I removed the chain from our gate, I heard a car door open. This was strange as I was alone. I turned to find a man getting into my car and I shouted “No, no, no,” and walked to the side of the car. I really wanted to get my purse from the back seat but realized I drive with the central lock closed, so no way to open.
I approached the open front driver’s door and said to the guy “Shame on you, this is a sin,” upon which he turned and saw me and punched me in the face. This knocked me out cold.
I woke up when he backed the car over my foot. I managed to get to my feet in time to see my car following a dark, old hatchback driving slowly up the sloped road and turning right. I started to shout for help and limped to the neighbor’s gate and banged with the piece of chain still in my hand. Finally, a neighbor came out and helped me to his family inside. He lent me his phone to call relatives and tell them what had happened.
My teenage daughter was at home alone in our house.
I had finally bought a new phone. It, my purse with significant cash for my medical treatment in Tunis and my car were all gone.
When my nephews walked around the area, they found a bayonet in the sand and tire tracks where the other car had hid behind the neighbour’s wall, out of my sight. This all happened at 1pm on a school day and there was no one around.
I think the story gets even scarier from there.
When my husband went to the Suani police station, only one officer was there, all alone. The other 20 don’t bother to show up for work. He had no equipment to alert anyone about our report, and if we had come shortly later, he would have already gone home and locked up the empty station.
We later learned that three other similar model vehicles were stolen the same day in this area alone. My daughter read online of others in this exact area being robbed at gunpoint.
What is happening? Another with two kids in it, found alive at the side of the road.
And not only in this area. There was another case in broad daylight on a crowded Tripoli street, at gunpoint, and no one could do anything.
Where is the security? Where are the police? If not them, then who?
When are all the criminals let loose going to be rounded up? License plates are on the cars so surely they can be traced? These are organized gangs, working with impunity.
I am horrified. Do we have to lock ourselves into our fortress and raise the drawbridge? If only we had one!
I have stitches inside my upper lip and across my chin. My foot was not broken because of the sand underneath but there are torn ligaments. Two of my ribs were bruised when I fell to the ground and are causing me significant pain. But it could have been much, much worse so I am grateful to God.
But what do we do now? Stay home? Arm ourselves? Travel in convoys? Dear God, help us.
I would appreciate it being brought to the publics’ attention.
Margaret reports in a second email this afternoon that she returned to doctor today, Saturday, to remove stitches and plaster but is still complaining of nasty pain, especially when she sneezes, in her chest. A new x-ray showed she has two broken ribs.