It was a recently formed human rights group from the Coptic Orthodox (Egyptian) Church in Tripoli, working to protect blacks from the still lawless Tripoli streets that enabled my roommate to depart this hotel. The Coptic Church, according to their Prelate here, has the largest Christian communion in Libya with normally 60,000 parishioners and has roots in Libya going back hundreds of years before the Arabs spread westward from Egypt.
Mohammad departed none too soon since "security personnel" arrived at the Corinthia Hotel close to 1 p.m. this afternoon (8/28/11) with gunmen and two "Generals"in fine new uniforms complete with epaulets. Their surprise visit was to check the hotel rooms for Kaddafi supporters. They claimed they had received "reports."
The Copts did a good job in getting Mohammad to safety. Most observers here agree that for the immediate future there will be a whirlwind of wild speculation, accusations and even some serious examination of Moammar Kaddafi's leadership of Libya these past four decades. One fact however is incontrovertible to this observer and it is that under Kaddafi, Christians, whether Roman Catholic, Anglican Catholic, Russian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox or Greek Orthodox, the main Christian sects here, have been well treated and allowed virtually complete freedom to practice their beliefs and to celebrate their traditions with some restrictions placed on campaigns to proselytize Muslims of which they have not been any since the Mormons and the "Way of the Cross" evangelicals left some years back.
Most of the churches here currently have volunteers working to help their Muslim sisters and brothers during this cataclysmic period. My friend Mohammad is one whose life they may have saved.
Mohammad and I have been secretly sharing my room for more than a week since I accidently discovered him hiding and trembling in the hotel's garden bushes shortly after the rebel entrance into Tripoli. It was easy to calm Mohammad down and I brought him a shirt from my room, as his was filthy.
James Earl Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman
(1943-1963) (1939-1963) (1943-1963) http://www.core-online.org/history/chaney.htm
Mohammad is a black African devout Muslim and one fine man. When I saw him looking up at me and trembling my thoughts instantly turned to 21-year-old black Mississippian, James Chaney, and the date could have been June 21, 1964. That was when Neshoba County's law enforcement and the Ku Klux Klan hunted blacks to kill and did kill James and his white companions Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner
The reason Mohammad was hiding outside the Corinthia hotel is that he feared for his life as so many, if not most, black Africans and black Libyans (roughly one third of Libya's population) do these days. Bands of young rebel "freedom fighters" are still roaming some of Tripoli's streets, itching it seems, to kill some "African mercenaries", meaning, it appears, any black man they can find . Although the apparently politically contrived rumors of African mercenaries raping Libyan women which helped NATO get the UN Security Council to green light its bombing and regime change campaign, have been debunked as fake by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and a UN fact finding group, some of the macho young rebels in Libya still insist the smear campaign is true.
Mohammad explained to me that he was never a fighter for anyone in Libya but rather that his employment background, like his father, uncles and brothers, was in Niger's uranium mines which only the past few years have begun to recover from the late 1980's collapse. Mohammad's brother Said was killed in the Tuareg Rebellion of the 1990's and his father sent Mohammad to Libya to work in construction.
I agreed with Mohammad that he could stay secretly with me until we could get him into safe hands. The hotel has never been the wiser to my knowledge although my friend Ismail, who works behind the front desk when he is not doing a dozen other jobs during his frequent 16 hour shifts, probably suspected something was going on because he would give me knowing glances as I disappeared toward the elevator with a table cloth covering a big plate of food and contrary to hotel rules of no hotel kitchen food in the rooms. Luckily Ismail is a black Libyan and, if he knew, he did not rat us out.
With no security at our hotel until the day before yesterday and now packed with journalists, Mohammad took extra precautions and never left room # 1185 except for one night when someone from the Coptic Church came to meet with him in another room and I gave his floor spot to a French activist from Beirut whose boat to Alexandria was delayed again.
Housekeeping, no longer exists at this hotel, and so no one has entered my room for almost two weeks since the staff fled. In any case Mohammad and I had a good cover story ready in case events demanded one. Mohammad, we would explain if caught, was a driver for the Italian Embassy before the Italians temporarily pulled up stakes back in March.
I got pretty good at fixing plates of food for Mohammad from the nightly "Iftar buffet." Because we are both fasting for Ramadan, smuggling Mohammad food only once a day was easy enough, especially as some of the new hotel guests, being journalists from the Rixos Hotel or rushing here to cover the "Fall of Tripoli" from around Libya, are now in the habit of fixing their dinner plates and sitting around the abandoned hotel restaurants. This way they have more space and privacy from the cramped conditions in the rapidly deteriorating "dining room" or their working area.