Turkey: Ferry Returns with Libyan Wounded

News and Press Release
Originally published

Turkey's diplomatic efforts to produce a ceasefire in Libya remain stalemated, but a high-profile humanitarian mission sponsored by Ankara ended successfully April 5 when a ferry with hundreds of wounded Libyan fighters docked at a small port on the Turkish Aegean Sea coast.

The ferry, which set off from Libya on the evening of April 3, arrived at the port of Cesme, a vacation resort not far from the coastal city of Izmir. Aboard the vessel were over 300 Libyans who had suffered serious wounds amid fighting in the Western Libyan cities of Misrata and Benghazi. Another hundred or so Libyan evacuees, dozens of Turkish nationals and 29 foreigners, including Ukrainian, British, German and Uzbek citizens, also disembarked.

The wounded were brought to a triage center, where their injuries were assessed and where they underwent expedited immigration procedures. About 60 ambulances stood by to carry the wounded to area hospitals. Many had already had limbs amputated, or were heavily bandaged after suffering extensive burns. Several wounded men were flown by helicopter to hospitals to receive emergency treatment.

A language barrier hampered the smooth functioning of the triage center, as Arabic translators were in short supply. At one point, a wounded man began gesticulating wildly after being put into an ambulance. Doctors rushed over believing he was in pain only to discover that he was anxious to recover a missing sweater.

Not long ago, it seemed uncertain whether Ankara's humanitarian mission would have a happy ending. The ferry had to wait off the Libyan coast for days as Turkish leaders negotiated a temporary cease fire to allow the vessel safe passage to dock at Libyan ports. Twelve Turkish fighter jets provided air cover for the vessel.

Turkish diplomats have been pressing representatives of Muammar Gaddafi's regime to agree to a ceasefire. But talks remained deadlocked on April 5. Rebel and government officials reportedly remain far apart on whether Gaddafi must first depart the country before a ceasefire can take hold.

Editor's Note: Monique Jaques is a freelance photojournalist working in Turkey and Afghanistan.

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