It is odd how everyone on the Left were falling over themselves about the “Arab Spring” in Tunisia, and especially in Egypt where in fact it was the young people of the Left that had started the protests, yet these same people have been virtually silent about the revolution in Libya. Perhaps it is because Libya was renamed “The Socialist Republic of Libya” by Moammar Gaddafi. What is really odd is that the action that was sanctioned by the UN in order to protect the civilians of Libya has also been condemned by people who normally see themselves on the right of politics. I am at odds with both groups because I have been a supporter of this particular revolution.
The Libyan people have endured close to 42 years of repression and I suspect that most people who have been opposed to getting rid of Daffy Duck have no real idea of exactly how bad was the situation in that country. I have come across some details of the repression that they experienced during those 42 years, and I am not surprised that people of such diverse backgrounds managed to set those backgrounds aside whilst the got the job done in ousting a man who was hated.
What is emerging in Tripoli is a side of Libyans that I personally did not know existed. The repression within Tripoli was severe, but it was Benghazi, Zintan, and Misrata that bore the brunt of Gaddafi’s repressive techniques. I am not talking about what took place in February. I am talking about the fact that the people of Benghazi lost many of their relatives at various times because they were killed or “disappeared” by the regime. There is a very long list of people killed and imprisoned by the regime because they joined a “political party”. I assume that the political party was an Islamist organization of some sort.
Whilst I am a Christian (I am Catholic), I see nothing wrong in a country forming its democratic government upon an Islamic state. This has been done in Turkey, where there has been a secular government. The danger of such an arrangement is that a party that is more hardline can arise and take over. This is a possibility in Libya but that will depend upon the people to a very large degree. Exactly what do they understand about democracy and how would they incorporate Islam into a democratic state? They have to work that out. We cannot assume that it automatically means burqa for all women. In fact in Libya whilst the women do seem to wear a traditional dress, they seem to wear the hijab rather than the burqa. On the other hand, Berber women seem to wear the full dress that hides their faces.
Daffy Duck exploited the tribal nature of Libya, and he did not allow the formation of a government at the national level. There were structures at the local level but nothing on a national basis. It was his way of ensuring that he remained in power. This is why it was surprising that the people of Benghazi, after they had penetrated the fort in Benghazi were quick to restore order in the town, and then set up this opposition council. On top of that they were quick to draw in other tribes to be a part of their council. However, there is no guarantee that they can form a government that is unified.
A good example of what might lie ahead for Libya is the need to recognize the Berbers as something apart from the Arabs and Africans that are also a part of Libya. Just like the way that Gaddafi had repressed the followers of the Sanusi school of Islam, he repressed the Berbers, and would not allow them to speak or write their own language.
The Berbers deserve a very special mention because of their role in the final weeks leading to the taking of Tripoli. The French made the decision to drop arms to the Berber population in the mountains. This was done with an element of trust in these people. It was a gamble. The risk of course was the possibility of arms ending up in the hands of Al Qaeda. However, the Berber commanders have some integrity, and at least one of the men from the mountains registered the arms given out to his people with the intention that such arms are to be returned when the fighting is over. This shows the integrity of such a people. There were stories that people coming from the mountains had committed atrocities. I do not know if such stories were ever verified. People do strange things in a situation of war….. However, the Berbers were ultimately successful in their mission. By the time they took Zawiyah the fall of Tripoli was ready to happen.
The other group that deserves a very special mention is the people from Misrata. They were under fire, under siege for several months but they finally managed to stop the shelling of Misrata. The danger to Misrata comes directly from Sirte. Anyway these fighters from Misrata were isolated from the eastern revolutionaries, being cut off by land and almost by sea. They had siezed the port of Misrata and that is how the humanitarian aid ships were able to drop of medical supplies and remove the wounded from Misrata. After breaking the siege it wa on to Zlitan where things moved slowly for a while, and these fighters were eager to get to Tripoli.
On the day that the people of Tripoli rose up, there were land and sea forces from Misrata approaching the city, as well as the forces coming via Zawiyah. The people of Tripoli were given the signal via the imams inside the mosques. They began to sing the old national anthem. This was the signal that told the people of Tripoli that the time had come for them to go into a full-scale revolt.
In the aftermath of the battle in Tripoli there have been scenes of a massacre. The latest was the discovery of more than 100 burnt bodies in a warehouse close to the base that had been held by the Khamis brigade. Amongst the civilian bodies there were some soldiers with their hands tied behind their backs – obviously these were men who had refused to shoot their own people. This was the second or third site where there had been evidence of a massacre. The Abu Salim prison held similar evidence. On top of that the snipers (employed by Daffy Duck) had been picking off civilians in their own homes. Those snipers had been terrorising Tripoli since February.
These are the scenes of the last vestiges of the repression of Gaddafi. The people had managed to come together to revolt against this man. He thought that he could keep his power through threats of violence as well as through the summary punishment of those who had opposed him. It had worked for most of those 40 plus years.
The stories that I have been reading about the aftermath of the fighting in Tripoli have been as sobering as they have been hilarious. The repressed people who had been too afraid to speak out had held back on their real feelings, but some of the antics have been hilarious. Perhaps the best has been those who have taken to imitating Gaddafi in clothing that had been “liberated” from the Gaddafi compound. The new sport has been making fun of Daffy Duck including calling him “frizzy head”. It could be said that the underlying sense of humour is something that kept this people going during the years of repression.
The revolution was started by members of the families of the 1200 that were killed in Abu Salim prison. It started because their lawyer was called in for questioning. A small group staged a protest. They were unarmed and Daffy goons picked them off, shooting and killing them. The shooting of this first group led to the groundswell of protests. Daffy had imprisoned and killed anyone who opposed him. Some of the executions were very public, with the intent of stopping further opposition. However, this is never the case, and Daffy was to learn that he could not keep power forever, because of the hatred towards him that was being harboured in the hearts of these people.