Media attention! AlJazeera is taking calls from citizens talking about the protests. Due to Libya’s unique press situation (no reporters or offices except those approved by the government, which is virtually none), they’re depending on eye witness accounts, which means that nothing can be independently verified (a phrase I’ll come to really hate in the following weeks).
After Friday prayers, some brave sheikhs gave a sermon about the state of the country, and why it’s our obligation to change things. One sheikh even called AlJazeera and stated the demands of the protestors.
We get into the car and drive to the scene of action – Jamal Abdul Nasser St. The protesters have already moved on, but evidence of their presence is everywhere. Upturned garbage cans, debris lining the street. But the most shocking – and most incredible – appearance is the graffiti lining the walls. From the beginning of the street to the end (and it’s a pretty long street), slogans like “Down with the Regime!”, “Down with Gadhafi!”, “The People want Freedom!”. This kind of blatant anti-Gadhafi activity would land you a one-way ticket to Abu Sleem prison, where you would not only die in their custody, you’d wish it came as quickly as possible. But now, the veil of fear seems to have been lifted.
As we drive further down the street, we see the downtown ‘mathaba thoria’ (revolutionary headquarters) has been burned. This turns out to be the case for every government building, like the interior ministry and security department. However, police stations, banks, hospitals, etc. remain untouched.
We find out later that some people had been killed, which was the cause of the increased dissent and outrage.
Moving towards the military barrack, the soldiers have spread out even farther, and the noise of the bullets no longer sound like warnings. There are more people here, but keeping a certain distance away from the soldiers.
Opening Facebook, I found a friend online who had also been monitoring the protests. What he told me was chilling – the soldiers spread out through the city did not speak Arabic, they appeared to be from African countries. There were also rumors of men in yellow construction hats armed with clubs, attacking protesters.
Activity concerning Libya has increased on the internet, supporting the Libyan uprising – for that is what it was now, not just some random protests with no clear goals. Apparently there were protests in several cities across the country; Baytha, Derna, Tobruk, Zintan, Tripoli and Misrata. People were tweeting about the protests, maps appeared pinning down areas of activity.
When I look back on it now, it’s seems incredible how quickly we shook off the feelings of disbelief and got down to action. What’s even more incredible is how we answered our country’s call for help without any hesitation. Before the revolution you were hard pressed to find a Libyan who felt anything remotely close to love for the country, but when we saw how people were throwing themselves into the face of danger, I think it was then we realized just how valuable Libya was to us. Neglected and abused, Gadhafi had succeeded in reducing Libya into a mere patch of desert land inhabited by an obscure people.
The rest of the day passed into flurry of updates and a continual search for any new news.