In Libya, the Captors Have Become the Captive
One night last September, a prisoner named Naji Najjar was brought, blindfolded and handcuffed, to an abandoned military base on the outskirts of Tripoli. A group of young men in camouflage pushed him into a dimly lit interrogation room and forced him to his knees. The commander of the militia, a big man with disheveled hair and sleepy eyes, stood behind Najjar. “What do you want?” the commander said, clutching a length of industrial pipe.
“What do you mean?” the prisoner said.
“What do you want?” the commander repeated. He paused. “Don’t you remember?”
Of course Najjar remembered. Until a few weeks earlier, he was a notorious guard at one of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s prisons. Then Tripoli fell, and the same men he’d beaten for so long tracked him down at his sister’s house and dragged him to their base. Now they were mimicking his own sadistic ritual. Every day, Najjar greeted the prisoners with the words What do you want? forcing them to beg for the pipe — known in the prison by its industrial term, PPR — or be beaten twice as badly. The militia commander now standing behind him, Jalal Ragai, had been one of his favorite victims.
“What do you want?” Jalal said for the last time. He held the very same pipe that had so often been used on him.
“PPR!” Najjar howled, and his former victim brought the rod down on his back.