The short life and cruel death of Libyan freedom fighter Izz al-Arab Matar
My cousin Izz al-Arab Matar, a 22-year-old final-year student in engineering, was shot in Bab al-Aziziya, Muammar Gaddafi's fortified compound in Tripoli, at 4.30pm on Tuesday 23 August 2011.
"Izzo", as his friends and family liked to call him, had joined the rebel front immediately after the revolution started on 17 February.
He fought in the liberation of his hometown of Ajdabiya, helped liberate Brega and then went on to join the rebels in Misrata.
He would return home to his family in Ajdabiya occasionally to rest, get a change of clothes and eat a proper meal before setting off again.
Every time his mother would ask him not to leave. He would reply by jokingly quoting from Gaddafi's defiant, savage speech, made a few days after the rebellion began: "Forward, forward."
She once asked him: "Forward until when? When will you stop fighting?"
"When we reach Bab al-Aziziya," he told her.
While fighting in Misrata, Izzo met Marwan Mustafa al-Thumy, a 28-year-old. The two men became inseparable.
On 19 August, in the battle that liberated Zlitan, Marwan was shot dead. Izzo carried his friend to Misrata and buried him there. A few days later he headed with the rebels towards Tripoli, and then to Bab al-Aziziya. He found his older brother Hamed, 27, waiting for him there.
They were among the first to enter the compound. With their comrades, the two brothers reached Gaddafi's house. They found it empty.
Izzo located a weapons depot that gave the rebels access to more ammunition. Then a sniper's bullet hit him in the forehead. It penetrated his skull and exited from the rear.
He fell on his brother's shoulder. He was rushed to hospital and four hours later, at 9pm, he died. His last words were that he wanted to be buried in Misrata, beside his friend Marwan.
Izzo's father, my uncle Mahmoud Matar, who had begun his 21-year incarceration when Izzo was just a year old, said: "I grieve to be separated from my son, but I am proud of him. He sacrificed his life for a free and just . His sacrifice urges us all to guard that dream."
Izz al-Arab Matar is survived by his parents, Mahmoud and Zainab, and his siblings: Summer, Sameera, Salwa, Hamed, Fujra, Abd el-Salam and Amal.
We ask that God has mercy on Izzo and gives his family patience and the power to endure the loss.
Hisham Matar is the author of In the Country of Men, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2006
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