Libyans Hit Streets Despite Cease-Fire

When shots were heard in Tripoli’s Martyr’s Square Sunday evening, a few protesters scattered. Others cheered, arms aloft, shouting, “Libya! Libya!” But the gunfire ended the anti-government protests in Tripoli, the seat of Libya’s internationally backed government, and authorities blamed “infiltrators” in the ranks of the security forces for the chaos.  Sunday’s rally was the first of its kind in more than five years in Tripoli, Libya, on Aug. 23, 2020. (Salaheddin Almorjini/VOA)It was the first protest of its kind in the city in at least five years, coming only two days after a cease-fire agreement formally ended a more than yearlong conflict that killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands. “We just want simple basic services,” said protester Ahmed Bin Shaaban, 24.  “Electricity cuts out for 15 to 20 hours a day… and medicine and food go bad. … When I go to the bank to pick up my salary, they say ‘We have no cash.’” The protest was planned online for the anniversary of the day rebel forces stormed into Tripoli in 2011, forcing Moammar Gadhafi, who ruled the country with an iron fist for more than 40 years, to flee. He was later executed by rebels. Since then, Libya has been embroiled in political conflicts and a series of civil wars.
By early evening, crowds in Martyr’s Square grew to hundreds, with other rallies in other parts of town attracting hundreds more. Protesters said these troubles, compounded by the coronavirus pandemic and rampant corruption, have left people desperate, angry and utterly hopeless.    A sign at Sunday’s protest said: ‘The land of petrol: Look at the condition of your sons,’ Aug. 23, 2020 in Tripoli, Libya. (Salaheddin Almorjini/VOA)Nearby chants echoed the 2011 protests. Young men shouted, “The people demand the fall of the regime!” “There is no justice, as far as I can see,” Dafus said.  In Misrata, Libya’s third largest city, dozens of people gathered outside of a government building stomping on pictures of officials and holding signs with slogans proclaiming, “We won’t be silent again you thieves!”   The demonstrations were mostly peaceful, but videos online show incidents of attacks on security forces’ vehicles. One person was injured when gunfire broke up the event. It is unclear who organized the protests. By Monday, Tripoli government officials showed support for the protesters, saying it is their right to demand basic services. But officials offered no concrete plans to deliver the services. Libya is still in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, which is particularly frightening since the country’s hospital system is in a state of near collapse from years of war. But protesters said economic collapse from lockdowns has so far proven more painful than the pandemic. “People don’t even have ambitions anymore,” said Dafus. “There are no dreams.”   Salaheddin  Almorjini  contributed to this report from Tripoli, Libya.        

your ad here

leave a reply