The fighting in Mistrata claimed 2,000 lives and wounded 14,000, giving the city the title of ‘Libya’s Stalingrad’ – one of history’s bloodiest battles.
During the three month battle, soldiers fighting to protect Colonel Gaddafi committed a number of atrocities, including the rape of Misratan women and the castration of Misratan men.
The war may have ended when rebel fighters killed Gaddafi in October last year, but the psychological wounds remain open.
The concept of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is new in Libya and mental illness is still a massive taboo in much of the Arab world.
Dr Khaled al Madani, head of psychology at Misrata University, believes more awareness needs to be raised so the thousands of people suffering from PTSD can get access to diagnosis and treatment.
Shockingly Misrata has just one psychiatrist – Dr Isa Asalini, who has now set up a clinic at the city’s medical centre to help citizens struggling with mental health problems.
One patient, former fighter Ahmed (not his real name), agreed to speak to the BBC about his experiences.
Before the war, Ahmed had good career prospects and frequently travelled abroad to trade. Now, he is unable to leave Libya because he can’t get a visa. He sees no future for himself or his family.
“I lost many friends during the fighting,” he says. “Many guys died. Many lost body parts, became amputees, or lost their sight.”
Now Ahmed faces sleeplessness, depression and despair at the realisation that his friends may have died for nothing. He knows it will be many years before the country experiences any kind of stability or freedom.
Even after Gaddafi’s fall, Mistratans have no freedom of speech. If they criticise the revolution – even on Facebook – then they face violence or arrest.
Dr al Madani believes that while young men represent the vast majority of those suffering mental health problems in the aftermath, some women have also been seeking help.
One female patient tried to kill herself three times to end her flashbacks and the constant fear of being raped or killed.
According to Dr al Madini, people in Mistrata need help. They need medication and they need counsellors and psychotherapists to work with them.
Ahmed is finally starting treatment, but his road to recovery will be long.
He says: “I lost my business, I lost my friends and now I don’t have anything left. My dreams are completely broken.”
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