Conflict & Justice

Libya celebrates liberation


Libyans celebrate the announcement of the liberation of the country in Martyr's Square in central Tripoli on October 23, 2011, three days after ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi was captured and killed.


Marco Longari

MISRATA, Libya — In “freedom” squares across the country, millions gathered in a ceremony to formerly mark the liberation of Libya.

Officials from the National Transitional Council spoke to a crowd of thousands gathered in Benghazi to formally announce Libya’s liberation and transition to democracy. The key address by NTC chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil was telecast across the nation.

“Our honor, our money, our blood cannot be touched,” Jalil said speaking to a cheering crowd from a platform in Benghazi’s Freedom Square. “Tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation are necessary for the success of the revolution and the future of Libya.”

Jalil spoke little of the former regime or the controversial death of Muammar Gaddafi, instead he focused on the future of Libya and the efforts of the Libyan people to bring about this revolution.

“What started as a peaceful movement, demanding only human rights, was met with excessive violence,” he said. “God has made this revolution ... We thank those at the forefront — courageous fighters who carried the banner of jihad — who have achieved this victory in the battlefield.”

In Misrata, families celebrated through the night, dressed in the revolution colors of red, green and black. Hundreds waved flags. The sky was filled with fireworks and the sparks of celebratory gunfire. Crowds chanted, “He’s finished, he’s finished. Scruffy hair is finished.”

Women and children, some with painted faces and headscarves made from revolution flags, held banners and sang. Mothers and wives rejoiced over the return of their sons and husbands from the frontline after eight torturous months of constant worry.

“Before, I was always scared for my sons, now they are back sleeping in my home and eating with the family again. I am happy,” said Hamida Delhain, 55, as she celebrated with friends in the square. “Now Gaddafi is gone, all people in Libya are safe.”

“Libya now is transparent, you can see everything,” said Fatma Bodabouse, 30. “There are no more secrets. All people are happy. God is great.”

Jalil gave a special thank you to the women of Libya and the supportive role they have played in supporting the fighters.

“We have not forgotten it was the mothers of the victims of Abu Salim who sparked this revolution,” he said.

The NTC’s Minister for Martyrs Al Rhman Al-Kabisi also addressed the crowds saying this liberation would not have been achieved if not for the thousands of dead and missing Libyan fighters.

“We should not forget the blood of the fallen,” he said.

Al-Kabisi’s promise of caring for the injured and for families of martyrs was particularly important in Misrata, the scene of several protests last month demanding compensation from the new government.

Misratans hold great pride in the key role they played in this revolution, not only freeing their own city but fighting on through to Tripoli in the west and Sirte to the east. They have also paid a high price.

NTC spokesman for Misrata Ibrahim Betamal who was present on the evening referred to Misrata as the core of the Libyan revolution.

“The revolutionaries from Misrata were not an army,” he told GlobalPost. “They were civilians, but they showed the world they are tigers. Everybody must know it was Misrata that made Libya free. Misrata was attacked from every side. No other city faced this.”

Back in Benghazi, Al-Kabisi turned to Libya’s future saying maintaining independence would be harder than attaining it as proved by the 42 years that followed Libya’s previous revolution. He assured the crowds of the NTC’s commitment to democracy.

Islamic law also seems set to play a large role in the forming of Libya’s new constitution. Islamic forces are strong in Libya and there are fears of a puppet government aligned with western allies.

Jalil announced that as a Muslim nation, Islamic law would form the foundation of the new government and any laws contradicting Islamic principles would be suspected immediately.

In particular he referred to laws on marriage and divorce and a planned ban of interest payments in accordance with the laws of Islam.

Religion plays a major role in the lives the Libyan people. Misrata is traditionally one of the most conservative cities in Libya. Strict codes of dress and segregation between the sexes are adhered to. Hundreds of women adorned with headscarves gathered on the left of the stage in freedom square, enjoying a rare chance to speak their minds publically.

“All Libya is at peace now. No more guns, no more killing,” said mother of three, Nora Enhicey, after hearing Jalil’s speech.

Jalil closed his speech by offering his condolences to those effected by the earthquake in Turkey and prayers for the people of Syria and Yemen to achieve the same victory and dignity as the people of Libya.