In Wadi al-Rabiya, 20 kilometers from Tripoli, a group of Misratan fighters man the front lines with their commander, a wiry old man called Ibrahim*. They are from the 134th Brigade of the al-Bunyan al-Marsous militia, currently defending the capital & the GNA government from General Haftar's most recent assault.
The GNA is largely powerless, relying on the support of the militias, who are the de facto rulers of Tripoli. "To hell with Sarraj, to hell with Haftar!" Says Ibrahim. "The militias do whatever they want. When one of the key militia leaders wants something from Sarraj, he doesn't knock on the door, he kicks it in and says: 'Sign here, I need 400 million dinars. If Haftar hadn't marched on Tripoli, we would have eventually done it." But why then do he & his men sacrifice themselves for the same government they openly loathe? "If Haftar takes Tripoli, he'll move on to Misrata and wipe us all out," says Ibrahim. "But every militia has more of a say than Sarraj," Ibrahim continues, adding: "He knows nothing about politics. First, Haftar has to go. Then Sarraj and the militias. Then we intend to liberate Tripoli."
But the physical dangers of war aren't the only thing on his mind. "Two weeks ago, we received a one-time payment of 1,500 dinars. That's 300 euros on the black market. A kilo of mutton costs 40 dinars. How are we supposed to make ends meet? The militias from Tripoli also control the banks. They're getting rich with a simple trick. They make their money on illegal currency exchanges and lug suitcases full of cash to the cash exchanges. But the oil finances the entire war. The money is funnelled to both sides, east and west, through the central bank in Tripoli."
Ibrahim never intended to be a soldier, but circumstances have driven him to this point. His family often pressures him to leave the militia and retire from fighting, but he has always refused. "I can't abandon my men and my country," he says.
*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual