A Martyr: Mahdi Mohamed Zew

The daughter of martyr Mahdi Zew born in 1993,
Benghazi, Libya

My father was born in 1962 in Benghazi. He lived with his parents, brothers and sisters in the family house. They were a middle class family. He had three brothers, named Nasser, Salem and Abubaker, and four sisters, named Oureida, Suad, Zafeer and Hamida.

When he finished secondary school, he started work with the Arabian Gulf Oil Company, as a member of the supply department. In 1993 he married my mother, Samira Awad Nabous, and two daughters were born to them. I, Zuhur, was born in 1993 and my sister, Sajeeda, was born in 1996.

My father was a simple person who was honest, straight, and religious. HHe liked his work and was dedicated to it. He was very gentle towards his family. He liked his friends and his way of talking was quiet and polite. He was good at heart. He was known as a social person and he was loved by relatives and neighbors. He never had an enemy. He did not care about politics and he was not a religious extremist. He liked life and had great hope for a good life. He loved to travel and to read historical books about Libya and poetry, and he liked to draw.

He did not like Gaddafi’s despotic regime as he could see from working in the oil company that the oil revenue from the oil fields was going to Muammar and his thugs. He was very affected by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. He was excited by them and followed the events from minute to minute. A few weeks before the Revolution of 17 February, he travelled with my mother to Lebanon and Syria for medical treatment for diabetes. They came back to Libya on Wednesday evening, 16 February.

On 17 February he joined protesters in front of the Court House and was very excited by this revolution, too. I saw the happiness in his eyes. He said, “I have never expected to see that our people could make a revolution”. He did not come back to our home except for lunch or he came very late at night, and then only to sleep. He used to phone us, telling us what was happening and how brave and determined the young men were. He prayed for the martyrs and went to the funerals.

As our house is next to the military camp (katiba) we could see what was happening outside. My father was such a sensitive person that he could not stand to see somebody crying in front of him. So, when he saw so many young men dying, he was very affected because he was a patriot who was dedicated to his beloved country, Libya. He made a final decision because of his love towards his country.

On the night of 19 February, he took us to my grandfather’s house because of the fierce shooting. On Sunday morning, 20 February, he came to us, drank coffee and talked about what had happened the night before. When he left, I had no idea what was in his mind. On the same day, at 2pm, we heard an explosion and saw black smoke far away, but it never crossed my mind that this explosion was made by my father.

He entered the katiba from which snipers were killing and wounding the young men. He put two cylinders of cooking gas and bottles filled with petrol in his car and lay down in the driver’s seat so as not to be killed by snipers. He entered at high speed through the first door of the katiba, they shot at him with anti-aircraft guns and the car exploded in front of the second door.

Nobody knew what he was going to do. That night we did not know that my father was martyred. We were looking for him everywhere, asking his friends and relatives about him. We did not find him at any place. We called him by mobile and his phone was off. On the second day, early in the morning, we went back to our house hoping to find him there. But we did not find him in the house. My uncle came and we went with him to my grandfather’s house and then we knew that my father was martyred. My mother, me and my sister were shocked because he was very gentle and loved us very much. He could never leave us. He was always by our side, even supporting us in our study. At the beginning of the Revolution we had never imagined what our father could do because he was a very sensitive person who was gentle and caring with people.

Gradually we became aware of the value of his dead. He did not open only the door of the katiba, he also opened the hearts of Libyan people because they realized that the man left behind two daughters when he rushed his car to open the katiba’s door. Now, we know that he woke up the patriotic feelings of all Libyans and entered into history through the widest door with this brave act. We know that he is a hero and a real man because he did not want to watch young men dying and yet do nothing to stop it.

I am proud of his act but at the same time he left a big emptiness in our lives. I had never imagined that my father had valued anything more than he valued us, but he valued his motherland.

My father was to me friend, brother and mate. He went away and we stayed without him, but I see him on Libyan faces every day.

The departure of my father makes me cry but the present he gave to me removes the sadness from my heart. He gave to us two very big things. He taught us moral responsibility and love for our motherland.

God inspire me to pass over the separation from my father.