NATO attacks ordinary Libyans at petrol pump

As NATO tells the world to prepare for a post-Gaddafi era, coalition bombs continue to blitz the Libyan capital. Gasoline queues snake through Tripoli with fuel in short supply. A scenario made worse with tankers a regular target for air strikes.

­It may have some of the largest oil reserves on the planet, but these days Libya has also got some of the longest queues at its petrol stations.

The international sanctions imposed on the embattled colonel’s regime do not include a fuel embargo. But NATO is targeting tanker-trucks if they suspect the fuel might be used by Gaddafi's military forces.

With roads closed, factories at a stop and foreign workers long since gone from the war-stricken country, Libya is facing its worst-ever energy crisis.

The new reality is that ordinary Libyan drivers now spend vast amounts of time queuing for fuel.

Two months ago, hours- and even days-long lines to fill up the car became a common scene in Libya. But there are some lines that differ from most, they are for women only.

Embarka Muhammad Mansuri is a university student and has volunteered to help organize the process. She stamps fuel ration books, which allow individuals 35 liters a week. She believes it is a great idea to have women-only stations.

“Women have too many things to do,” says Embarka. “They don’t fight each other while queuing and never shoot into the air as men often do, so we are able to serve up to 900 cars per day.”

The line is long but others are even longer. Petrol is still cheaper than water – just a few cents for a liter. It is just that it is often in short supply.

“If there is no fuel we have to leave our cars and return when it reappears. That could be days,” says a woman in the queue.

Women-only gas stations are one of many “innovations” supposed to ease people’s lives in a country in chaos. There are also special pumps for ambulances and police cars.

“NATO surrounded us but we should move on,” says a man at a gas station. “We try to do our best to help people get by. If we give up, we’ll die.”

Those seeking to oust Colonel Gaddafi may have been hoping that hardships will incite people to rise up against their leader. Instead, it only seems to be fueling people’s hatred towards what they feel is Western imperialism.

“NATO damaged our city destroyed our life,” complains another citizen. “They told us that they want to save people. Is that the way to save the people, tell me? This is just crime.”

While the warring sides try to find a way out of months of devastating conflict, ordinary people are looking for a way just to live their everyday lives, dreaming about times when this nightmare will be but a distant memory.