Mabrouka Mohamad Kedo had eight children with her husband Mustafa Bin Omran when, on 17 January 1984, he was taken in by government forces. “Government men came one night and sat with my husband and some of his relatives in the salon. They talked for some time and then said they would be coming to take him to Tripoli for questioning the next day. They came back for him in the morning and he took nothing with him but his cloak around his arms. This is what we cover bodies with before burying them. He must have known he wasn’t coming back. Before he left, he told our eldest son to take care of his siblings.”
For nine days, the Bin Omran house was teeming with people, family and friends all seeking news about Mustafa. Nine days later, the family received a call from the internal security offices in Tripoli. “They told us to come and take his body. His uncles went to Tripoli. Mustafa’s head had been wrapped in cotton. They brought him back to Benghazi and we held a funeral for him here.”
The family doesn’t know exactly what happened and how Mustafa Bin Omran died. His sons have heard various stories. One suggests that he was involved in a scuffle with a guard when another guard stabbed him in his neck with a rifle. Another suggests Bin Omran died of a heart attack.
Despite its size, the family didn’t struggle financially after Bin Omran’s death. He had savings, which his eldest sons then invested in a shop. They also received the social security allowance that Mustafa had earned as a state employee during the monarchy. They would have been more comfortable had it not been for the properties the regime had stripped them of in previous years. “We had a 900 metre piece of land in Benghazi that we bought during the monarchy era. A general came in 1976 and took it by force. There was nothing you could do about it then, no one to complain to.”
The family, originally from Benghazi, had been living in Ajdabiya during the 1970s. Mustafa Bin Omran owned a contracting company, but on seeing contractors harassed and put on trial for corruption, Bin Omran wound down the company. Also among their investments in Ajdabiya was a cinema. “During the times when Gaddafi was nationalising everything, they came and took our cinema. That was in 1978. They gave us no compensation for it and turned it into a conference theatre.”
More laws followed that stripped Libya’s middle and upper classes of their properties, businesses and sources of income and wealth. “We had a large piece of land by the sea in Zueitina that measured about 1.5 hectares. It was planted with grape trees and figs trees and other fruit trees and had a little chalet on it. Our neighbour took it over in 1981.” Law no 4 of 1978, known as ‘the house belongs to its occupant’ enabled the neighbour to take over the property without compensation and without repercussion.