Libyans angry about over-armed society

Posted by on 11 nov, 2013

He is nineteen years old. He drives two and sometimes three cars, and wears Gucci glasses as fashion accessory. He was too young to participate in the revolution of 2011 as a rebel. He is glad that the revolution brought freedom to Libya. And he states one thing with emphasis: “Under Qaddafi you couldn’t talk about politics, but there was safety. I am angry because of the weapons everywhere.”

DSCN0193On the evening of 7 November clashes broke out in Tripoli between rivalling parties from Misrata town and Tripoli’s Souq al-Djuma’a neighbourhood, with a large armed ‘delegation’ of armed vehicles from Misrata entering the capital. For a short period of time the parties turned the capital into a warzone with anti-aircraft missiles flying around. Simultaneously fireworks in other parts of town beautified the sky. On occasions like these, other friends wear bulletproof jackets after sunset.

Five different versions of what exactly happened and why spread. For a country-in-transition with a police and army force under construction, one could stick to the easy version that compares the rivalling parties with football hooligans who settle their scores with weapons. The more complicated version gives an overview of the country’s history, including Al-Qaida affiliated parties, tribes, pro-Qaddafi loyalists and liberal forces.

‘All Libyans’
Next day life looked like business as usual. Yet the incident remains the talk of town. At the grocery store a computer science teacher tells how angry she is. “We don’t want these weapons in our society. Stop fighting over power of politics and tribes. Before the revolution I didn’t even know to which tribe I belonged. I learned a lot about Libya during the revolution. All this talking about tribes doesn’t bring us anything. Most important: We are all Libyans. Work together. Talk instead of fight.”

Banners at the mosque at Maidan Djaza’ir display similar messages. ‘We are with the army and the police, but against armed militias.’ On television on 9 November a parliament delegation summoned the militia Libyan Room of the Revolutionaries to behave more responsibly.

Demonstration 9 Novvember
New elections
Similar voices were heard on Martyrs Square as a demonstration took place on 9 November against the much-discussed prolongation of the transitional governments’ mandate. “We want new elections. This government has done nothing for Libya,” says one of the organisers. “Where is the progress in safety, employment, education and business? Nowhere. We are fed up with this weak government of Zeidane.”

Anger is expressed in graffiti popping-up in Tripoli: ‘Down with Zeidane and the Muslim Brothers’. On Martyrs Square three men from Benghazi with beards hold up a paper: ‘We don’t want an Ikhwan government’, referring to the Muslim Brothers in parliament.

“The army entered Benghazi in an effort to eradicate violence from town. That is a positive development,” says one of them. We don’t want Al-Qaida or any Islamic government. We Libyans are moderate Muslims. We want our lives back; we want safety, good healthy life and work.”