My cousin Izz al Arab Matar, 22 years old, a final year student in engineering, was shot in Bab al Aziziya, Muammar Qaddafi’s fortified compound in Tripoli, at 4.30pm on Tuesday the 23rd of August 2011. ‘Izzo’, as his friends and family liked to call him, had joined the rebel front immediately after the 17th of February revolution had started. He fought in the liberation of his hometown of Ajdabiya, helped liberate Brega and then went on to join the rebels in Musrata. He would return home to his family in Ajdabiya occasionally to rest, get a change of clothes and eat a proper meal before setting off again. Every time his mother would ask him not to leave, he used to jokingly quote from Qaddafi’s savage speech: ‘Forward, forward.’ She once asked him, ‘Forward till when? When will you stop fighting?’ ‘When we reach Bab al Aziziya,’ he told her.
Whilst fighting in Musrata, Izzo met Marwan Mustafa al Thumy, 28 years old. The two men became inseparable. On the 19th of August, in the battle that liberated Zlitan, Marwan was shot dead. Izzo carried his friend to Musrata and buried him there. A few days later he headed with the rebels for Tripoli, and then onto Bab al Aziziya. He found his older brother Hamed, 27 years old, waiting for him there. They were amongst the first to enter the compound. With their fellow comrades the two brothers reached Qaddafi’s house. They found it empty. Izzo located a weapons depot that gave the rebels access to more ammunition. Then a sniper’s bullet hit him in the forehead. It penetrated his head and exited from the rear. He fell on his brother Hamed’s shoulder. He was rushed to hospital and four hours later, at 9pm, he died. His last words were that he wanted to be buried in Musrata, beside his friend Marwan.
Izzo’s father, my uncle Mahmoud Matar, who had begun his 21-year-long incarceration when Izzo was only one and half years old, said, ‘I grieve to be separated from my son, but I am proud of him. He sacrificed his life for a free and just Libya. His sacrifice urges us all to guard that dream.’
Izz al Arab Matar was survived by his parents, Mahmoud and Zainab, as well as seven siblings: Summer, Sameera, Salwa, Hamed, Fujra, Abd el Salam and Amal.
We ask that God has mercy on Izzo and gives his family patience and the power to endure the loss.
HISHAM JABALLA MATAR