Photo published on Twitpic by Libya14Feb.
Libyan police cracked down on the anti-government protests that followed calls posted on the Internet for a national “Day of Anger”. We spoke to the creator of the main Facebook page behind the call to protest. He explains why February 17 is a symbolic date for Libyans.
According to opposition websites, six people were killed Thursday in clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city. On Wednesday, police violently quashed a demonstration in the eastern town of Al-Baida. The Libyan newspaper Quryna reported that two young civilians were killed in clashes with security forces, but some NGOs reported at least four dead.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said Libyan authorities had detained 14 activists and writers who were reportedly involved in organising the anti-government protests.
Video of anti-Gaddhafi demonstrations in Libya's north-western Nefusa mountains. Video posted on YouTube on February 17 by Libyanz4Freedom.
"Benghazi has always shouted its opposition louder than other cities."
Hassan al-Djahmi is Libyan, but he lives in Switzerland. He called for a “Day of Anger” against the government of Muammar Gaddafi for February 17.
I didn’t pick the date of February 17 by accident. It is symbolic on so many levels for the residents of Benghazi. On February 17, 1987, six people accused of murdering someone close to power were publicly hanged in a Benghazi stadium. On February 17, 2006, a demonstration in front of the Italian embassy in Benghazi was brutally repressed, leaving more than ten people dead.
"The authorities reportedly paid people nearly 17, 000 Libyan dinars [10,000 euros] to quash demonstrations."
Benghazi is a rebellious town which, I hope, will incite the people in Tripoli to rise up, too. Benghazi has always shouted its opposition louder than other cities. Since the Libyan authorities admitted that the 1,200 prisoners who disappeared from Adu Salim prison were actually murdered [in 1996, following a revolt in Tripoli’s Adu Salim prison, over a thousand detainees died under obscure circumstances], the families, who want to know the truth, have been demonstrating every Saturday in Benghazi. The arrest of Fehti Tarbel, the families’ lawyer, has further fueled popular anger.
What happened in Tunisia and Egypt made a strong impression on the Libyan people. I believe that Gaddafi will not be able to hold on to the country for much longer, as he has tyrannically done for the past 44 years. Our struggle is supported by Egyptian and Tunisian Web users, who are relaying our calls for protests online.
I’m counting on the international community to put pressure on the Libyan authorities for the protests not to turn into a bloodbath. But I also know that freedom doesn’t come for free. The powers that be are methodically preparing to suppress the demonstrations: they will pay people almost 17,000 Libyan dinars [10,000 euros] to oppose the protestors.
"From Switzerland, I campaign so that everyone will know that Gaddafi has imposed the worst dictatorship in the Arab world."
I left my country ten years ago. I used to live in Benghazi, but I was forced to leave because my ideas would have gotten me locked up. For the past 20 years, I have been campaigning from Switzerland for Libyans to be able to exercise their rights one day. I want the world to know that Gaddafi has imposed the worst dictatorship in the Arab world.
Libya is a very rich country that has vast oil reserves, unlike Egypt and Tunisia. Nevertheless, the population does not benefit from this blessing, and many Libyans live on just 120 Libyan dinars [70 euros] a month. There are people who still live in tents, it is unbelievable! People who can afford it travel to Tunisia or Syria for their health care needs. Poor people die in Libya. When someone leaves the hospital alive, we say it’s a miracle."
Post written with the collaboration of Peggy Bruguière, journalist at FRANCE24.