One year on from the Libyan revolution, and five months from the fall of Gaddafi, the voice of the youth of revolution resonates loud and clear.
This is the first time that I am writing about the Libyan revolution. Initiated on 17 February 2011 the revolution was sparked from Shajara Square, “Tree Square”, in Benghazi, described as the “beating heart of Libya.”
I am writing these words this very moment from the 12-12 Café in the centre of Shajara Square. This might be a coincidence of many coincidences that may occur, but I do not believe in coincidence; I believe in destiny, and I believe that people make their own destiny. We made the destiny of Libya in a holy historic moment when we marched out on 15 February to the Square. Barely a hundred in number, we were among those who responded to the desperate appeals of a woman, and faced Gaddafi’s security forces, the same forces that did not allow a whisper of freedom for half a century. On that night, her cries were the loudest. “Free Libya,” she demanded, as did all of us.
It is this freedom that has cost us thousands of martyrs, and thousands of families exposed to various violations of rape, displacement, theft and murder. The price of freedom is not light – we paid the price of freedom with blood. During the long dictatorship, we were robbed of institutions, hospitals, centres of advanced research, scientific organisations, law and a free media, and we were riddled with poverty. All Libyans were employed for the sole project of their leader: the project of Muammar Gaddafi was Muammar Gaddafi. He was the leader, the guide, the thinker, the first teacher, the first doctor, the greatest architect, the first athlete and several other self-proclaimed titles, ending with “the king of kings.” Before the revolution began, he was promoted to a new title, “the conscience of the world”, and it was this very conscience that ordered barbaric acts of violence to silence those who demanded freedom of Libya. Hundreds fell dead, but millions joined the demonstrations as one, determined to finally overthrow the regime.
Millions joined our weekly demonstrations aiming to overthrow the dictatorial rule. We demanded a free state based on democracy, law, justice and equality. After having ruled Libya with blood and fire for nearly half a century, we demanded Gaddafi to leave, so that we may build our country with our own hands. He chose to respond by ordering the murder of all those who called for freedom, leaving hundreds dead in the streets – nameless bodies, the never-ending martyrs of Libya.
Soon he appeared in a terrifying televised speech only to compare our demonstrations with the most heinous crimes in history. He threatened us with tyranny and terror, to kill us “house by house, person by person”. True to his word, he equipped thousands of mercenaries with weapons and military arms purchased by the country’s wealth, and ordered the attack on the peaceful city of Benghazi. By the grace of God, the youth of Benghazi and its neighbouring cities were able to repel Gaddafi’s mercenaries and, later, with the help of international forces, we succeeded in achieving our goal. Almost eight months on, Libya and the entire world, was rid of Muammar Gaddafi. We threw the page of this dictator into the dustbin of history.
There have been numerous political gatherings since the fall of Gaddafi. In Benghazi, for example, there were tens of lectures, workshops and seminars held. You would not have found these halls booked for political activities just a month earlier. Children also participated in the demonstrations and voluntary activities and artists exhibited their work on the walls of buildings. These paintings embodied the hopes and aspirations of Libyans, and also listed the sacrifices made by Libyans for salvation from the dictatorship. Tens of songs were authored in a various accents, including the Arabic or Libyan Amazigh-Berber dialects, as well as foreign languages, telling the story of the nobility of the sacrifices made by the the Libyans.
Today, there are those who are trying to circumvent the objectives of our revolution and are working to block the transition from the revolution to the state. Recently, from Shajara Square, we announced a new revolution against the National Transition Council (NTC), which is temporary and non-elected. We demanded the resignation and the departure of president and vice president, and to go back to the values of the revolution of 17 February 2011, to build Libya on the correct foundation. We formulated our demands in 18 points which were placed on a huge poster – funded by the youth demonstrators – in the centre of the Square.
We are demonstrating to prevent corruption and lack of transparency, and we are asking for the institutionalisation and democratisation of the state, to build a national army and a national security force, and to develop the educational institutions. We also demonstrating against the NTC issuing legislation, as it has no right to do so, and we are advocating that the international community has no right whatsoever to interfere in the sovereignty of Libya, so that Libya becomes an advanced and developed state.
Today, the revolution of the correct form is spreading in all fields of Libyan cities and it continues in Shajara Square, which has become a symbol of change, and political and social debate. I write these words from the Square, where we have just re-planted the shajara, the tree, that was removed by Gaddafi. We have done this to affirm the values of the Libyan people.
In 2011, Libya was reborn. To go from revolution to a stable state, we will require another revolution, and this will always begin from Shajara Square.
Photo Credits: Ahmad Al-Gamaty
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