Four Thirsty People

"Yousef Ibrahim"

Four thirsty people look over an abundant body of water. When they left their Libyan city–seven years earlier–the water would only arrive once every few months. Today, their thirst still haunts them.

Of course this photograph was not taken in Libya; we have neither rivers nor impressive BBC or ITV headquarters, and a media city is out of the question. Our tribal roots have taught us to regard demolition as a way of life. “Coronation Street,” the title of a TV series that has aired consistently since 1960, has been carved in large letters onto the facade of one building in the photograph. Here, whenever one empire had replaced another, it extended its predecessor’s developments, instead of cursing it and starting over. 


In 2014, I arrived in Manchester with the sound of gunfire unyieldingly resounding in my skull. I only recovered after around six months of studying the city’s bodies of water, its greenery, and the faces smiling for no reason.

At the time this photo was taken, my wife and child had only been here for a few weeks. The Battle of Tripoli Airport had started a few days earlier, during which our extended families lost two young men who had imagined, for themselves and for Libya, a future lined with roses. War is equivalent to death; I have never considered it to be a solution to a problem. As a result of the complete absence of the political tools necessary for peaceful negotiations over power and for social dialogue, as well as the lack of a culture of tolerance and acceptance, violence had no choice but to escalate.  

Right behind me as I took the photograph was a magnificent silver building–the Imperial War Museum. It contains an abundance of warfare data, including documentary tapes and other media, ranging from a (plundered) Iraqi tank that stands in the museum’s foyer, to genuine fighter planes dangling above the visitors from the ceiling. They even showcased the psychopathic leaders' wars on their people; on display is a Mugabe police car, which is capable of rolling over and returning to its natural position if the raging crowds happened to join forces and overturn it.

I send my regards to those who have managed to confine war to museums, as well as to those who live in hell and have yet to be touched by hellfire–in fact, they are still waiting for the man in the neighboring cave to fall asleep, only to hit him over the head with a stone.

Born in Tripoli, he is an academic, poet, and novelist. He has published a poetry collection and two novels: “Marish” in 2008, and “The Drowned at the Fountain” in 2022, which won the Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Faqih Novel Award.

Yousef Ibrahim
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