The Filipino medical workers in the Tripoli Medical Center in Libya have resigned en masse to protest the gang rape of a Filipina nurse who worked in the hospital.
Another Filipina nurse at the hospital said the facility has shut down after its Filipino employees went on a two-day “strike” following the incident.
“For two days no Filipino reported for duty so they closed it down,” the nurse told a relative in Manila through Facebook on Sunday.
Filipinos make up three-fourths of the 1,500-bed center’s medical staff, according to the nurse, who is on the second year of a three-year contract in Libya.
The 25-year-old nurse, who hails from Cavite, has requested that her name be withheld.
The Tripoli government is concerned that if all 3,000 Filipinos employed as medical workers in Libya leave the country, its health care system would collapse.
The nurse said she knew the rape victim because they worked on the same shift. “She’s single and is an only child,” she said.
The victim’s housing quarters was a five-minute walk from the hospital, the nurse said.
“The victim and another Filipina were on their way to work when a vehicle blocked their path,” she said. Four men got out and grabbed the two nurses.
They both ran but the victim tripped and the four men dragged her to the vehicle. Her companion got away.
“They took her to a house about 15 minutes away from the hospital,” the nurse said.
“Two more men were waiting there.”
The men took turns raping the victim. “They meant to kill her afterwards. But one of the men took pity on her and convinced the others to let her go.”
The group released the victim and she wandered through the streets until a search party found her.
“She had a wound in her face. She was crying,” the nurse said.
After the incident, the nurse said her mind is made up. “I’m going home, even if I have to swim my way out of Libya,” she said.
Descent into civil war
She is not the only one who wants to escape the chaos as the country is engulfed by a civil war.
“We have gone through [war]before, with Kadhafi, but now it’s much worse,” Paraskevi Athineou, a Greek woman living in Libya, said on Saturday.
“Chaos reigns. There is no government, we have no food, no fuel, no water, no electricity for hours on end,” she said.
Athineou was part of a group of 186 people evacuated from Tripoli by a Greek navy frigate which reached the port of Piraeus early on Saturday.
In addition to 77 Greek nationals, there were 78 Chinese, 10 Britons, 12 Cypriots, seven Belgians, one Albanian and a Russian.
Among them were several diplomats, including the Chinese ambassador to Libya.
Libya has suffered chronic insecurity since Kadhafi’s overthrow in 2011, with the new government unable to check militias that helped to remove him and facing a growing threat from Islamist groups.
“So many people died to make the country better. But now we started killing each other in a civil war,” said Osama Monsour, a 35-year-old employed at a non-governmental organization in Tripoli.
Fighting between rival militias in Tripoli has forced the closure of the city’s international airport, while Islamist groups are also battling army special forces in the eastern city of Benghazi.
“War is in the city . . . and we civilians are under fire from both sides,” Athineou said.
“It is worse than 2011,” said Ali Gariani, a Libyan married to a Greek woman.
“That time were were being bombed by NATO. But now we are being bombed by the Libyans themselves, and that is really shameful,” he said.
Libyan border guards fired warning shots on Friday to keep back a crowd of people trying to enter Tunisia as they fled the conflict in Libya, a Tunisian army officer said.
A Tunisian official was wounded by a stray bullet at the Ras Jdir crossing, where the incident took place and which was shut after the clashes.
The Tunisian foreign ministry urged its estimated 50,000 to 60,000 nationals in neighboring Libya to leave “as soon as possible” because of violence that has raged there since mid-July.
“The ministry of foreign affairs urges Tunisians who find themselves in Libyan territory to return home as soon as possible,” a ministry statement said.
Underlining “the deteriorating security situation in several Libyan cities,” the ministry urged its citizens to contact Tunisian consular offices in Tripoli and Benghazi to facilitate their repatriation.
The Tunisian army officer said Libyan guards opened fire to push back hundreds of people attempting to force their way across the frontier.
The interior ministry said the head of national security at Ben Guerdane was hit in the leg by a stray bullet from the Libyan side of the border.
An AFP correspondent on the Tunisian side said gunfire was heard from the Libyan side late in the morning, leading to the crossing’s closure.
“The Egyptians wanted to force their way through, and the Libyans fired,” the Tunisian officer said. “If they cross, we will fire too.”
Tunisian forces fired tear gas at the crowd, he added.
Tunisian interior ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Arui said: “Closure of the crossing is temporary.”
He said reinforcements have been sent to deal with any further incidents and to stop weapons or fighters getting through from Libya.
The ministry estimates 6,000 people are stranded on the Libyan side of Ras Jdir crossing.
Rumors of deaths
Tunisia has been letting its own citizens through and also Libyans with the correct paperwork, but barring Arab and Asian foreigners unless they or their governments have arranged immediate repatriation.
Amid the confusion, there were rumors that the Libyans had actually fired into the crowd, and that a number of people had been killed, but no confirmation was available on the Tunisian side.
One woman who had fled the Libyan capital, and who did not want to be identified, said: “What you see on the border is nothing compared with what is happening there.
“Every day things get worse — it’s the end for Libya.”
On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Mongi Hamad said Tunisia cannot cope with any massive influx of refugees who might seek to enter from Libya.
By The Manila Times staff and AFP