Libya After the Revolution

Photos by Magali Corouge Written by Morgane Taquet On 20 October 2011, following months of fighting, Muammar Qadhafi was killed by Libyan rebels. As the news exploded, images of the blood-stained colonel spread around the world, making it a global event. In Libya today, there is a sense of “before” and “after” Qadhafi. The joy, the tears, the shock was such that everyone knows exactly what they were doing when they heard the news. However, Libyans experienced the fall of Qadhafi in many different ways. A year after the colonel’s death, a series of portraits of Libyan people spanning all social classes allows us to map out the country’s new generation.

"As far as being a citizen goes, I feel free when I wake up every morning. People are discussing politics in cafes, which was inconceivable during Gaddafi'€™s reign. But for journalists, freedom still has its limits. We are still unable to discuss everything, especially things concerning militia. The government still doesn'€™t have the means to protect our profession."
"It'™s true that after Gaddafi's death we’ll probably feel free for the next twenty years! However, we need time and we still cannot trust the countries politics. Our fate lies in our own hands but we need the first thing we need to change is ourselves. Gaddafi brainwashed Libyans so strongly over the past 40 years that the majority of people today are still of the '€œif you'€™re not with us, you€'™re against us'€ mentality. It'€™s one of the worst parts of the regime: Libyans cannot free themselves from this one-way thinking."
"One thing'€™s for sure; we finally have freedom of speech. However it takes a lot longer to change people'€™s attitudes. Those who have lived under Gaddafi'€™s rule for 42 years will not be completely freed in the blink of an eye. I think the people of Libya are only just seeing young people dancing in the streets. It will take some time for them to understand exactly what it is that we do."
"Before we didn't have freedom so the situation has vastly improved, but since the revolution religion has taken up too much space. Islamic religious leaders are heavily involved with the media and their opinions hold more weight than before. No one can tell me how to practice my faith. I would like to see the separation of state and religion. Without this we will never live in a true democracy."
"In the eight months following the revolution the fishing trade slowed down considerably, and so we were focused exclusively on protecting the fishing harbour. I gathered together young men from nearby neighbourhoods and formed an armed group of around 40. Our main goal was to protect the merchandise from theft in the absence of the police, and we never hesitated, as it was our duty as citizens. Strategically, Benghazi was important during the revolution. We helped many thousands of Chinese workers escape via the port, which was also the point of passage for sending weapons and other supplies to Misrata. We also helped to moor cargo ships that were transporting petrol to pro-Gaddafi zones. Since the countries liberation, I'm in charge of around 300 men who are paid to ensure the protection of the Benghazi'€™s harbour and customs control under the authority of the Ministry of Defense. It's all quite ironic considering that before the revolution, I refused to carry out my military service!"
"The revolution gave me the opportunity to get involved in politics, something that was unimaginable before. Since March 2012 I'€™ve been involved in creating the Justice and Development party along with 1400 other founding members. This is a conservative party with similar ideals to the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party in Egypt.  Our aim is to build a political identity for Libya on Islamic principals and I'm so happy that my party is the second political force in congress. Within the party I quickly became the president'€™s secretary: organizing the schedule and taking minutes at meetings. The revolution allowed me to have a great political experience and build a network, but now I want to concentrate on my career and have just accepted a position as the University of Benghazi as an assistant professor."
"Here, the quality of medical services is worse than before due to poor administration. It is difficult to sustain funding as all budgets have gone towards managing medical emergencies and there is a real lack of qualified staff, specifically technicians. We have had a broken down MRI machine for the past three months but as the contract was made with a company that belonged to Gaddafi'€™s right-hand man, everything has come to a halt. I have to deal directly with the French manufacturing company. To only have two MRI's in a city like Tripoli is not good enough. Furthermore, the public gynecological hospital has been closed down and so now only private clinics can accommodate pregnant women."
"During the revolution I still did the call to prayer every day but I also recited the Takbir ('Allah akbar'€), which is usually reserved for Ramadan to give strength to those who are fasting. By reciting this I hoped to spur on the fighters and convey our support.  I specifically remember March 19th 2011, the day of the French intervention in Benghazi. As we gathered together in the mosque we heard Gaddafi's tanks pass by just a few meters away. I'€™ll remember that day'€™s prayers for a long time."
"I was on a flight to London. I left Benghazi with about a dozen other politicians from the opposition to accompany my uncle's wife to the UK. At around midday, the pilot announced over the intercom that Gaddafi was dead and everyone jumped up with joy. A few minutes later at a layover in Istanbul, all of the world'€™s televisions were showing images of Gaddafi's body. Four days later I returned to Benghazi and to my people."
"On that day I was at my brother'€™s house in Tripoli getting ready for my nephew'€™s wedding. I was busy making cakes. The TV was always on as we were following the fighting so I quickly learned of the colonels death. For the first few minutes I didn'€™t know that this man, governor of our country for over 40 years, was dead. Then I felt terribly sad that he had been treated this way: dragged along, held up for all to see, I was disgusted. I would have preferred him to be arrested and made to stand trial. After hearing the news I couldn'€™t concentrate on the cakes anymore."
"For me, the revolution began in the 1960'€™s. I was still at school when I got involved with student anti-royalist protests, during one of which I was wounded. A few months after the 1969 coup against Gaddafi, I attended meetings with other students who were already feeling let down by his regime. In the 1980'€™s, a group of friends and I wrote anti-revolutionary manifestos. In 1984 I was arrested and imprisoned for a year for making anti-revolutionary remarks and was later forbidden to leave the country. As a former revolutionary, I'm proud that Libya brought down Gaddafi. February'€™s revolution is a great historical event, like the overthrowing of Kind Idriss. In my day we had high hopes for our country, wanting to make it an important Mediterranean tourist destination. I'm still waiting to see what the expectations of the Libyan people today are."
"During the revolution, all Libyans were united for one sole purpose: to overthrow Gaddafi and return power to the people. Rivalry pushed us all forward but now personal issues have resurfaces and militia warfare is all the rage. People who have weapons don'€™t want to surrender them out of fear for their own safety, but as long as there are weapons out there, no one is safe! Once they have all killed each other, perhaps I'€™ll start being more optimistic!"
"I'€™m highly optimistic for the future of my country: just look at Benghazi. Despite all of the weapons still in circulation, people are no longer killing each other. It'€™s important to look at where we'€™ve come from to realize how far we'€™ve come today. Forty years of dictatorship is a long time, and Libya has come a long way in terms of law enforcement and political awareness. Now isn'€™t the time to pass judgment on Libyan democracy, but that time will come."
"At 1.30pm I was at school for my last lesson. I left for a few minutes to get a drink of water and on my way back to class I saw images of Gaddafi'€™s body on TV. When I got back to class the teacher shouted, 'œGaddafi is dead, class is over!'€  Everyone at school went out into the courtyard and music started to play over the loudspeakers. I thought of my grandparents in Egypt and how after 39 years of exile, at last they would be able to come home!"
"At the end of May 2011, pro-Gaddafi soldiers came to search our apartment. They were looking for my husband Ismail who's a musician and had written anti-regime articles that he had published online.  At the time I was four months pregnant. They slapped me and during their search, I fell down. Before taking me to prison we made a detour to the hospital where doctors confirmed that I had lost my baby. Afterwards, the soldiers interrogated me about my husband's activities during the revolution and then I was thrown into a women'€™s prison in a building near to the harbour for a week. Finally I was released as I had become very ill. Almost a year has passed but I still suffer from insomnia and nightmares. In April 2012 Ismail and I went to a psychiatric clinic in Cairo, paid for by the Libyan state and now things are looking up. Our return to Tripoli was difficult but now we're expecting another child at the end of the year and our lives are getting back on track."
"I was trained by rebels in Jadu and helped secure towns in Djebel Nefoussa (Northwest Libya). Since the end of the war I have been based in Tripoli. We evacuate and secure state buildings that were illegally occupied by people claiming to be rebels. My life is split between Tripoli and Zwara, one week at the barracks and another on leave with my family. I don't feel like a soldier, it'€™s not the career that I want. I was a revolutionary because I had no choice; I had an obligation to fight. I'€™ll stay at the barracks for as long as it takes to secure the town because the state still needs us, but I can't wait to get back to civilian life and carry on studying. Perhaps I'€™ll continue abroad, in America or the UK. Why not!"
"Before the revolution I was a professional footballer for a premier division club. Since November 2011, I fought for the freedom of Bani Walid, one of the last Kabbalah strongholds. Today I signed a yearlong contract with the Ministry of Defense to be operating chief of protection groups for ministers and official delegations of the Sawak barracks. Though it's not something that I want to do forever, it is a job that I enjoy. I feel as though the revolution changed my identity. I've always loved Libya but now I'€™m proud to be from this country. I want to study and build a family here. Even though my football career is over, I'€™ve found new hope."
"Not seeing Gaddafi'€™s face on the TV everyday is a huge change! However the revolution has had a real impact on the cost of living. On many occasions I had to stop working, sometime for up to a month, because of fuel restrictions. At that time a liter cost almost 10 dinars (0.16 cents currently), and Gaddafi'€™s police frequently stopped taxis. I lost a lot of money during the revolution. For taxi drivers, salary is a difficult issue. In 2011, Gaddafi increased salaries to create allies. Since then traders have also put their prices up however for taxis, the fare remains the same. I am in favor of obligatory meters so the price per kilometer is fixed on a national level."
"On the morning of October 20th I was on my way from Tunis to Tripoli. I was about 60km from the capital when my car suddenly caught fire. It was in the mechanics tow truck that I first heard the rumours. The driver left me in a café in Hammamet, Tunisia where I stayed from 7am until 4pm watching TV; I couldn'€™t tear my eyes away from the screen.  As soon I saw the blood on his face I knew the rumours were true."
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