Text form of my project – Transcriptions and simple reflection of every conversations we’ve had

These were the transcriptions of each individual conversation I have had with Ahmed Amer over the period of roughly a month from understanding him and that period of life. The conversations were always the same and had the repetition of me wanting to know more about the stories he tells. They did not progressively become more open but some he has gone into so much depth. His memory of each an every event ‘is so clear’ and ‘how can I not remember.’ Our conversations started to flow as I was building a narrative of understanding his image. We collaborated on this project as a pair, I would not have been able to do any of this if I didn’t listen.

  • Passport

“Our flag, green is representing land, red is blood, black is people and going from a dark area of history to light. In Arabic, you can draw with the typing. We don’t write like in English, we draw shapes, lines, and you can still read it clearly. We have nine different ways of typing. The two texts on the front is written differently but the letters give you the font. ‘The Great Socialist Peoples Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.’ Jamahiriya is the last word in the English text but it is the first word on the front of the passport. The text is read from right to left and the noun of this word means a crowd, the whole people of the country. The logo that our leader Gaddhafi chose to represent the identity of the regime and the system in the country; our dictator. An eagle has a sharp eye and is very fast to catch enemies. The language is in reverse comparing with the English so that is the reason for why our books are from right to left. It seems so wrong to open a book in other ways. I don’t know which language came first but there is no right way. I first had my passport when I was fourteen years old. Before I was registered in my mother’s passport. You cannot travel unless you’re with the person you’re registered with. As a culture, children are more close to the mother; the father is the security of the house. It’s nice to have your own passport, but even though you have a note written, indicating that you can travel, you wouldn’t be allowed.”

  • Blood Car

“This was when we were driving back from the front fighting line in the mountains and it was like 50 kilometres away from our unit where we sleep and everything. Somehow there were some four or five snipers from the army somehow got into the mountains and tried to kill anyone who were carrying a gun in that area and we were driving by. I was sitting in the back behind the passenger seat. Some of them started to shoot us but all the bullets came to the front passengers body in such a way that the blood was going everywhere. He had more than thirty bullets in his body. After that we, the driver managed to get us into a place where we could hide from the fire, the firing. We then called some people to support us fight this small group. After we arrested them the driver was so angry because the person who was killed was his cousin; what he did to them was put them in a line on the ground and start to shoot them from the bottom to the top till they die so I don’t know why he done that but maybe he wanted them to feel the pain before they die or something. It was a little bit horrible because it was the beginning of the time around the end of March; I wasn’t prepared to see this. It was at night so you didn’t see the bullets. They are so fast you can’t actually hear them until they sometimes kill you. So we just suddenly saw all the blood all over the car. We didn’t know what was going on exactly that second you know. It’s just a shock, there’s somebody shooting you so you need to hide or do something. We didn’t run. We just tried to hide in a place where we could sit up our guns and defend ourselves. There was some people who were around the area of our team, so when we called them it was just minutes. The area was surrounded. We were going back to our unit where we trained and slept; because the mountains are so wide you can’t actually control all the area. At that time we couldn’t find them. But you can recognise the sound of the bullets and know where they are coming from. The mountain was very open, no buildings no nothing. Just roads, so you can actually see the flashing lights of a gun. We had more than two hundred people surrounding the area in a few minutes so they knew they are going to be arrested. Many many people were taking pictures because it was like the first incident of this kind in the revolution. It was the first time that some people in the army go into our areas. We felt like we were not safe in that place enough so we had to do something after that. No one drove this car again. I’m sure it’s still in the same place now. In our religion we have to, what do you call it, bury them? We have a place where we place the bodies and bury them because people in a war or revolution will look at them as heroes. I would say fifty per cent of the streets in my country were named after these people who died. I didn’t really know him but I remember his surname. It was the first time I met him in the car. I didn’t know anybody but at the time when you start, you start meeting people. It’s a strange feeling because you will never build such a relationship in a normal situation. You will be so strong because you know everyone will defend you if they have the chance. Even if we are fighting we know we won’t need to get anything in return. It is for our homeland. The driver got shot in the leg and he couldn’t put his shoes on.”

  • Single Rolleiflex image

“I don’t know how because if you ask me what happened last week I wouldn’t remember anything but I remember every second of these eight months, everything. When I see the picture I will remember the day from the beginning to the end. Everyone I knew, a friend or a member of a family who was involved in this has totally changed. You wouldn’t see the same person before the war; never. It made us so mature, so mature over your age. You will think of things if you were twenty like you were forty-five. Because of so much of this blood and war and fighting it becomes so easy to talk about. It’s so normal for me as I’ve experienced it but I understand when you are shocked. Sometimes people ask me why are you smiling and why are you saying this, it is such a bad thing; this is something normal in my life now. The people will find it strange but you will get to the point that you love the sound of firing from a gun. Even if there is nothing you will just shoot in the air just to hear the sound. It’s like smoking or anything. Just want to do it every day. It is so easy for me to recognise what weapon is used from the sound. It happens suddenly; even the hunting rifles, you wasn’t supposed to have them in my country in the last regime. So they were illegal. So no sort of weapon. If you have enough money to buy a gun you just go and buy it. The culture is helping us and preventing us from having so much problems with guns. I think if it happened in other cultures people will finish each other. We are like big families, big names so you will know each other. It is a very different culture. If you just found a gun on the floor you just take it, it’s not that expensive to buy a gun. You can buy a tank if you have the money. If you have money to build an army you can do it. There’s two sorts of people in the country. Some people who are so famous have the power.”

  • Merciless ID card

“Last November, we have a house in Tripoli. It’s quite new so some people who have enough power came into the house. My relatives asked them to leave and go out of the house, they refused and said that if you have enough power to get us out then just do it. Like for example, if you are man enough then just do it. My relatives just called me and I have the contact and relations to the people who have lots of people. So I made a phone call to a very old friend who was with me in the revolution and I asked him to go to my house and bring these people out. So he brought around two hundred people to the house and unfortunately people who occupied the house died that night. They refused to go so they start shooting them. It was not my problem to deal with them. They had their chance.”

  • Bullet, blood glove

“I didn’t feel anything at that time, it was just like, my leg started to feel so cold. It was not numb, it was normal but at the same time, the leg that has been shot is suddenly so cold. You feel like something like a liquid dropping down your leg from inside. That’s what happens like in the first minute and then the pain started. So much pain and then it’s just two to three minutes I couldn’t feel it but it was still there; I was unconscious because loss of lots of blood. The people carrying me in a way was so painful as well. They don’t have any experience; they are no doctors. At that time you cannot talk because you don’t have the energy to talk loud. All the people are screaming around you. Somebody had to take out the bullet. You are like literally recording everything with your eyes. There’s a pain; you can feel his finger inside your leg moving. You can’t do anything. It was painful but at the same time you cannot feel it. I don’t know how to describe this. I was in pain for the rest of the day and then the next day it wasn’t really there. It would heal very slowly because there were no medicines; nothing to clean the wound. It’s been two years now but the bullet should still be in my room as I kept it. Some family relatives will be using my room so I don’t know if it is still there or not. I’m keeping some bullets, like some full bullets. I have some memories with these bullets because when you are run out you are in a very bad situation and you know you are going to be killed, some miracle happened to you and I keep the last bullet. There is a story being every bullet I keep; there are too many.”

  • Drive-By Shooting

“For me like when I see the photo, I remember the whole day and how this happened and everything. This happened when somebody suddenly passed with a car. He just opened the window and start shooting. Many people were there but this person you see lying on the floor that one has been shot and he is dead, the other one has been shot on his leg and you can see how much blood he lost. Then the car ran away and we never saw it again. It was like a sudden. You are in the area you are controlling and you will never expect as a thing to happen. Imagine you’re in a very safe country in the uk and somebody open the window and drives-by start to shoot everybody. This is exactly what happened in this picture. They never knew who did it. The text on the wall, in Arabic it’s called (Arabic dialect – ثوار مصراتةو الله اكبر) it means ‘The Rebels of Misrata,’ one of the most famous cities in Libya. ‘The God is Greatest.’ It’s actually quite common to see this on the walls because the army used to write like the ‘Leader Is the Greatest’ and then the country, so their main point is the leader not the country; so we had to write, ‘The God is the Greatest’ and then the Country so there is no one involved with the God and the country. We believe that the human being is born to lead you and you have to leave you. Why is he better than you? No one is better than you. Everybody has a special talent or special thing. I have another picture where there is a guy in the frontline with a guitar and he is trying to play music and the people right next to him are fighting. So we had lots of these random things that feel nice. Sometimes you ask the person next to you and say what do you do with your life? They say surgery, surgeon/doctor or I am a millionaire or something like that and you think what are you doing here, why are you here. They share the same idea. I’m here for the country; I’m here to get the freedom; I’m here to get rid of this regime. So it’s not a matter of whether some people are homeless or some people who don’t have a job, they just go to fight. Some people who have good financial situation and they come and start to fight.

  • Sniper

“It’s actually the seconds that you are making your decision to shoot somebody and you know he is going to die. It’s the worst thing. Sometimes you think they lie to him or he had just some orders to do because he is a soldier. Like you have to do it or your entirely family will be dead. You don’t have any choice. If he got you he will kill you, right away. So one of us has to stay alive. Some of them you will know they are innocent but others from their face no. They’ve done lots of horrible things that will make you just want to kill them. Especially when somebody calls you and says, ‘look your cousin just died last night and they executed him,’ you will be so angry the next day and you will start to kill. It’s really complicated but at the end of the day you have to defend yourself and your family and this is all you ever think about. Okay he is innocent, but at the end he will kill you if he had the chance. So you have to stay alive. But we actually, we didn’t want to just kill everybody, sometimes you just shoot something next to him so he knows that there is a sniper around. Some of them they just know that you are there and will shoot you so you have to take them down. Some of them will just runaway.”

  • Bus Journey image

“My name is Ahmed. I’m from Libya. I’m doing first year Architecture and Technology course. This is like my first time I go out of my country and just came here and start living. I had just six months English course because when I came here I couldn’t speak any English. I came here after we had a kind of civil war/revolution thing. Basically I didn’t want to go out of the country but my father insisted because it will be much of a trouble if I stayed there and get involved in more of the war things. First time I just go out of my country. It was hard in the first three months because I lived with an English family. They helped me a lot. If you want to learn a language it’s not difficult.”

  • Mamiya 7 Black and white photo

“The war started in, the revolution started in 2011, when I just started to go to University in Libya and after just like fifteen days the revolution started and I had no clue what was going on. My father told us and the family that we have to not be involved in these things, we had to be in a safe place and everything. It started with me when I was driving my mum to the hospital with my dad’s car. When I was going back to my house to get my passport some people from the army stop me and ask for my id. That time to see that somebody from my city, it was dangerous because all the people from my city was against the regime. So they had a real problem if they see you are from that city. You will be right away executed in the street. So they stop me. I was eighteen years old and they had this conversation with me, ‘you are from the city, you should be killed and everything’ and they took me to a jail, a military jail. You can’t feel anything at that time. You just, I don’t know, maybe it’s because there is so much fear you just stop feeling anything; you know that you are going to die so you just give up. This is the first time they got me into jail. After two days I don’t know how they just told me to go out and go home. The second time was when I was going to fill my car with petrol and the same thing happen when they stop me and ask for my id saying that I from the city which called Zawiyah they arrested me and got me into jail; that time was serious because the second day I was going to be executed after they arrested me but I was so lucky. There was some people who were working in the jail. They wanted to join the revolution so they made this mess and start to open doors for people and they had this guy I’ve never met before and I never met after what happened. He just came to me and opened the door and say how old are you? I said eighteen and he said, ‘ you shouldn’t be here, just go home go home.’ So he opened the door and I just run away. Literally hours, if I stayed four more hours I would’ve been executed.”

  • Unused

“After that thing happened I said that I need to join the rebels. I needed to do something. Because they were not going to let me live my normal life anyway because I’m from that city so I went to my grandfather’s house and I ask for my uncle to take me to the mountains. We had the mountains which the rebels controlled that area, west mountains of Libya. I didn’t tell my mother or father because they will say no, right away. So I went to my grandfather and said listen I want to go there and I want you to tell my parents that I am here in your house and that I didn’t leave. I went with my Uncle and another seven of us. There are some areas you cannot pass with a car. Some areas if they see you with a car they will destroy you and you will die. So we had to walk to the mountains, which took three days; without any food, without anything. It was just the beginning. After that, when I got there I was trained because they will ask you what you want to be, what position you want to take. I didn’t want to be a soldier. I trained like a sniper. I trained for two weeks and then there was not many people to fight against the army so they had to bring you earlier even if you are not trained. They train you on the basic things, how to use the rifle, how to defend yourself if they attack. You will learn lots of things by just yourself. It’s not things that you will be proud of, you become a fighter, because you know, sometimes you make mistakes and sometimes you do wrong decisions because it happens suddenly. After that I became the leader of the sniper forces. I was lucky because one day I shot some people from the army who tried to go behind us. I spot them and shot them so they called me the anonymous sniper. From the army they called me the anonymous sniper because they didn’t know who is the person who shot these people. It’s not the people; it’s the army and soldiers. They are not people anymore. It’s dangerous. ”

  • Unused

“Growing up was good. My family started from a very poor background. My father started to build his business and everything and we started to be sustainable. We just started to live our lives. We just moved to a new house and just after one month this whole thing happened. Our house was destroyed. When the army took the city they told you everybody in the city was against the army. So they started to destroy all the houses and kill anybody in the city at that time. I wasn’t there, I was in the mountains at the time but it was April 2011. I started to join the rebels in March 2011. All until October. I don’t think of my home, because we won the war, things cover things. You will be happy because you done something. You wouldn’t really care about these things. So what if they destroyed the house, we can build another one.”

  • Unused

“We weren’t even allowed to see guns and things in public places before the revolution. It just started to be like suddenly; you will see tanks and things, you won’t ever have imagined. You will see it. It was a frightening thing at the beginning but then you will get used to it. The first month was shocking. I actually, you know when you get that shock and you can’t even talk or do anything, you’re just a body. That happened to me in the first month. But after I see many people and it’s not just die, sometimes people explode next to you. You will get used to it. I think in my country it was so wild. It ‘s not like any other war. I don’t know how to explain it. It was the thing even though somebody are surrendering in front of you; he was like fighting you an hour before that. You will just shoot him, right away. You will tell them you are so late. They’ve done the same thing to us.”

  • Wall and then two guys – bleeds onto another page

“Sometimes you are in a position and think that no one will know where you are. It was one day when they got the building I was inside and they started searching the building so then I faked that I was dead. I don’t know how they believed that. Because there are so many dead bodies in the building you can just fake it and they will not touch you. You will see hundreds of people everyday. They will see bodies, bodies and bodies. So they will not check. If they see a weapon they will take it and they will go. No one really cared about money or cars or anything. Sometimes you will see very luxury cars and money and gold everywhere but no one really cares. They just care about killing the people who are against them. That was the point. That was the actual order they received from the leader. He said it on the tv. It was not even within the army thing. It was a public thing. He showed up on tv and said, ‘you will have to destroy all these cities and kill all these people.’ They just started to do it. There is a soldier like higher, higher and higher, what do you call that? A ranking that is it. They pack and even the higher soldiers will kill the lower soldiers when they are from the same people. They will kill each other. They got people from Africa, Nigeria; they pay them money to fight us. They arrested many people, actually from Russia. Do you call it Bulgaria? Tunisia, Algeria, Chad. They get lots of money, like an hour is like five thousand pounds; just one hour. If you will be alive just after one day you will have lots of money. 2011 and onwards, anything before then was so normal. Just like the Uk. Everything in the normal life; you will have your car, you will go to the Uni and go back home and have lunch with family, that’s it. It was a mistake from the government. It happened in Egypt and Tunisia before we do anything. So what happened was in the East of my country. The second biggest city called Bengasi, there was a problem with the lawyer who is hosting this, trying to solve some family problems. The government arrested some people from families and there was no reason to arrest them. So these families gave money to this lawyer to take the case and everything. The government arrested the lawyer. These families went out in the streets and the government thought that thing was a revolution; so that they ordered the army to kill everybody who was in the street at the time and when they done that, 150 people there died that day. The whole country was so angry and this started. It was a mistake. The structure of cities in my country is different from here. Every city is actually a big family. If you would count how many people in a family in a city there will be the half the people, the citizens in one family. My family is five families; five big names. So everybody knows everybody. So if somebody was killed, the rest of the city will do something. I keep in contact with my family in Zawiyah every day. We have a very close relationship. My own family is in Turkey right now, they moved six months ago. If you had the chance that everything will go in reverse you will make the decision. I don’t know, I wouldn’t allow people to go into it. It changed me.”

  • Man with wounds on hospital bed

“Sometimes, imagine if you see like a body but is divided between two from the stomach, that was a bit usual for me. Can you see, like that extreme. Because in the war, you will see that people have gone crazy. Friends who were like very close relationship with them will now not a normal human; because they’ve seen things that their mind could not keep up with it. Some people are not a normal human; they just change totally. Sometimes they die because of this thing, a mental thing. They just die because they don’t eat and don’t drink or anything. So this thing is like something so normal for me because it’s something I’m so used to seeing. We were on a cliff of a mountain around fifteen people and I don’t know how but there were snipers around. I’m not sure what but maybe somebody who were shooting everywhere and there were bullets that came into our area. The first one came to his head. I didn’t make the picture lower of his head because it was not there. It was blown away. We thought for a second he was sleeping but we saw the blood. My friend felt some liquid under his leg and then realised it was blood from the head of our friend. So we started shouting, ‘this person died, this person died!’ We had to carry him to a room that we called our hospital. We had to move out. Everyday you will see 5 to 10 incidents, depending on things, like what happened in a day. This was like for 15 minutes and then we went back fighting. You can’t stop. You just can’t stop. Even if you are in an actual firing against you’re enemy, your brothers next to you may get shot down, you can’t stop and take him. You will get shot helping him when walking them back. You have to attack to defend yourself. Sometimes we have to treat the four of us. We get so close to the person and then that happens. Soemetimes readpape. We have to go next to his body and fire. His head is litarlly blown away. You can see some part of his brain, which is for me now. One bullet in the head and he just died. He got shot in the shoulder as well. You will see how the skin and things when the bullet leaves hole and goes through all the body and go out. You will see the hole.”

  • Unused

“At that time the army didn’t care about the buildings. They would shoot missiles to take down houses within the city that is under our control. The children die and many will have gotten injured. Families will have to protect us.Every day if you are near a hospital or something you will see families, military children, sometime injured. The collapsing of a roof that would crush someone is worse. You would prefer to see one of the people in the frontline die next to you and you will never prefer to see an injured child. You can feel his pain when he is screaming and everything. You can’t do anything and he looks at you thinking, ‘why are you not doing anything for me?’ So it was hard. They don’t understand.”

  • Unused

“This is our logo. In our country it is different, it is not a peace sign. The meaning of this thing is, ‘we win or die.’ There is no surrendering in this, no going back. We win the war or we couldn’t win, you just go and die. You try to do something even if you don’t have a weapon you will go ahead in the war. That is the main thing we will always say. You will see people screaming with this sentence, ‘ no surrender, we win or die.”

  • Image of Omar Mukhtar on television screen

“It has been said by a very famous person who was fighting the Italian people when they were occupying my country. Every generation keep repeating until the war happened and we start to do the same thing. He was called Omar Mukhtar. He is quite famous. He was the leader of Libyan people who were fighting against Italy. My dad we used to work in the Capital and that time we were living in our city, which is like 40 kilometres away, so he had to come back every day at like 4 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon so he was so exhausted and will take a long nap for like 2 hours. At that time I will take the car and he will sleep and I will try to drive and everything. Sometimes crash. This started when I was 9 and when I was 10 years old I became like a very good driver. I had no license and I’ve never had anything official back then. Until I got my license I have already had roughly 7 years experience. I already drive. You will learn something more by doing it yourself, more than someone teaching you. The problem is when somebody teach you something, it’s not even like driving. He will teach you in his way which is sometimes wrong. He believes that it is right and even if it is right sometimes there is a better way to learn it, a better way to do it. But he will teach you how to do it in his way; his point of view. If you learn by yourself you will know all the ways of doing it. You will start by the wrong one, until you get the best one. That’s how I learned. Sometimes you have to lie about it; I crashed the car and put it in the garage and until he notice then I say it was not me.”

The ones that weren’t included did not fit with any imagery because we had conversations that were more a generalisation and were not about any photographs and images. They could have been placed in the book as a singular piece that would not be mirrored with an image but I felt that would have been too much for the book and would’ve made it longer and was unnecessary. It will be considered in a future second book that is planned but for this one it was best to leave it out.