One of our first assignments when we started Film@11 was Libya. Invited to cover an environmental project, we traveled to Tripoli (one of us with--ahem--an Israeli stamp in her passport, a big no-no in Qaddafi's Libya), where shopkeepers came out in the medina to speak with us once they heard our American accents; then we flew to Benghazi (with one of Saif Qaddafi's Ukranian mistresses). Benghazi, a large, modern city, is where the protesters overthrew the government on February 18th. We kept in touch with our sources in the capital, although for the past week any news has been difficult to receive. Last night, we finally got word from one, who had just managed to escape Tripoli. "It is much, much worse there than anything you have heard," he told us.
What can "much worse" mean, exactly? Well, let's start with the death toll, and the discrepancy in the numbers. The International Federation for Human Rights put the number "at least 640."
France's top human rights official told reporters that the death toll is "possibly 2,000." And the Italian newspapers are reporting a substantially higher number: 6,000-10,000.
Consider that Libya's total population is about 6.5 million, and one hopes that the fatalities are on the lower end. Otherwise, this is starting to sound like a massacre. The Western world doesn't have a good track record of responding quickly in such circumstances (Bosnia and Rwanda, for two recent examples).
In the darkness that is Tripoli right now, a steady source of information has been the Twitters from Abukhit. Today, he has more on the Qaddafi regime's attempt at retaining loyalty by offering cash: "Today it rained money in Tripoli. Money, money and more money for the greens. GREEN MONEY WITH RED BLOOD."