Ballad of a Fallen City

Blood trickled down the side of his face as his chest heaved it’s last breath. Around him, the fighting raged. Explosions shook the ground. Windows rattled in their panes. The sun dawned on a neighbourhood-turned-battleground. No one knew who the two sides were. It’s gotten too difficult to keep track of all rumors floating around.

Six men were killed on Friday night.

I wrote this about a month ago. The incident turned out to be clashes between special forces and possibly members of the militia group Der’a Libya (Arm of Libya). The men who died were members of the special forces. Like most of the incidents that have plagued Benghazi, we still don’t have definitive answers as to what happened, and no one has been held accountable.

I refrained from posting it a month ago because I felt that it was too morbid a conclusion; Benghazi has never fallen. It has bled, suffered and stumbled and always rises again. I feel that now the grim truth is unavoidable.

Remember when I said that Benghazi enters a semi-hibernating state during Ramadan? Turns out I spoke too soon.

It started with the assassination of a political activist a couple of days ago. Abdulsalam Al-Mismari was an outspoken man and a hero to many, and his assassination came as a shock to most Libyans, if not for who he was then for the cold-blooded attack carried out on a man coming home from Friday prayers in Ramadan.

We barely had time to recuperate when news of more assassinations were reported the next day. Assassination are not entirely new to the city. Former members of Gadhafi’s interior ministry have always been targets. But this is the first time a political activist has been targeted. Being an outspoken opponent of the Muslim Brotherhood, many claimed they were behind the murder, while supporters of the group say it’s a false flag attack aimed at sowing fitna (discord) between Libyans.

While this was being debated, 1000 prisoners seemingly strolled out of Kuwaifya prison. To call it a jailbreak is an overstatement, as there is video of them with packed bags walking along the side of the road.  There was some finger pointing between PM Zeidan and the denizens of the Kuwaifya district (where the eponymous jail is located), over who let the prisoners out. Only about one hundred have been caught as of now.

Yesterday at sundawn, after the call to prayer finished and we broke our fast with dates and milk, we heard two explosions. Opening social media sites confirmed our suspicions. Two bombs were set off outside two of Benghazi’s courthouses, one of which is the symbol of the revolution where we demonstrated almost daily.

This attack hit home. The courthouse had been a constant target during the revolution by Gadhafi, but he never managed to touch it. Now, after being liberated from his grasp, it has been demolished. Houses near it were affected by the explosion, as well as the 7-October hospital across from the other courthouse.

Today, there have been further reports of another, smaller, car bomb, the escape of 15 mental patients, and the take-over of an office building by criminals.

If you have been reading this blog, you know that I’m usually optimistic, if not resolute, about the fate of my city. It has seen occupation from the days of the ancient Greeks until the Italians, it endured under the deliberate destruction by Gadhafi, and remained a thorn in his side to his dying day.

The people of Benghazi have always been known for their kindness, intelligence and strength; even now, one of the courthouses is being repaired just a day after the explosion. But can a city, after centuries of endurance, finally succumb? 

We hardly have a government to protest to, members have been resigning daily. Can you protest against armed thugs, who don’t think twice about the value of human life?

I love this city, and watching it being continuously terrorized is painfully beyond belief. I don’t know what to say anymore.

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