The heart-breaking story of Libya and migrants told through the eyes of a boy, Khalid
Rome (AsiaNews) - In September of 2011, the rebels captured and killed Muammar Gaddafi. The presumed executioner was a young fighter who allegedly shot the dictator with his own gold-plated gun, according to media reports.
Although they were released from the yoke of their former strongman, Libyans have not become free from divisions, murders, hunger and uncertainty. Thousands of them continue to flee the country. This is where Il mio nome è Khalid (My name is Khalid by Marietti 1820, 89 p, €12) by journalist Monica Mondo begins.
Khalid, 13, is a Muslim boy from Tripoli who speaks several languages and is a Juventus fan. His family, like countless others, has been torn by hatred and suspicions. His father sided with Gaddafi, his older brother sided with the rebels after he was rejected by the army, his mother's relatives said. They too were against Gaddafi.
A few days after the dictator's death, Khalid decided to leave the country and got on a ship in the port of Tripoli bound for Italy. All he had with him was a dagger, a special gift from his grandfather, a photograph of him with his brother and a newspaper clipping.
Shrouded in mystery, the affection for his brother Mohammed is also dangerous because that same brother was the guy who shot Gaddafi and the picture shows him carried in triumph.
After an odyssey of three weeks, "I arrived a few hours ago on this ship and I can't take it anymore," Khalid said.
After he got to Rome, the boy was forced to grow up before his time because he was an illegal immigrant. In the Italian capital, he learnt to deal with the grim reality of immigrants, including everyday dangers and undercurrents of racism.
Written as a first-person narrative, the book describes the daily life of a Libyan boy who is hungry and afraid, but also his friendship with Paul, a young Sudanese who helped him survive in the dangerous world of illegal immigration.
In addition to the relationship with Paul, Khalid also discovered the warmth of volunteers, especially that of nuns who cared for him after he was attacked by some right-wing extremists in a park.
"Who are you? Nuns I guess even though they are dressed in blue. The nuns who teach at the school of the Church of St Francis (in Tripoli) are dressed in brown. . . . Who are you? Why are you holding me here?"
"I was naked, and one of you washed me with a wet sponge, the other stroked my hair, above the bandages. How embarrassing it is to be naked in front of two women. Yet you weren't. It was nice to be stroked, washed and clothed. I can't remember anyone doing this for me. . . . These ladies smile; they worry; they even treated Paul well."