Tripoli Under Siege: A Mother’s Account Part 1

February 19, 2012


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LYM Exclusive- This account was collected by LYM’s Enas Eruk on her more recent visit to Tripoli in January 2012 where, Sandra James, Enas’s friend related her story during the start of the revolution in Tripoli.  Sandra James, most commonly known as Ameenah in Libya,  is a British woman who was marred to Jamal Mustafa Tunally for 31 years.  She has been living in Tripoli for the past 23 years where she raised six children; four sons and two daughters, who are now between the ages of thirty one and sixteen years old.  She also has four grandchildren.  Sandra used to help her husband with his work doing some office work from home.  The following is the first part of Sandra’s story which she has been kind enough to share with us.  


Part 1.

To be honest, I don’t know where to begin.  We have been living on the edge, all of my married life. Even in England we couldn’t talk openly as there were always Gaddafi” Antenna’s” reporting back to Libya on any Libyans who didn’t support  Gaddafi’s “revolution”. Stray dogs they called them.

Anyway at the beginning of February 2011, all the talk was about the uprisings which were going on in Tunisia and Egypt.  Everyone wondered whether it would ever happen here in Libya. The truth is, no one really thought the people here would bother to do any thing, as Gaddafi had such a tight grip on security and crushed any one who went against him. If any one grew a beard, prayed Fajr (dawn prayer) in the mosque, showed that they practiced their religion, they were always at risk, that one day, Gaddaffir men would pick them up and take them away in the middle of the night, and no one could do any thing about it. If you wanted to find out what had happened to them, you were more likely to face the same fate. If you were lucky and knew some one in security that could help you, you might be able to get some news on your loved one. Some have been locked up for years and years with no trial or charges brought against them with no hope of getting out of prison.

As it happened people were joking about putting on their trainers and going out to protest with their husbands and sons, not really believing that any thing would happen. Little did they realize the blood bath that was about to come.

The date was given for 17th February 2011 for people to go on the streets and protest peacefully for change. But as things have it our brothers in Benghazi started two days before protesting about a lawyer who was representing the people of the Abu Salim Massacre being detained.

As we watched our brothers being shot at and killed, we couldn’t believe that the people in power would actually do some thing this, with the rest of the world watching, especially when as they say “Gaddafi had broughtLibyain from the cold” and he wanted better relations with the West.

At that time, before the protest there (14th Feb2011) Gaddafi visited the East of the country to try and say that the people there supported him and they were broadcasting this on state TV. Of course this was all propaganda  to fool the Libyan people that every one loved him, and he had every ones support. Looking back on it I think he actually believed the people DID love him!

We just waited to see what was going to happen next, hoping that he would stand down like the leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, but not really believing  it, as personally, I knew deep inside that he and his sons would fight until the bitter end, and that is in fact what actually happened.

We watched as our brothers and sisters were attacked and killed while burying their dead.  Mercenaries going into their homes, killing and raping their women and children, we could see videos of all of this on the internet , it was really  worrying and frightening.

There was no turning back, Gaddaffi had gone too far, sending in mercenaries to kill his own people as he knew most of the Libyan security men couldn’t kill their own family members.

Thanks to the internet we were getting to know all this as the world news wasn’t really interested in Libya  yet. I would go on my Facebook and send out the news of what was happening here in Tripoli, this is where Nour Taha helped me get in contact with someone who could get the news out to the rest of the world , God bless for this.

I did my best to spread the word of what was happening in Libya, through my contact Iyad El Baghdadi. He was willing to get the truth out about what was really happening, and kept every one up to date as events unfolded. I can’t thank him enough for his help to me and the Libyan people.

I had to be very careful as the security here were monitoring the internet and social networking sites, so I use to go on line through “hotspot” so no one could trace my IP address. And I was very careful to hide any tracks I might have made by deleting everything I didn’t need and by opening a new anonymous e-mail address. I closed my Facebook account as someone here in Tripoli, a woman, was picked up for writing anti government stuff on Facebook.

17th Feb 2011 – Here in Tripoli not much happened, my husband Jamal Tunally went out with my eldest son Mustafa, who didn’t believe anything would happen. They met Umsadek Tunally, Jamal’s cousin in the Green Square.

On Friday the 18th, the men went to the prayer and people were talking about what was happening in Benghazi and said things had to change. The Imams of Mosques were given sermons to read to tell the people it was against their religion to go out and protest ( well they would say that , wouldn’t they). The problem  is the Imams were in a very difficult position, if they went against the government , they would be picked up and carted off to prison or “taught a lesson” and sent back home.

My daughters and I were waiting at home for any news of what was going on; whether people were going to up rise or not.

We heard that there was a riot in Igdaidah prison, we tried to get any information about this by ringing any one we knew who lived in the area. The men went over to see what was going on , but were stopped and turned back saying it was not safe.

Notes from my diary

“Friday 18-2-11 Tripoli                                                                                           

  Prisoners let out of Igdaidah prison in staged riot, prisoners given money and freedom to support Gadaffi and attack any demonstrators. Talk is of 7,000 criminals.

City not safe. 

Saturday 19-2-11 Benghazi

Benghazi, 55 killed by mortar attack, but people fought back and have taken the barracks, Africans seen dead.

Saturday Evening 19-2-11 Tripoli

Tajoura is out and they are firing live ammo and tear gas used.

Fishloom are out as well,, security shooting live ammo at civilians, 4 reported dead. .

Zuwadhamani, people could hear .gun shoots.

11 Hadash ulioo  on fire protestors in the streets 12.00am

Update Sunday 20-2-11 2.21pm

Misrata 14 killed

Tajoura 2killed 2 in intensive care

Sidi Khalifa

Movement in centre of Tripoli.”


It was so stressful! No one could eat or sleep, too much was happening!

During this time I used to go out with my husband and son to take photos of what had happened. The “People’s hall” in Gergarish war burnt up, sign posts everywhere of Gaddaffi’s pictures were either torn down or burnt. Of course there was a massive clean-up campaign to try and hide the extent of what went on to their own people as well as to the outside world. We had to be careful when photographing, that no one saw what we were up to, or they would certainly take us away. My husband was a bit worried about me doing this, as they might consider me a spy working for the British!


Tajoura also was like a battle ground right from the very beginning. As we made our way through the center of town we could see many buildings had been attacked and burnt, anything to do with Gaddafi, torn down. Bricks and stones were everywhere and make shift barricades of old cars , fridges, trucks of palm trees, anything they could use  across the roads.

They had many shuhadah, but they never gave in and it was hard for the security to control the inside of the town, they could only patrol the main streets and high ways.

The inside of Tajoura was in the hands of its people!

20th February 2011 was a day I will never forget.

My husband went to the Supreme Court where people gathered to see their family members that were held. Here, they were turned away, but at the same time they were surrounded by revolutionary guards who looked like they would shoot at any kind of movement. One guy told them that they didn’t want any trouble and it was better for the people to go home. The crowd decided to play safe it  and leave for now.

Later in the afternoon, I went out with my husband to the same area.  Things were very tense, with young boys standing around in groups, just waiting for something to happen.

Armed police were everywhere.

As the situation in Tripoli looked like it was going to get a lot worse, especially as my husband saw a black mercenary in Ben Ashour area looking like he was ready to shot at the least provocation. We decided to visit his mother who lives in Ben Ashour. she had just had an operation to her leg in Tunisia and was confined to her bed, we decided to bring her and his sister home with us for their own safety until things settled down. That was a very trying time for all of us, trying to look after everyone, keeping everyone fed and happy and trying not to worry about the men outside!

Tripoli was very tense!

In the evening people started to gather and shout slogans about getting rid of the regime, Mustafa came home and told Jamal and Yusef what was going on and they decided to join them.

They made their way down Mezran Street towards the Green Square.  On their way the  protesters were tearing down posters of Gaddafi and any green flags they saw.

As they got closer to the Green Square they met with resistance from Gaddafi’s security who started shooting at the protesters, many young lives were lost that night. The brave youth fought on only with metal bars, pieces of wood, knives anything they could use to protect themselves.

They made their way to theGreen Square where they fought bravely. On the way there, Jamal rang me up, and I could hear the sound of gun fire very loud, the sound of bullets whizzing past their heads. I was calling my sister-in-law , who lives next door to me, from my daughter ‘s bedroom window, telling her  what was going on , we couldn’t believe it.

Its amazing looking back on it, how they actually survived that night.

Young men died in front of him as he was speaking to me. Unbelievable! One boy was shot , taking the top of his head off with an anti aircraft gun.  At least 10 young men lost their lives in front of my husband that night. Others shot through  the chest , making huge holes in them , blood everywhere. The memory of him on the phone to me explaining what was going on in front of him will stay with me for the rest of my life!

Of course me and my daughter in law Mai, who was 7 months pregnant at the time, and youngest daughter Nusaybah, were on tender hooks during the whole time, just waiting for any news, hoping to God that they were alright.

After a little while Jamal rang again ecstatic, shouting Allahu Akbar, that they had liberated the Green Square, anything that represented Gaddaffi was torn down or burnt, loads of people came out to see what had happened, they thought they had won the battle as my husband rang me up and said they were free, and wanted to pray Fajr in the Green Square.  Little did he realize that Gaddafis security were organizing themselves and came back with 14.5 mm anti aircraft guns and were shooting to kill.  At first, people thought they were just trying to scare them, until men were falling down in front of them, many shot right through the head, others in the chest. Many more died that night!

They had to leave as it would be suicide to try and fight heavily armed men with no weapons whatsoever.

Yusef, my second eldest son, took one of his friends to the central hospital who had joined the protesters that night in the Green Square, he was shot in the leg and had about two or three inches of flesh  shot away from it. He rang me in a very bad state in tears saying that so many young men had been killed, that no one was left. He couldn’t believe what he was witnessing.

Of course any one that was in the hospital had to get out quick as security went round to pick up any one who was there and we never heard news of them again. Plus anyone who treated them could not speak about anything as they done a cover up job and took TV state cameramen over there to try and show the people it was all rumors and nothing was wrong, but of course we knew differently and in Libya you can’t hide anything!

During the night I was keeping in contact with close friends and family making sure they were alright, waiting for the men to return.  Fatimah said she could hear a lot of gun fire. She lives in central Tripoli, so throughout the war, she was always able to hear the bombs and  gun battles going on.  She  went on the roof to try and see what was going on .  I shouted at her and  made sure she didn’t do that again as she could have got hit by stray bullets.  People were finding bullets on their balconies and even inside their homes, that was how bad it was.

One friend told me her husband was going to go to the Green Square but I had to warn her that the security was there and not safe, and that our men were coming home. That was about 3 am the next morning.

Oh, what a relief to see my family home again and for now, safe!

Can’t sleep ……………………………………………

Notes from my diary:

I heard so much gun fire in central Tripoli, it’s incredible that this news is not getting out, or you are not reporting it because we aren’t professional journalist!!!!

Internet back on this morning, checked after Fajr prayer and I’m sending information out,

Saif Gaddafi has promised the people a blood bath if they don’t go home, and we know they are brutal , how many more people have to die before help is sent to them , or did Gadaffi and sons do a good job in Libya of keeping the population in order so the West can get the oil and anything else they want from this country?????while the people live in fear of each other , their neighbors, of asking for basic human rights to live, to have a decent education system, a decent health service, without every one having to go aboard to get basic treatment, to have a governing system where everyone has the right to express themselves without fear of being picked up, and disappearing or tortured.

This has been happening for years, and years, while the world turns a blind eye.

God help the people of Libya as it is clear now that no one else cares!


“Well at the time we really did feel no one wanted to know what was happening to us or wanted to help, as we know, mashallah, we had great support and help”.


More notes from my diary

Monday morning21-2-11

Anti aircraft guns14.5cm bullets was used on the people in Green Square last night, eye witness one boy was shot in the head with one. Confirmed. At least 12 shuhadah.

At least 5 trucks seen with machine guns in central Tripoli patrolling the streets.


Meanwhile Zawiya was in the hands of the people. Jamal, Mustafa and Mussab went to protests over there, and rumours was that the people there in Zawiya  heading for Tripoli to free it as well (which wasn’t true, as they had to defend their own town). They managed to get arms, as their own security joined the freedom fighters, but the problem they had in Zawiya was ammunition, there wasn’t enough of it.

The men use to go to Zawiya through 5 check points to take things to the people there to help them. Mustafa used to drive with Jamal in the passenger seat, the security didn’t seem to suspect them and some of the guards use to study with Mustafa in the university so let him go through. How stupid they were, little did they know what they were really up to!

But there came a time when it was impossible to help our brothers and sisters in Zawiya any longer, as Gaddafi sent over tanks and helicopters to bomb them and retake the town at a very large cost to human life. That was so hard to see what was happening to them and not being able to help!


My e-mails sent to the outside world:

To 23-2-11-Zawiyah has been under attack by Gadaffis tanks and armed mercenaries, the people are defending the town with their lives, large number of martyrs.
Last night lots of gun fired all around the city, there is going to be a massacre He is going to do what he promised unless we get help, please get the news out please.

24-2-11-They said Gadaffi would speak live from Zawiya but he is on the phone speaking to the people , sounds like he is drugged: Zawiya is in the hands of the people with a lot killed,
please let the people know what is going on so much death, innocent people.

25-2-11-plz massacre in Al Hani area, they are shooting the protesters they are unarmed many dead
plz plz get the news out!


To Aljazeera:

 Friday 25-2-11-Please can you give me a number to ring that does not have an answering machine
they are massacring the protesters in Al Hani district in Tripoli
please my family are there and it is terrible
please contact me I have a net phone and am trying to get the news out but can not contact you please help us
s.james British citizen living in Tripoli


Another e-mail update for 28-2-11

 BBC called us and wanted my skype name , but I did not want to give it to her on the phone, asking lots of questions, her name is Pascel and based in London asking for eyewitness account of what is going on in Libya. I closed the phone after her call so they can not trace us inshallah.

Our contact goes to Zawiya and Tajoura everyday. They been to Zawiya today and there is a build up of arms and soldiers around that area especially from Zarah area. There is a large army equip with different types of tanks and anti aircraft machine guns, and jeeps with automatic machine guns. Also Grad rocket launchers.

From Swanni to Azzarah they must have about 20 check points with soldiers from Khamis brigade ready to shoot.

The people are in control and prepared for any attack.

In Tripoli things are quiet today but shops, schools , other business are mostly closed, the situation is very tense especially in Tajoura where there was a small demonstration, with shots fired in the air to break up demonstrators.

We have an exact figure of the people killed on Friday which is 64 people and a number of people are missing , no one has any information about them.

The government have been picking up a lot of people who have appeared in the videos on You tube, twitter, news media of the demonstrations.

 Yes there is aircraft movement at Matiga airport , but we do not know where they are going.

 During the night Tajoura is in the peoples hands the security cant stay there, and in the day time there a few check points,

There are still some battles for Sabrata, a lot have died , but no news on Zlitan.

Thats all for now , inshallah we will be free soon Ya rabb


At that time Friday 25-2-11 it seemed like no one was listening. Thank God Iyad Baghdadi was getting the news out for us! May Allah bless him for his help! We all owe him a lot.

Jamal, Yusef and Mustafa went to pray Friday prayer in Tajoura, while my two younger sons went to pray in a mosque near our home. I didn’t want them going with the others as I knew there would probably be trouble and I wanted them next to me. There was no such thing as a normal life at this time as things were too unsettled, no one had been sending their children to school and no one was going to work.

After prayers all the men of the area joined in one large protest in the mosque decided to  march towards Tripoli from Tajoura.

Jamal rang me to give me up dates of where the march was. They passed the roundabout in Tajoura as they marched; the number of protesters increased. It was getting larger and larger, thousands of protesters marching in Tripoli. The goal was to get to the Green Square. They passed through Arrad and Souk Al Juma encouraging everyone not to be afraid and to come out and join them. We were getting so excited as we thought, with so many protesters there would be no way to anyone would dare stop them……………….

When they got to Al Hani district they came up against heavily armed men who shot knock down tear gas into the crowd and began shooting anyone in front of them. My husband Jamal rang me to tell me to get the word out that there was a massacre going on in Al Hani. It was awful listening to him, and hearing the shooting in the back ground.  They were killing everyone and picking up the bodies of the wounded, blood everywhere, they were also washing the evidence of what they were doing as well at the same time. The protesters ran in all directions to get away from the gun fire, some people let them into their homes, other were just too afraid to open their doors.

Mustafa  has been affected by the tear gas and couldn’t move, he just sat down where he fell, Jamal had to get to him and bring him to safety. If he had left him there we wouldn’t have seen him again. They ran into a lane where a man opened his door for them to hide inside his house. They didn’t want to stay as they were afraid for the man’s safety, but he insisted and said he would die before he let them go out again, so brave. They only left when it was safe to do so.

One man who was known to our family was shot dead in front of Jamal in Al Hani, the man hadn’t been married for very long, his wife was 7 months pregnant at the time with their first child! They were able to take him away with them and bury him at home in Tajoura, many couldn’t do this to their dead.

We went to the funeral in Tajoura, I was not going to hide away, they were not goong to intimidate me!

For us women sitting at home waiting for our loved ones to come home was the most stressful time of our life, of course it was far too dangerous for us to go out and protest, one minute the news is great with victories for the FF and the next that Gaddafi has killed so many young men and picked up so many ……………


Our home life was far from normal, not knowing what was going to happen next, Gaddffi came out in his infamous speech telling his supporters to do whatever they wanted, dance and party etc.  It was horrible listening to him, they were given alcohol and drugs to enjoy themselves. We also knew he meant it when he threatened to kill us and our families if we went against him, and that’s exactly what he did do! We were told to send the children back to school, and go back to work, or face the consequences.

The effect that speech had on us was horrible, we knew he would not stand down or stop the slaughter, but we had to go on, too much blood had been spilt for us to stop now. There certainly, for my family, no turning back whatever the cost.

Getting the everyday chores done were exactly that, chores.  We were all glued to the T.V witnessing defections by Gaddaffi’s diplomats abroad, one by one denouncing his actions for killing his own people, and the rest of the world standing by our uprising encouraging us to continue.  We were so happy to see this.  It gave us great hope and courage  that we could win this fight against this tyrant and his family.


Alhamdulilah we were still all alright at that time. We were living in, what I described as an open prison. There were armed men at the entrance to our area.

There were check points all around Tripoli and surrounding areas.  We used to go out and report on the location of these check points and also found many , many tanks and anti-aircraft guns on the back roads into Tripoli and on the Airport road.  They searched us at every check point, it was very nerve racking, I used to go with the men for their protection as they didn’t suspect families as much as single men in cars. Our reports were important and while we still had access to the internet we got the information out.

Jamal had hold of  important information, from 2 reliable sources. One of them is an air force captain working in Matiga airport that informed him that until last night two Algerian air planes have landed with mercenaries.  I think they were going to Africa to pick them up, and bring them to Libya from there. They were using the Algerian plane to transport those mercenaries and not Libyan planes to keep this information secret from the people so this was the evidence that the Algerians were actually involved.

We had taken a drive out of the city, from the boarder of Tajoura to the east and turning towards Wadi Rabiaya, and Manmade river camp. We found the roads were very heavily guarded with many, many tanks, anti-aircraft machine guns, machine guns on 4 wheel drive vehicles, and some temporary camps.  Many soldiers were wearing bullet proof jackets and helmets from the Khamis brigade, checking cars one by one through checkpoints. All this we reported back to our contact.

They were also picking up any young men they suspected, they didn’t need any reason. Most shops were still closed.  No one was sending their children to school. Suhaib, my younger son had a fight with his army teacher and asked him “What has Gaddafi ever done for us in this country?”.So I was glad to keep him from returning back to school at that time, as I was afraid they might take him away. We had to tell our children to shut up for the safety of all of us, it was very hard. No one could talk, everyone was afraid of the next person not knowing whether they supported Gaddaffi or not.  We could not trust anyone at work, in schools and some people couldn’t even let family members know where your loyalties lay. Many families were divided.

My sons school seemed like they were all “green” they hated going as they wanted to fight back at what the other kids were doing and all the time they had to hid their true feeling.

My daughter stopped going to university as it was in Salahadeen area in Tripoli and it was just considered too dangerous traveling so far every day. Plus we heard rumors of girls being picked up by Gaddafis Kitaab and being raped. I was not going to put my Princess in a situation like that.

We had to keep the shop open, as one of our neighboring shop owners said he would report us if we didn’t. We thought it wiser to open for a few hours every day rather then put any suspicion on us. The boys had to return to school as exams were going ahead as usual .The government wanted everything to go back to normal like nothing ever went on!  And at the same time the men were going out and helping with the fight for freedom. Of course there were no arms at that time.  Now it was obvious there was no use in peaceful protests as if you did you would just be shot.

Only in Zawiya were they able to get arms as they were defending their town for the short time it was in their hands.  I had a lady I knew in Zawiya , I would try and ring her to see if she and her family were alright but there was no mobile phone  coverage in that area, they blocked it! We could see the army helicopters over head going to bomb them; at this time we couldn’t do much for the people there.  It was heart breaking hearing what they were going though, so much loss of life.

When Gaddaffi’s kitaab took back Zawiya , they dug up the martyrs in the town square, poured acid on them and chucked them in a mass grave. This was a clean-up job for the outside world to come over and see that everything was lies on the media.

But in reality it was only too clear what had happened. Journalists said they could smell the fresh paint!

We were intimidated by Gaddaffi supporters going around in groups and shouting their support for their “leader”. The stress level was incredibly high! They would block the highways and film the back up of traffic, to try and show how much support there was for Gaddaffi.  They knew how to use the media , spreading their lies, and there were still many ignorant people who wanted to believe them even though they knew him to be a tyrant!

During this time people started to panic buying basic items from the shops, for most of the time though, here in Tripoli, supplies weren’t really big problem, only near the end there were real shortages. Of course petrol was a big problem and before Jamal and Yusef left we tried to stock up on it as much as possible, as we live a bit outside Tripoli and needed a car to get around.

Every Friday my husband and sons would go to the prayer and we never knew if they would return home or not, they use to go to join in any demonstrations that were going on.

I kept the younger ones, at that time, near home. Security, surrounded mosques every Friday and picked up many young men and boys routinely, a lot of them were never seen again.

Of course my mother and friends would ring from the UK , but I couldn’t say anything to them as the phones were being monitored. So it was hard for them, as they really didn’t know if we were ok or not. All the news they got was from the TV or internet, it was an extremely worrying time for them all. At least they knew we were alive though.

Also Saif “shaiton” came out warning us not to protest as “Libya is not Masr or Tunis”. How right he was, Libya is not Tunis or Masr , as our men rose and fought like Lions and sacrificed everything in order to bring us freedom, Allahuakbar, who would have ever believed that these young boys would be able to get rid of this tyrant and free this beautiful country?

My husband and sons were getting very frustrated not being able to do anything more, Tripoli was a virtual prison, you couldn’t talk, or do anything that would make any one suspect you were with the FF. While the internet was still on, we dis our best to get as much information of the situation on the ground out as possible. Jamal even rang up Al Jazeera English. This was very dangerous though, as they were monitoring the phones.

Now it was pointless going out to protest, as that was just suicide. So we had to think of other ways in which to fight back.

Fridays were always the most stressful days for us women waiting at home for the men to come back.

Friday 18th March 2011

Jamal and Yusef had their bags packed as they decided to leave Tripoli and try to get to Misrata to fight alongside the people there against Gaddaffi’s regime. They couldn’t sit doing nothing while so many innocent people were being killed. Although I understood what that meant, I could not tell them to stay here, not to go. I knew my husband well enough to know if he stayed here watching the slaughter and not being able to stop it, it would drive him crazy.

My daughters were very distraught at the thought of their father and brother leaving to go and fight, their relationship with their father was close and special.  My granddaughter missed him terribly and still does, not a moment goes by and she tells me how much she loves her Jidoo and how much she misses him, she even said she wanted to die to be with him in heaven and she’s only six years old. That really hurts, when I see her so upset, but I remind myself he’s in the best place, alhamdulilah.

They went to Tajoura along with Mustafa to pray Juma. After the prayer there was a protest as usual, the media was allowed to film for a little while. When they went, the trouble began men and boys started throwing stones and shouting slogans. It was very hard for the Kitaab to do anything in that area as the streets were small and they normally stayed on the outskirts.

As it happens, Jamal and Mustafa were waiting for Yusef to return to the car so they could return home. Yusef was nowhere to be seen. All of a sudden one of the kitaab pointed his Kalashnikov at Jamal’s head and shouted at him ,”Blood of the Martyrs” and began to attack him. Mustafa seeing this ran over to help his father and was beaten on the back of his shoulders by another security man with a Kalashnikov and both were arrested.

Jamal was only 52 years old, and very fit, but because of his white beard looked older, because of this the younger men had a bit of respect for him. He talked to the kitaab who were holding him and a few others and told him not to worry. That they were not going to fight with him and that they were all the same, Libyan, he asked them why were they doing this, picking up people and detaining them. The young man answered him that the last two months were hell for them and they didn’t like it any more than they did, but it’s their job and they have to follow orders or they would be in big trouble themselves.

One of the boys wanted to light a cigarette, but the one who Jamal was talking to, told him to have some respect and put it out (in Libya the boys don’t like to smoke in front of elders).

After a little while Jamal convinced him that they were no threat and to let him and the others go. Both  Jamal and Mustafa gave the Kitaab the same story.  When asked where they lived they answered, Saraj area and why were they over in Tajoura, they told them that they only went to the mosque to pray.   Little did they know what they were really up to after putting Mai , Mustafa’s wife, in her parent’s house.

The only thing was Mustafa had been taken in another car with some other men, Jamal told them “if you put my son in prison you better take me as well, where he goes I go” . Unbelievably they let Mustafa go. My husband always had the “gift of the gab” as we say inEnglandand it certainly helped him on this day. All in all, they were held for about 2 hours. When he was about to go the kitaab Jamal had spoken to went over and hugged him and asked him to forgive him, just goes to show that he didn’t want to do the things they made him do.

Of course during this time I was trying to contact them and their phones were off. I got hold of Yusef who said everything was fine!

Mai, Mustafa’s wife was at her parents house and felt something was wrong, but I didn’t tell her right away what was happening as she was 8 months pregnant at that time.

When he arrived home he hugged me and told me his father and Mustafa had been picked up and taken away. At first I thought he said they were dead. It was a shock, then I realized what he actually said,  I think I must have gone in auto drive, as I told him to take his bag and get way in case the kitaab come looking for him as well. I decided to make sure there was nothing in the house, or on the computers to incriminate us.

I also hung out some washing that was ready to hang out, I just thought I needed to get everything sorted out, Nusaybah was in a state crying and getting very upset and rang Fatimah to tell her what had happened, they were thinking the worst because of all the stories they heard of torture and killings that were going on, and had just watched a program of a young boy who had been tortured by Gaddaffi’s men and couldn’t walk any more. Of course Fatimah was in bits as well.

I just wanted to keep a cool head to try and deal with whatever was going to happen next. I thought about my other two younger sons and wanted them to go to a friend’s house in case they were picked up as well, it was awful as you didn’t know what to expect.

My brother in law came over to tell me the news, which I already knew, so everyone was really worried.

But thanks to God after a few hours Yusef rings us up and tells us they were on their way home. The relief was wonderful.

During the next few days , Jamal and Yusef  began planning their trip out of the country, this was a very hard time for Mustafa as he wanted to go with them , but I told him he couldn’t as his wife was about to have her first child and he was needed here.

I will never forget the day they left, it was the morning of Wednesday 23rd of March 2011, I really believed I would not see them alive again!

Mustafa could not just sit in the house doing nothing, he found some other people who wanted to fight and began by giving out stickers of the freedom flag and sticking them on Kitaab’s trucks, which Shaheed Othman Al Araby would help us with, he was so brave. We had to get through check points to get to the people who were helping us. Also hanging homemade flags around the city, it happened we were able to get hold of arms and ammunition and make homemade bombs, things were getting more organized and it felt great to be able to help. I would go out with him to deliver arms at times, he made sure of the route he would take before hand as check points were getting more, we were very lucky they never searched us when we actually had some thing with us , our prayers worked and God was on the side of the truth.

People would ask where Jamal and Yusef were, so we told them Jamal went for medical treatment in Tunisia. Of course as the time went on people didn’t really believe that story any more, but they didn’t know anything else about them so left us alone.

I couldn’t even tell my closest friends where they had gone and even family members, we just kept to the story that they went for treatment toTunisia. And some people didn’t even know they had left the country as the people inTripolihad made their own curfew where they would stay in at night as it was not safe, and of course no one could speak openly on the phone! Some people were too afraid even to mention normal things.

I visited my dear friend Miriam one day, at her daughters house in Jamahiriya street across from Fashloom.  We had kept in touch with them from the beginning, as they lived in central Tripoli like Fatimah my eldest daughter, and could hear gun fire most nights and see many pickup trucks with 14.5 anti air craft guns patrolling the streets. We would advise each other what to do when there was a lot of gun fire outside, we thought the best thing to do was go into the middle of the house until things settled down as stray bullets were found in kitchens on balconies.

While we were there, someone set fire to one of the tents of Gaddaffi supporters who were put up to guard the area.  It was a lovely scene, people were just standing around watching; a fire engine could be heard approaching.  Police cars came whizzing over but by the time they got there, there was only ashes left. They never knew who did it, in broadd day light as well. It certainly made us feel good that day!

The next day Miriam told me that she saw us on Amira’s balcony, apparently we had be filmed by someone and they put it on the Libyan state T.V. news.

During this time no one really went out much, only for important things, boys had to go to school and the men continued to open the shop for a few hours every day. To keep suspicion off of us. Gaddaffi wanted everything to appear normal, but obviously it was far from it.

Of course the no fly zone gave us a great hope but it didn’t do anything for the people of Misrata, as the day it was put into place was the day the Kitaab invaded them.

We could only sit and watch at the slaughter that was going on, but this made us more determined to fight for our freedom at whatever the cost.

This marks the end of the first part of my story.

Many, many others went through much more then what we did, and suffered much more, everyone did their best in whatever capacity they could to help in one way or other.  God bless all our martyrs, help our wounded heal and help us build a new Libya for our future generations to be proud of.  Amen.


To be continued…

The following videos are interviews with Sandra’s sons and husband.

Tripoli’s Liberation: The story of a family that fought against the regime; the family of the late Jamal Mustafa Al-Tunally (May God have mercy on his soul).

Battle of Sirte:  The story of a family that fought against the regime; the family of the late Jamal Mustafa Al-Tunally (May God have mercy on his soul).

 The story of a family that fought against the regime; the family of the late Jamal Mustafa Al-Tunally (May God have mercy on his soul).


Please click here to read Part 2.

Please click here to read the Reuters article about Sandra’s family.


  1. A very moving account it brought back many painful memories of those days, my husband was also imprisoned in that time for one month at abusalim prison. God bless all the men that fought for a free Libya.

    Comment by Susan Bouhulia — February 19, 2012 @ 18:07

  2. Allahu Akber mashAllah what an extraordinary
    brave family may God have mercy on Alhaj and save and protect his family

    Comment by Gada Mahfud — March 18, 2012 @ 13:44

  3. I was going to write something, but I am speechless. Thank God that the Daffy era was ended later.

    Comment by StigP in Sweden — March 18, 2012 @ 17:06

  4. Thank you very much for sharing your memories with us. You confirmed our thoughts what was going on in Tripoli since February 2011.
    People of Benghazi knew that Tripoli was a big prison and were waiting for the day of its liberation. Benghazi was free but people shed the tears for wounded Zawia, heroic Misrata and Zintan and imprisoned Tripoli and Zuwara.
    May Allah bless Libya and its heroic people.

    Comment by Sahar — March 24, 2012 @ 08:51

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