Muhannad Bensadik is a 21-year-old Libyan American medical student who has joined the armed struggle against Col. Muammar Gaddafi's forces. He was reportedly shot during fighting near Brega earlier this month, but it is unclear if he is dead or missing.
Democracy Now! correspondent Anjali Kamat interviewed Bensadik just two days before he disappeared. The transcript from the interview is posted blow. On March 23, Democracy Now! interviewed his mother, Suzi Elarabi, who recently learned that her son may not have died in the shooting as previously believed.
Here is an excerpt from his interview (Watch the video to see pictures):
MUHANNAD BENSADIK: Actually, I'm a dual citizen. I'm Libyan American. My father is Libyan; my mother is American.
ANJALI KAMAT: And where did you grow up?
MUHANNAD BENSADIK: Well, the first five years of my life was in the United States, and the rest of my life was here in Libya. But I go backward and forward between the U.S. and here enough. But my study and my -- my life was, most of it, here in Libya.
ANJALI KAMAT: Here in Libya, alright. Where did you grow up in Libya? Which city?
MUHANNAD BENSADIK: Benghazi city.
ANJALI KAMAT: When this started, it was a protest. When did you decide to join the people who are actually fighting?
MUHANNAD BENSADIK: Well, actually, it started, like, as a protest, but on the 17th, they started shooting and killing people. And since that day, I was with the protesters.
ANJALI KAMAT: And when did you leave Benghazi? Have you ever used a weapon before? Do you know how to fight?
MUHANNAD BENSADIK: No, not really. Actually, I decided to buy a weapon when I heard that the Gaddafi forces were entering Brega city. So, I decided that I need to buy a weapon and military supplies to the people and help the people over there so I just bought that. I was looking for a weapon, and I bought one.
ANJALI KAMAT: Muhannad, how old are you?
MUHANNAD BENSADIK: Twenty-one.
ANJALI KAMAT: And what did you study?
MUHANNAD BENSADIK: Medical. Medical school.
ANJALI KAMAT: Describe where you are. You're right now in Brega. Say a little bit about where you're staying and who's with you.
MUHANNAD BENSADIK: Well, I'm in a small camp in Brega -- next to Brega city now with a few of my friends, you know?
ANJALI KAMAT: Have you been to Ras Lanuf yet?
MUHANNAD BENSADIK: Well, the day before yesterday.
ANJALI KAMAT: And what is it like there? Is the fighting pretty intense?
MUHANNAD BENSADIK: Yeah, it was just -- we couldn't -- you just see the enemy always say they are coming towards you, you know? Not towards Ras Lanuf, but in the area in front of us and off about five to 10 kilometers from Ras Lanuf. Same with the day before it was just -- keep bombing with rockets and with missiles. That's all, you know? Because you see the enemy always use their missiles.
ANJALI KAMAT: Have you seen any of those who are fighting you?
MUHANNAD BENSADIK: Yeah, we've seen them with microscope from far away, but not as like close combat. All we see is, we see them from far away. We see their tanks. We see their missile shooting from far away. But face-to-face contact, we didn't see them.
ANJALI KAMAT: How many people are fighting in Ras Lanuf? How many rebels are there?
MUHANNAD BENSADIK: Well, because the rebels are not only in Ras Lanuf, they are between -- they are in Brega, and they are in other areas between Ras Lanuf and Brega. You know, like each three kilometers, you find more [inaudible]. Each three kilometers, you find more and more, all the way to Ras Lanuf, a little bit after Ras Lanuf. So, maybe between 2,000, 2,500, I cannot say exactly.
ANJALI KAMAT: And how would you describe most of the fighters? Are they young men? Are they students? Are they professionals?
MUHANNAD BENSADIK: Most of them are young. Even they are about 16 years old to 30 years old.
ANJALI KAMAT: And have any of them been trained? What's the ratio between people who are untrained volunteers and those who might have belonged to the army?
MUHANNAD BENSADIK: Those belonging to the army are very few compared the volunteers. And those volunteers didn't even go to the military. They just took small lessons on how to use AKs and these small guns. That's all they have.
ANJALI KAMAT: Does this make you afraid that you're not well trained?
MUHANNAD BENSADIK: No, not really, because it's not that hard to train on these kind of weapons. And for the last few days, they've been training us on heavy weapons like the 14-and-a-half and anti-aircraft and missile launchers. Been training for the last few days, and it's not that hard.
ANJALI KAMAT: Where are you getting all the weapons from?
MUHANNAD BENSADIK: Well, from the camps that [inaudible] in all the east areas -- you know, Benghazi, Bayda, Ajdabiya, all these areas that used to have big camps that had weapons and ammunition. This is where we get this from.
ANJALI KAMAT: And who's training you?
MUHANNAD BENSADIK: Well, parties of the armed forces. Special forces and the army forces.
ANJALI KAMAT: How did your family feel about your decision to come fight?
MUHANNAD BENSADIK: Well, not really -- actually, my mother is in the United States right now, and she's calling like every half an hour, asking about me. And she's like, "Go back home. You shouldn't be there. You shouldn't do this. You shouldn't do that." You know, she's really worried. But my father is kind of OK with the -- with the situation, because he is here right now. He is Libyan. He just called me before you called me, and he was texting this ambulance car to come here, to help the people with -- helping the wounded people from the battlefield to the hospital.
ANJALI KAMAT: So what do you tell your mother?
MUHANNAD BENSADIK: I just tell her that everything is OK, and I'm not near the fire position. And just like that. Just keep her to feel like everything is normal... I think it's going to be a long fight, I guess, if he doesn't get out of the country and -- if he stays here, it will be a long fight. Because we still have a long way to go. We still Surt. We still have Tripoli. We still have Zawiyah, all these areas, you know? And from what I see, nobody's going to withdraw. Everything is going front; nobody's going back. Nobody's even thinking about going back right now.
MUHANNAD BENSADIK: Most of the people now, they say, "Thank God that we are not counting on the United States. If we were counting on the United States or the European Union or the world, we would be dead right now. But we are counting on ourselves; we are not counting on anybody." That's what the whole people around me are saying. All we hear is promises -- we will do that, we will do this, we will do this, this, this -- but we didn't see anything on reality in front of us here, right here in the battlefield, you know?
ANJALI KAMAT: So, describe a little bit how it feels. From February 15th to now, you've been doing things on your own, like you, yourself, just described, and trying to come out on the streets, protest, and then now take up arms and go fight. Do you feel like you've become a different person? What have these experiences done?
MUHANNAD BENSADIK: [inaudible] ourselves. We were not realizing how fast it was just from protesting, to fighting, to burning government buildings, to carrying weapons. You know, it just started very fast.
ANJALI KAMAT: Some people in the United States are calling this a civil war. Do you agree?
MUHANNAD BENSADIK: No, no, it's not civil war. Just like the war for freedom. You know, it's like -- how can I describe it? It's like a revolution.
Democracy Now! also aired a debate on military intervention in Libya between Libyan poet/scholar and University of Michigan professor Khaled Mattawa, who supports U.S.-led intervention, and UCLA law professor Asli Bali, who says the U.S.-led coalition has ignored viable alternatives to military attacks.