Monday, August 22, 2011

27th Day: Libya Overcomes

Benghazi was the first liberated city in Libya and the
"cradle of revolt against" Gaddafi -
[Malaysian Insider]
The Libyan Revolution won on the first hour of this day in an unanticipated advance that sent shocks across the World. 

Again, I was unable to go to sleep before I was sure the news were completely true and before I examined the euphoric chants of tens of thousands of residents of Benghazi (freed during the first phases of the revolution). Those were enough proof that the revolution has overcome months of fighting. Young Tripolitanian men stomped the portraits of the colonel, firing guns in the air in celebration, and news about residents welcoming the revolutionaries with open arms were spreading across the news. I am still amazed by how fast things have unfolded in the past 24 hours.

The revolution had officially started on February 17th (Twitter's Hashtag #Feb17) after Libyans called for marches against nearly 42 years of brutal dictatorship under Col. Muammar Gaddafi. During the first days of the revolution, Television stations brought clips of demonstrations literary growing as they marched on high-ways across Libya. 

Some said that a joke that dispersed quickly from Tunisia to Egypt had stirred the uprising. The joke goes as follow: "Tunisians, having won the revolution and got rid of their own tyrant, ask Libyans [whose country is situated half way between them and Egypt] to stoop a little so they can see the real men of Egypt". The joke quickly dispersed across the region, touching on the traditional and historic machismo of Libyan men. The joke may have brought few laughs here and there but it certainly was an insult to the man-hood of Libyan men who quickly wanted their leader out. 

Gaddafi Airplane and Iron-Fist Sculpture, symbol used
to crush US planes and the Libyan opposition- from
Certainly, the joke could not have toppled a regime, but people went out on the streets two days before the proposed date for the revolution in an act of rebellion on February 15th inspired by two successful revolutions in their Arab neighboring countries and in defiance of Gaddafi who was claiming that Libya cannot be as "stupid' as it's neighboring nations. Gaddafi who had praised Tunisia's Ben Ali after he was ousted and claimed Egyptian revolutionaries were hired US Agents with Agendas, was already way too overdue in the eyes of young Libyans who now wanted to be part of a changing region. Gaddafi first claimed that the uprising in Libya was being run by mislead kids who brought some of what remained of the alleged agendas from Tahrir Square (suggesting the agendas were actual documents!).  

The further the revolution ignited the more Gaddafi was finding creative terms to brand the revolutionaries. During his infamous cuckoo speech at his compound which was left in ruins for 25 years after it was bombed during a US assault on Tripoli in 1986, Gaddafi called the rebels "rats" "roaches" "stray dogs", and claimed they were victims to "hallucination pills" and other drugs, urging their parents to "take them inside their homes" before they would cause further damage. 

But the revolution continued, and soon, it was no longer being referred to as a revolution on various televisions and other media sources as terms describing the situation shifted from "civil unrest" to "civil war". Soon, I lost track of what was happening there since the news were similar everyday and I feared Libya will be divided into two countries: The Eastern Libya with Benghazi as it's capital city (historically known as Cyrenaica) and Western Libya with Tripoli as it's capital city (historically known as Tripolitania). 

The NATO intervension was making the picture even bleaker. With the little trust I and so many numerous Arabs had of it (regardless of the , it was hard to continue openly support all of the decisions taken by the revolution. Nonetheless, I could not disapprove of bringing in the NATO decision, as I was certainly not the one living under a maniac and an oppressive dictatorship. My discontent was the decisions taken by the NATO alliance especially with the war taking way longer than having anticipated which I feared will be paid for heavily by Libyans after the revolution.

Today, I felt quite jealous of Libyans. I do admit it, but I felt ecstatically proud as well. The Libyans have taken the route of diplomacy as well as armed resistance in order to achieve their goal towards freedom. Whereas we, the Palestinians, were still discussing the feasability of calling in the NATO forces, affirming our embracement of sterile Arabist nationalist polimics, and the futile support of losing non-armed martyrs with absolutely zero-gains and losses on all ends.

Today, so many Libyans expressed their joy via twitter. Some of the most disheartening tweets came from @ShababLibya (LibyanYouthMovement) who recalled his uncle “Sadig Al Shwehdi, one of the most famous victims of Gaddafii's crimes hanged on live TV in the 80s”. To recall every single crime committed by Gaddafi is a taint in the face of humanity, one that stood in silence watching decades of brutality go unaccountable for. 

Most Palestinians I know were happy that today marked the day Libya’s Gaddafi was gone. Many Palestinians recall Gaddafi with utmost abhorrence: On the one hand he was the one who kicked Palestinians out to the borders of Libya ordering them to go back home to liberate Palestine if they so wished to. His insults towards the Palestinians were not over even only last week as Gaddafi branded fleeing Tripolitanians and other Libyans as “Palestinians and Somali’s”, in an attempt to stigmatize these nations, and degrade Libyans taking refuge far from fighting. On the other end, few Arabs and Palestinians were quick to judge the revolution based on its decision to allow NATO forces. Via twitter, one of the most expressive tweets regarding the situation came from @Cyrenaican, a Libyan who wrote in admonition: “How dare you let NATO intervention trump ur sympathy or support for the Libyan ppl, who fought vs this brutal regime w/ everything they had […] We fought and died, with incredible bravery, sacrifice. How can you not be happy for us? Why should we not celebrate?” 

I felt an urge to respond to him, to tell him that we supported him and all other Libyans who were hungry for liberation and freedom. Palestinians have made numerous mistakes when it came to our POV regarding other’s decisions when it concerned freedom and liberation: We made the mistake in Iraq, in Kuwait, even in PLO’s official stance on Western Sahara which angered those who assumed they could find in a Palestinian supporter further reason for an international sympathy. The mistake could not have repeated itself in Libya. Why should we exemplify revolutionaries yet dare make so many numerous mistakes when it comes to the freedom and independence others seek? 

I showed my support of Libya from the beginning, and I still do. I know Cyrenaicans now know the true taste of freedom, and so are all Libyans who fought tirelessly until this day. 

On the 27th day prior to an alleged Palestinian Authority “Statehood”, I am not confident the PA has stood on the right side of the equation. Once again, we are frowned upon by those seeking freedom. The Palestinian Authority is too cautious to take strong sides, and to assert itself as a decisive decision maker in the region. What seems to matter to the PA is to keep a neutral stance as to keep the room open had things shifted in the future. The PA, once again, proves to be playing an endless political game in order to secure the most gains, even when it came to a revolution already won.

PS: By the time this article was written, Col. Muammar Gaddafi's whereabouts were unknown. Two of his sons were arrested and one of them already escaped with the help of some of the remaining Gaddafi forces.