Ten years later, Libyan revolutionaries live with wounds and unfulfilled dreams | World news
MISRATA, Libya (Reuters) – As revolution swept through their region in 2011, three young Libyans joined mass protests against Muammar Gaddafi’s four-decade rule. They now live divided by the Libyan front lines, their future irrevocably shaped by the uprising.
The first protests against the Gaddafi regime began in the eastern city of Benghazi on February 17, 2011. A decade later, Libya is still divided between rival factions, and shell holes and shrapnel mark its cities.
The United Nations supported a new effort to unite the warring Libyans through an interim government and national elections later this year. But many Libyans remain skeptical.
Osama Ali al-Aguri, a graduate of Benghazi, was unemployed in 2011 and at the time denounced what he called “the injustice that we have suffered and which we have heard from our fathers and grandfathers”.
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As the fighting spread throughout the summer of 2011, he joined in the assault on Tripoli. When he and a comrade went to recognize an attack, Gaddafi’s forces spotted them.
“There was massive gunfire at us. I was shot in the leg,” he said. His comrade was killed. He ended up in a wheelchair, paralyzed from waist to toe.
He condemns many of those who emerged as leaders in 2011. âThe revolution has been stolen from honorable people now in their graves,â he said.
As the country crumbled further, he joined many others in the east in backing Khalifa Haftar, chief of the eastern military forces whose attempt to capture Tripoli failed last year. .
Aguri said his injury was life changing. Now 34, he lives for his two children, he said, and for his job he goes to the cattle market every morning to buy and sell cattle.
Hisham al-Windi came from a family that did well under Gaddafi – his father was a diplomat. But after participating in protests, he learned he was wanted by the police and fled to Tunis.
Traveling to southern Tunisia, he passed through a rebel-held border post and joined their fight in the mountains to the west. “I was in the fight for several months,” he said.
Windi was among the first fighters to storm Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli. Wandering through the rooms where the chief had lived, he found an object known to all Libyans – his brocade military hat.
Interviewed that day on television with the hat on, Windi expressed his hopes for the future, briefly gaining international recognition as the face of the Libyan uprising.
âFirst I wanted to say that the Libyans were not as bad as people thought. And I also said ‘Gaddafi is over and we have to rebuild,'” he said.
He now works in Tunis and has high hopes for a change.
âPeople say to me, ‘You were part of this disaster. How do you like it now? ‘ Well, of course not. But that doesn’t mean you have to choose between Gaddafi and chaos. Revolution is a process. We have to build a new Libya that we deserve, âhe said.
In Misrata, then 20-year-old Malek Salem al-Mejae began fighting in 2011 when his town was attacked by Gaddafi forces.
This July, he too was injured, losing a leg.
âI was in the back of the truck. A missile fell behind us,â he said. âSome of my friends were killed. I was treated in Tunisia, then I returned to Libya.
He had hoped to see much greater progress in Libya than he made in the past decade, and blames Libya’s post-revolutionary leaders for the country’s failure to unite.
“Unfortunately, the situation is as you see it after 10 years of wars. The politicians, who were in charge of the task, were not up to the task.”
(Reporting by Ayman al-Sahely in Misrata, Reuters Libya newsroom and Angus McDowall in Tunis; editing by Mike Collett-White)
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