Seven months after Gaddafi's death, Libyans are still struggling to process the change – and especially the role reversal between captors and captives. In the New York Times, Robert F Worth has written a fascinating and terrifying account of Libya's post-revolution dynamics – uncovering some ancient and ugly truths about how power works in the absence of laws and institutions to control it:
The militia's deputy commander strolled into the room and gave Najjar's palm a friendly slap. "Hey, Sheik Naji," he said. "You got a letter." The commander opened it and began to read. "It's from your brother," he said, and his face lit up with a derisive smile. "It says: 'Naji is being held by an illegal entity, being tortured on a daily basis, starved and forced to sign false statements.' Oh, and look at this - the letter is copied to the army and the Higher Security Committee!" This last detail elicited a burst of laughter from the men in the room. Even Naji seemed to find it funny. "We always tell the relatives the same thing," one man added, for my benefit: "There is no legal entity for us to hand the prisoners over to."
Libya has no army. It has no government. These things exist on paper, but in practice, Libya has yet to recover from the long maelstrom of Qaddafi's rule. The country's oil is being pumped again, but there are still no lawmakers, no provincial governors, no unions and almost no police. Streetlights in Tripoli blink red and green and are universally ignored. Residents cart their garbage to Gaddafi's ruined stronghold, Bab al-Aziziya, and dump it on piles that have grown mountainous, their stench overpowering. Even such basic issues as property ownership are in a state of profound confusion. Gaddafi nationalised much of the private property in Libya starting in 1978, and now the old owners, some of them returning after decades abroad, are clamoring for the apartments and villas and factories that belonged to their grandparents. I met Libyans brandishing faded documents in Turkish and Italian, threatening to take up arms if their ancestral tracts of land were not returned.
Read more: Find time for the rest of Worth's gripping article.