On February 15, 2011, two days before the scheduled ‘Day of Anger’, Libyan women relatives of the prisoners of Abu Salim correction center, staged one of their usual protests in Benghazi to demand answers to the disappearance and/or death of their loved ones in this infamous Muammar Gaddafi prison. The notorious prison was a place reserved for activists, political prisoners and other individuals Libya's former strongman deemed detrimental to the ‘Jamahiriya’ system.
Having as its backdrop the Tunis and Egypt overthrow of dictators in the wake of the ‘Arab Spring,’ the Libyan Revolution was unlike any other. The rest as they say is history as Libya descended into an armed revolution, heavily supported by NATO forces from the air.
The ride to democracy has been quite bumpy, though we have had three governments without bloodshed in less than two years. Also against all odds, Libya held a model election in July 2012, which carried with it a message of hope having been won by non-Islamist parties as Asma from @LibyanBentBladi says:
@LibyanBentBladi: Trend setters, that's what we Libyans have always been.Election Results in Libya Break an Islamist Wave http://nyti.ms/Mc1Tk2
However, on the second anniversary of the February 17 Revolution as it is now known, the promises of the revolution of turning New Libya into a prosperous democracy have not been achieved. The Libyan government, shunning external aid, has failed to secure the borders and arms stockpiles, making the country the largest smuggling place on earth and Libyans the biggest arms dealers.
Mishandled priorities, the continued shunning of justice and reconciliation and evident gross corruption has put a damper on the euphoria, exacerbating the grievances from various groups and regions. Exiled in Libya's sorrowful rendering of his/her experience as a displaced person is a prime example of unresolved issues:
“Farewell my beloved home,
someday I will return
abode of my happiness – my dignity
solace of my white-haired years
sanctuary of my weary body
will my hand ever turn the key in your door again?
Will my bare feet walk in your fields
sinking into the cool soil once more?
Shall I find the carob tree standing strong
in defiance of the wild winds?
The roses I nurtured against the odds,
the jasmine fluttering in the breeze,
will they be there to welcome me?
the hoopoe at my window- will it remember me?
“I miss you! I miss you,” I cry
The knowing , the belonging
the beauty of the morning lights
the azure of the early nights
I am bereaved, I have lost my home
Uprooted and exiled,
how long must I wander?
How far must I roam?”
Libyans, like Sarah from @LibyafromFrance, were also shocked for example to see that the Supreme Court was able to speed through a law allowing Libyan men to take a second wife without the permission of the first thus repelling the Gaddafi era law which controlled polygamy, yet we are still waiting for a transitional justice law.
@LibyaFromFrance: What a title “@AlArabiya_Eng: Time for men in #Libya to look for a second wife: Supreme Court http://goo.gl/ruqkn “
The growing take over of the Islamists in public spheres and their pandering to militias allowed them to pontificate more and more culminating in the assassination of the US Ambassador to Libya in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. This marked a turning point with increased political kidnappings and killings in Libya, anchoring firmly the view that the elected government was impotent, slow and disconnected from the real Libyan problems. The voices calling for federalism were now stronger till they reached their crescendo a couple of months ago with a planned second revolution on February 15 in Benghazi with the logic that they started it and so could do it again to correct the wrong. The list of demands ranged from the resignation of political figures to installing a federalist system.
Having foreigners warned from traveling to Libya was the last straw it seemed as expressed by Highlander here.
The latest travel advice to Libya makes even me who live there to be scared to travel in Libya
All these negative emotions and disappointments and the increasing security fears from Gaddafi loyalists succeeding in hijacking this planned protest for their own counter revolution had an enormous toll on Libyans with many like Hanan Saeed from Romana writes not feeling very celebratory.
“What exactly are we celebrating? Seriously?
I do not know, let's see, lack of law and order?
Or perhaps new instilled terror and not being able to leave our houses after Margreb prayers?
Profound hatred for anyone publicly holding a gun?
Or better yet, the new norm of seeing guns in broad daylight?
hmmm I struggle at finding things to add to this list….[…] Until then, for me at least, the 17th of February is nothing but a sad reminder of what we were hoping to be, not what really is.”
Libyans were wondering where had that special mood of unity and victory over evil gone in the run up to the anniversary of the revolution which will be stretching over a long weekend? But somehow preparation for celebrations started earlier than anticipated and moved to proper celebrations in Tripoli in various districts.
As Ruwida Ashour from Omar Almokhtar's Daughter has posted:
“everyone without any alarm remembered how we acted those days 2 years back and trying to make their best to make the city safe and happy, I was really a bit worried about my city , not from anything but from those who tries to make the black picture about Benghazi , but with today I'm not just happy , i'm hyper , and again not worried about the great heroes (Benghazi Citizens ) “
Hundreds of young men rose up to the occasion across Libya ensuring security of the cities during in anticipation of the anniversary and earned the gratitude of the population like here from Maimuna of @fcukruna who tweeted:
@fcukruna: Hats off to all shabab bladi [young men of my country] standing at checkpoints on this cold night, all my love and appreciation to you <3! #Libya
It seems that only when the Federalist Party confirmed they would not be joining the February 15 planned demonstration in Benghazi that the country heaved a collective sigh of relief and went crazy as witnessed by the Libyan Youth Movement @Shabablibya in this tweet:
@ShababLibya: Just Skype'd in to our admin in #Benghazi Shara3 Jamal Street; crazy celebrations!! #libya #feb17 RT
“In a surprise announcement on Al-Ro’ya TV last night, Wednesday, the Cyrenaica federalist block announced that it would not be taking part in demonstrations tomorrow that it had originally instigated. It called on its supporters not to turn up. It had made the decision, it said, “for the safety of our communities, the preservation of national unity, our social harmony and to avoid the public getting involved in conflicts at the behest of various political entities and groups.”
The last point refers to concerns that other groups either opposed to the revolution or with different agendas might try to use the occasion for violence”
I will conclude that yes we are still a long way from human rights for men and women, freedom of speech, reconciliation, justice in all its forms and economic prosperity, but so far we have managed to stave off civil war despite being flooded with arms and kept the unity of the land pulling off a last minute show of solidarity regaining that special adrenaline charged feeling post revolution when all dreams were possible. Could this be the real second revolution?