After the most intense and brutal battle fought by the Afrika Korps in the Second World War, the strategic port of Tobruk, on the northern shores of Libya, fell to the Germans under Rommel. It was 20 June 1942, and it was a grim outcome for the Libyans. After suffering for years under the Italians led by Rodolfo Graziani, otherwise known as “The Butcher of Libya”, Libya was now under Nazi control. In a small stone house on the western coastal town of Sabrata, a very pregnant young woman and her husband were awakened by an urgent loud knock on their front door. Alarmed, Ibrahim told his frightened wife, “Stay here and don’t move!” He rushed to the next room and carried two sleeping boys to their mother, gently placing them beside her, nestled in sheep skins for bedding and woven Berber blankets for covers. “I don’t know who it is, so be very quiet,” he whispered to his wife. He could see that she was scared, and he wanted to reassure her, but the knocking became more persistent. He left the room, closing the door behind him and locked it with the large key that always stayed in the keyhole. Taking a deep breath, Ibrahim prepared to deal with whoever was outside his house in the middle of the night. He wished now that he had taken Rogaya and his sons to Ramadi weeks ago. The retreat of the British and the presence of German troops had spurred thousands of Libyans to flee into the desert, to seek refuge from the bombardment and killings. Rumors of atrocities committed by Italian and German troops spread fear and hatred among the people, helpless to protect themselves except by flight. The Sahara desert to the south, far away from the towns along the Libyan coastline, provided a temporary sanctuary for many. Libyans from cities and towns along the coast returned to their Berber roots, to tribes they had left, who now welcomed them back with open hearts. Their families and tribes shared with them what little they were able to eke out of the arid land by growing barley and raising sheep and goats. Occasionally, even a camel would have to be slaughtered for food. The code of unconditional loyalty and hospitality within the tribes, which had fortified them throughout centuries of foreign domination, now protected them from the threat of atrocities by the Italian and German armies. When Ibrahim opened the heavy wooden door, he was surprised to see Renato, the Italian who owned the small grocery store in town, standing there. “It is okay, Ibrahim, I’m by myself,” Renato quickly explained, his distinctive Roman features silhouetted against the night shadows. “Tobruk has fallen… the Germans are already in Tripoli, and will be coming to Sabrata on their way to Tunisia. They could be here by tomorrow!” Renato spoke in a hurried whisper, furtively looking around and listening. “You’re a good man, Ibrahim, and I don’t want anything bad to happen to you or your family.” Ibrahim stood still, seemingly calm in his bed clothes, intently listening and absorbing the implications behind Renato’s warning. Renato had risked breaking the curfew imposed by the Italians to warn him, a man for whom he had utmost respect and admiration. He had seen Ibrahim help others over the years, regardless of who they were: Libyan or Italian. He was afraid his friend would not survive the Germans and their rumored cruelties toward the Libyans. He would be too proud and too stubborn to tolerate any form of injustice. Ibrahim was the undeclared Libyan “capo” or leader of Sabrata. “You know they’ve killed many Libyans along the way, and taken whatever they wanted. Those who protested were tortured and killed…” Renato paused, seeing Ibrahim flinch in the little light afforded by a quarter moon. “You must leave immediately, my friend, before it’s too late.” Renato was sweating by now, fearing for his own life. Ibrahim knew it would not have been good for the Italian to be caught talking to a Libyan in the dead of night. “Grazi, Signor Renato.” Ibrahim was touched by the man’s concern for him and his family. “I will, but first let me accompany you back to your house.” “No, Ibrahim, you are kind to offer, but I will be safer without you. May God help you and your family and Inshallah, I will see you again one day.” Quietly and quickly, Renato disappeared into the silence of the night. After reassuring his wife that everything was going to be alright, Ibrahim Ben Ramahan went about making a pot of strong tea. He took it outside and drank it in the dark, looking up at the stars. His only concern was for his family, and he knew the time had come for him to take them to his familial village of Ramadi, in the desert to the south. Rogaya was eight months pregnant and food was becoming scarce. They had to leave immediately. The British would not give up easily, and Ibrahim feared that Rogaya would not have the strength to live through a birth under those circumstances. As soon as he got his family to safety, he vowed to himself that he would return to Sabrata to start a resistance movement against the Germans. Swallowing the last of his tea, his mind made up, Ibrahim started preparing for the journey. He gathered the stores they had been able to put by, including jars of olives and Gideed, sundried lamb preserved in olive oil, which Rogaya had saved for the celebration of her baby’s birth. As the first of the sun's rays crept over the house, Ibrahim secured everything to the sides of the camel that he and his younger son, Ali, would ride. On the second camel, which he covered with carpets and sheep skins, he helped his wife settle as comfortably as she was able. Their elder son, Abdullah, rode with his mother so he could help keep her steady on the long bumpy ride. “Are you sure you’ll be able to make it?” Ibrahim asked Rogaya just before they set off. He knew they were doing the right thing, but to undertake this journey at such an advanced stage of pregnancy was an ordeal he wished with all his heart he could spare his wife. “We have to leave Ibrahim,” the young woman assured him, “I would rather die this way than at the hands of the Germans or Italians.” Ibrahim has anticipated that the journey to Ramadi would take at least three days, but after only a few hours, he saw that the camel ride was already proving too strenuous for his wife, strong as she was. She had become quieter and paler, and he was starting to wonder if he had made the right decision. Though familiar with the signs of labor, Rogaya tried hard to ignore the onset of the first contractions so as not to delay their journey. Struggling quietly with her burden, she silently prayed to Allah to help her deliver a healthy baby girl. Her first two children were healthy, handsome boys who brought immense pride and joy to her husband and herself. She thanked Allah again for all the blessings he had bestowed on her, most of all her husband and the good life he had provided for them. She had everything that a woman could wish for, and she knew that she owed everything she had to Ibrahim. Theirs had been an arranged marriage, and, like all Libyan girls, she had known that her fate lay in the hands of man who had been chosen for her. She had heard stories of women who had not been as fortunate. Many were married to men who were indifferent to their wives, husbands who barely acknowledged their existence. Their role as wives was to produce male heirs and to satisfy their husband’s personal needs and desires. The unlucky ones were married to men who treated them badly, sometimes abusing them for any or no reason, knowing that the women were at their mercy. The pains were getting stronger and closer, and Rogaya knew that she would soon have to ask Ibrahim to stop the journey. As they approached an oasis, she decided that the baby was not going to wait any longer. She called out to her husband to stop. Ibrahim was shocked when he realized the baby was coming already. He quickly led his camel to an area under some date palms, which provided a little shade from the already scorching June sun. He silently prayed that his wife would not feel too much pain. Rogaya had delivered their two other children relatively easily, but has been assisted by the village midwife and several women from the family. Ibrahim had married Rogaya when she was only fifteen years old, but now, after five years, she had become strong and matured beyond her age. He felt blessed to have such a rare woman for his wife, but he now blamed himself for not having left Sabrata sooner. The baby was not due for another month; since the other two had come on time, he had taken for granted that so would this one. He cursed himself for putting his wife in the position of birthing her own baby. It was not customary for men to aid in the delivery, and he knew that Rogaya would not expect nor want him to. However, if she asked him he would not refuse her. After securing his camel, Ibrahim assisted his wife from hers and carried her to a shady spot. He spread some rugs on the sand and gently settled her into a comfortable position, leaving her with water and a clean knife. He then walked down to the water’s edge with his sons, and slowly unfolded his prayer rug onto the rough surface. He could hear Rogaya moaning and wanted to go to her, but knew that she would be too embarrassed to let him see her in that condition. He silently said his parayers, imploring Allah to have mercy on his wife and their soon-to-be-born child. As her moaning increased in volume, Ibrahim prayed louder and with more intensity. After what seemed a long time, but was in actuality only about an hour, he heard the sound of a newborn wailing. He first thanked his God, before reaching into his holi, a toga-like robe worn over pants and shirt, for the towel he had tucked in earlier. He wondered if it would be a daughter or another son, this one who was so impatient to be born. He secretly hoped for another boy, even though Rogaya wanted a girl this time. Libyan society was not always kind to women, and Ibrahim did not foresee a major change for his children’s generation. He dipped the towel into the cool spring water and hurried back to his wife, all the while whispering prayers of gratitude. Rogaya was lying where he had left her, a pale figure on a blanket in the middle of the desert. A very wet and bloodied baby boy was resting on her stomach, already suckling from her breast. Rogaya had managed to cut and tie the umbilical cord herself, and handed the knife back to her husband. Ibrahim fixed his eyes on his new son and felt as if his heart was going to explode with joy. There was something very different, he thought, something very special about this baby. He was not only perfectly formed, but there was a look of such purpose and determination on his little face. Ah, he thought to himself, smiling, this was going to be a stubborn one. For now, the newborn was totally concentrated on his first undertaking in the outside world. In one moment of precognition, Ibrahim saw that this was going to be the first of ventures and adventures, all of which this boy would be attacking with the same fervor. With the pride of generations of Bedouin leaders behind him, and the pride of a Ben Ramadan and a father, Ibrahim gazed at his son with absolute happiness. He wiped the perspiration from his wife’s face, gave her water from his own goatskin canteen, and quietly whispered words of gratitude in her ears. He kissed her forehead with love rushing from his soul, and with the same emotion he kissed his son, gently removing him from his mother’s breast. Holding his third son for the first time in his arms, he said in a strong voice swollen with pride, “In the name of Allah, I name you Kamal Ibrahim Ben Ramadan.” About 300 miles to the east that same day, another baby was born in the desert south of Sirte. He was named Muammar Minyar Gaddafi…