Cutting Through Libya’s Post-Qaddafi Fog: An Interview With Libyans (Part 1)

Libyan fog
Libyan fog. Photo by @2011feb17

Interviewing Libyans
Less than a month ago, on October 20, 2011 Libya was liberated from a 42 years old dictatorship. An eight months long popular uprising celebrated its victory when Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi lost his life under unclear circumstances in heavy fighting during the rebels’ final and successful assault on his hometown Sirte.

Subsequently NATO ended its Libyan military mission and most mainstream news sources seem to have largely shifted their attention on to the ongoing Syrian popular uprising, and away from Libya. This article attempts to provide firsthand information from Libya and covers the first part of our interview series with Libyans where we find out more about the current state of affairs in their country, their views on actual topics, as well as their personal stories related to the February 17, 2011 popular uprising.

For the purpose of this article an Internet survey was conducted with Libyan residents and expats on a variety of topics. Due to privacy reasons most of the interviewees’ names will remain confidential.

sirte libya post qaddafi
Post-war Sirte, Libya. Photo from: CBC

The Professor
The Professor is a 45 years old father of four who works at the The University of Tripoli, and who by his own account “witnessed the revolution from A to Z” and “whole-heartedly supported the February 17 revolution because it was in pursuit of democracy and freedom of speech, which were non-existent since 1969.” Here is his story:

“I did not like the way the Gaddafi regime handled the peaceful protests that started early on and was appalled with how aggressive and brutal the reaction was. I saw videos of people shot at with anti-aircraft 14.5 caliber guns. My relatives in Benghazi were telling me horrible stories of oppression during the first week of the uprising.

I refused to go to work in a form of civil disobedience just like many of my friends and family, and because of that I was suspended from work on April and my salary was discontinued. Still I did not go to work and did not regret it.

I’ve managed to get internet access (2-way satellite), which was set up by my brother who is a computer engineer and an expert in internet and related technology. I started to tweet whatever info I could get from my extended family relatives and many of my friends who are distributed around Tripoli. I went with the twitter name @2011feb17 (Tweeting Tripoli).

People revolted because they wanted Democracy and Freedom of Speech…

The revolution had the support of all kinds of people, the poor and the rich. Even people who were doing fine have decided that 42 years of oppression was enough.

And yes, I believe the Arab Spring was a catalyst, but Libyans had many times tried to revolt and were met with deadly force. People tried to protest back in 1976, which was known as the students’ revolution, and many teachers and students were hanged in public squares and university stadiums (The April 7th massacre). There were many more, in Benghazi and Derna in the 90’s, in Bani Walid in 1993…”

As for what’s coming next for Libya, according to The Professor, it is:

“The start of a new era, and the beginning of a new Libya.
If all goes as the majority of Libyans want, it might turn out to be a good stabilization to the region. Gaddafi was a known trouble maker for Libyans and for the entire region.

Libyans are moderate Muslims. They want a peaceful and prosperous life. I really hope they get it.”

Libyan rebels
Libyan rebels. Photo from: The Daily Mail

Proud Libyan Rebel
@LibyanProud, a Libyan from Tripoli, who “partied in Tripoli for 48 hours“ following Qaddafi’s death, writes that he:

“[originally] joined the protests in Tripoli on the 20th of February after hearing that my relatives were being shot at in Benghazi. I had to flee Libya in March to avoid an unpredictable punishment by Gaddafi. I did everything i could to support the revolution, I’ve ran an information gathering unit for the Rebels in Tunisia across the border.”

He explains the reasons for the popular uprising:

“Libya has been living under tyranny for 42 years, the Arab Spring was the source of courage, and that tyranny can fall if the whole country is united in fighting for freedom. The Gaddafi regime was built on “FEAR”, if Libyans spoke up, Gaddafi would jail/kill the whole family and sometimes neighbors and friends. When Libyans stood up to Gaddafi it made it hard for Gaddafi to kill/arrest everyone, but he did try.”

As for what Qaddafi’s death means to Libya, he says:

“My opinion is that what happened to Gaddafi was the only way to give Libyans real closure. The fall of Gaddafi is the beginning of a NEW and Free Libya. We are not afraid to speak up and we will never allow for any tyrant to rule us again. Libyans should worry about Libya for once. We want to be free!”

Dawn of new Libya
Freedom fighter in Libya. Photo from: ABC Australia

Back in Libya
Our next respondent, @Libya17Feb who “was born in Libya, but lived in UK for 16 years and now is back to Libya again,” tells us the following personal account of events:

“Although I was in UK, me and my family/friends tried our best to support the Libyan revolution. By contacting media, by going to protest in solidarity with the Libyan revolution, and by creating a Twitter account for Libya youth to have their views and news reached out to the world, especially during the 6 months tight security on Tripoli, when hardly any news was coming out of the city, but friends there had courage to risk their lives and call to give news when ever they can, and then i would tweet the latest news on their behalf.

We were waiting for 17th Feb especially after the success of the Egyptian revolution.. but 15th Feb in Benghazi was a big surprise for us all.. Me and my family were worried about Libya, we were scared of bloodshed and worried that Gaddafi might even silence everyone, especially media, and then the story won’t be out like in 2006 and many times before.. We were worried it will be a tribal war, especially if Gaddafi Libyan Followers killed the Libyans, the Families will start looking for the one who killed their son and it will go on further more. But to our luck Gaddafi brought more Mercenaries than the original Libyans, which stopped the Tribal family war.

People in Libya always wanted to up-rise and to say no to Gaddafi, but they knew if they did so, they will be killed and their families will be harmed. But after seeing the uprising in Tunisia and Egypt, it gave the Libyan people support and hope, and with the spread of media, it also gave calmness to the people that as long as the world finds out what has happened in Libya they will succeed. Because many times before, people here in Libya have done an uprising against Gaddafi, but because of no media coverage, no connection between the cities by telephone or internet, no one finds out about the uprisings until years later. Other reasons for the popular uprising is the hard life Libyans were living under the Gaddafi regime. There was no fairness, no hope, everyone just wanted to flee from Libya and seek for a better life outside Libya, to bring up their children and make them live a better life.

I am in Libya right now, life is back to normal, everyone is waiting for the future Libya and everyone wants to participate in developing and building Libya from scratch. People are very excited and all have hope. There are still some problems that need sorting out but slowly, slowly everyone is helping each other and trying to understand each other to solve their problems.“

Benghazi Libya
Pre-war Benghazi, Libya. Photo from: Tour d’Afrique

Libyan Expat
Most of the Libyan expats interviewed for this article were very much involved in supporting the freedom fighters and followed the events closely as they unfolded. Here is the story of a Canadian Libyan expat:

“Although I wasn’t in Libya during the revolution, my friends and I found other alternatives to help from where we were. The Libyan community in my area took on many initiatives to support our brothers and sisters back home; organized fundraisers, numerous demonstrations, held a community BBQ, auctioned revolutionary items, organized dinners, etc. In addition, my father also went back to help out with the revolution in April and stayed an extended period of time working with humanitarian organizations to assist the refugees on the Libyan-Tunisian border.

I’ve heard about Qaddafi’s death around 6:30am (around 1:30pm Tripoli time) the same day of his death. My sister frantically woke me up informing me about the shocking news. I ran downstairs to verify with my parents and found my mother in a state of shock curled up in front of Al-Jazeera and my father constantly praising God. I was speechless. It was something I didn’t expect to happen as soon as it did. The room filled with tears of happiness because that symbolized that my homeland was finally free. A surreal moment I and the entire world will remember eternally.

Now that this dictatorial regime has been overthrown, the potential for Libya to reestablish good neighboring and political ties with Africa and the entire world are interminable. Qaddafi tried to damage and corrupt the reputation of Libya and did not represent the people. We now have the opportunity to show the world who the Libyans truly are.“

Saha Kish Square celebrations Benghazi Libya
Libyans celebrating the fall of Qaddafi’s regime in Saha Kish Square, Benghazi. Photo from: Cleveland.com

Post Scriptum
It is important to note that all of our interviewees, including those whose responses we could not publish in this article due to space constraints, have expressed a positive and optimistic attitude about what will be happening in Libya next. The spirit of the Libyan people is high, and judging by what was already accomplished they have all the chances to create a new, free, democratic and prosperous Libya.

Post Postscriptum
Part 2, part 3 and part 4 of the interview series are now available.

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Categories: Arab Spring, Politics

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6 Comments on “Cutting Through Libya’s Post-Qaddafi Fog: An Interview With Libyans (Part 1)”

  1. November 17, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    Fantastic read, thank you! I look forward to reading part 2 when it is out 🙂

  2. November 17, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  2. Cutting Through Libya’s Post-Gaddafi Fog: An Interview With Libyans (Part 3) | The Artichoke - November 25, 2011

    […] our original interviews with Libyans and Libyan expats (part 1, part 2), which took place after dictator Muammar Gaddafi lost his life, but before his son Saif […]

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    […] the fourth and final chapter of our interview series with Libyans (see: part 1, part 2, part 3), we will be touching some of the hot button topics, and more specifically the […]

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