First time in the update



opens up wet streets,

fraudulent contractor

and a failed state.

washes everything

bird wings

and cat fur.

Remember the poor

its fragile roofs

and their torn clothes.

Wake up the valleys

shake off the gaping dust

and their dry scabs.


a sign of goodness,

promise of help


Mustafa al Trabelsi, Derna (Libya)

September 2023

They called him Mustafa al Trabelsi and he wrote a warning poem a few days before the flood claimed everything, including his life. Al Trabelsi left several poems in writing, which, reading them now, take on a tragic meaning. More than 11,000 people from his hometown of Derna died and another 10,000 were missing in a street marred by torrential rains and the collapse of two dams.

“Mustafa is one of Derna’s most beloved activists and writers, and his death was mourned by many fellow artists throughout Libya,” he explains to the publication Independent Khaled Mutawa, a Libyan poet born in the eastern city of Benghazi and settled in the United States since his teens. Mutawa, whose main inspiration is Federico García Lorca, recalls in this newspaper the figure of Al Trabelsi, the author of a short poem that reflects the growing unrest that gripped the city a few days before it was devastated by water.

Like a true poet, he kept his finger on the pulse of the human and environmental problems of his city.

“He was deeply concerned about the state of his city and, like a true poet, kept his finger on the pulse of his city’s human and environmental problems; He was a visionary, just like real poets. He died trying to help others,” says Mutawa. The author of the poem, which became a symbol of Derna’s drama, was present at the meeting at which the scenario of a possible flooding of the city was discussed. But the authorities did little to prevent the disaster.

Al Trabelsi continued to write in the hours before his death as the storm flooded blocks of downtown buildings. “The scenes are horrifying and this could turn into a disaster, and we are under the rule of a corrupt tyrant who has nothing but data, who claims to be prepared but in fact has no equipment and few rescue teams,” he wrote. His last message was short: “Let’s stay together until we drown.”

“Since the time of Muammar Gaddafi and even during the revolution, Libya has been haunted by false heroes, always because of their use of violence. “Mustafa is a new type of hero, a citizen and an intellectual who dedicated his heart, his days and his pen to the light, the hard and cold light of truth and the warm light of love and solidarity,” concludes Mutawa.