Tripoli: After the Arab Spring comes the spring clean

Residents cleaning up the neighbourhood of Fashloom in Tripoli Tuesday evening.
 
Since the Libyan capital fell to anti-Muammar Gaddafi forces, immigrants have fled Tripoli in large numbers. In their absence, the city’s residents have had to take on tasks usually handled by foreign workers, notably cleaning the city’s streets.
 
These photos were taken in Fashloom, in central Tripoli. Fashloom was one of the first neighbourhoods to rise up against Colonel Gaddafi’s regime. Its residents organised an anti-government protest on February 20, just days after the beginning of the revolt in the east of the country.
 

“Trash piled up in the streets”

Fathi Bassit, 42, lives in central Tripoli. He works in advertising and communications.
 
Trash has always been a problem in Tripoli, even under Gaddafi’s rule. During the seven months of revolt, however, the problem became worse. Trash piled up in the streets, because cleaning it up was a job done by black immigrants working for the public cleaning company. When the revolt started, most of these immigrants left the country or stayed home. Even more of them left once Tripoli fell.
 
Neighbourhood committee leaders realised that this situation posed serious sanitary risks, so they decided to launch a major cleanup campaign. [After the Gaddafi regime’s fall, on August 24, residents of Tripoli set up neighbourhood committees to deal with local matters. These committees are made up of five people: a president, a head of security, a head of medical affairs, a head of public affairs, and a head of charity. Each of them is helped by dozens of volunteers.]
 
These past few days, many young people came together to clean up their neighbourhoods, particularly in neighbourhoods that support the National Transitional Council, like Fashloom and Tadjoura.
 
In pro-Gaddafi neighbourhoods, like Bouslim, residents aren’t doing anything. The roads are dirty and trash is piling up outside people’s homes. Near Bab el-Azizia [Colonel Gaddafi’s former headquarters], the streets have only been cleaned a little."

“People were so motivated that once all the trash was picked up, they started renovating the streets”

 
Mohamed Salim Gashout is 39. Before Tripoli’s fall, he worked in the tourism sector. His father lives in the neighbourhood of Fashloom.
 
The Fashloom neighbourhood committee declared Tuesday a ‘day of cleaning.’ Making the city cleaner was a top priority – residents complained about the awful smells and the trash bags that had been cluttering the sidewalks for months.
 
Many volunteers came out to help: people who were unemployed, people who had jobs, students, shopkeepers… They got cleaning supplies from a cleaning service, but moving the trash was difficult. They couldn’t use garbage trucks because of the diesel shortage. So civilians loaned their personal vehicles, which run on petrol, to help carry the trash to the landfill.
 
The streets of Fashloom one week before the cleanup. Video published on YouTube.
 
People were so motivated that once all the trash was picked up, they started to renovate the streets. They painted the curbs with parking instructions, because the former instructions had faded away. Clearly, it’s not the work of professionals, but now we have clean and pleasant streets.
 
The regime’s fall has created an incredible sense of solidarity. More than ever, young people want to work and help rebuild their country.”
 
 
Residents of Fashloom repaint the neighbourhood's curbs. 
 

 
 

Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Mahamadou Sawabeh.

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