Libyans marked the 10th anniversary of their 2011 uprising on Wednesday. The uprising led to the overthrow and death of longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi. Many hope the recently named caretaker government will unite the nation as it leads the country through elections in December.
Celebrations began late on Tuesday in the capital, Tripoli, where people gathered on the city’s main square. The area had been cleaned and photos and signs marking the anniversary hung from the buildings.
Hassan Wanis leads the government’s General Authority on Culture. He said celebrations and other events were planned in the three main areas of Libya: Tripolitania in the west, Cyrenaica in the east, and Fezzan in the southwest.
“All people are ready to celebrate…in order to unify the country,” he said.
The uprising was known as the Arab Spring. Following the overthrow of the governments in Tunisia and Egypt, Libyans took to the streets 10 years ago to demand democratic and economic reforms.
Since then, Libya has fallen into chaos, along with Yemen and Syria. Islamic militants and armed groups operate in the country, stealing and trafficking in humans.
Hisham al-Windi was among the first fighters to enter Gadhafi’s palace in 2011. There, he found Gadhafi’s hat, which he wore during a television interview. He became famous as the face of Libya’s uprising. He spoke to Reuters news agency Wednesday.
“People say to me: ‘you took part in this disaster. How do you like it now?’ Well of course I don’t. But it doesn’t mean you have to choose between Gadhafi and chaos. Revolution is a process. We must build a new Libya that we deserve,” he said.
For the past several years, the oil-rich country has had two governments: a U.N.-backed, but weak government in Tripoli and an eastern-based government backed by General Khalifa Hifter. Each is aided by foreign governments. The city of Tripoli is mostly split up in areas controlled by different armed groups.
There have been destructive and violent events.
The most recent was in April 2019. Hifter, who is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia, launched an attack to capture Tripoli. His campaign failed after Turkey increased its military support for the Tripoli government with hundreds of troops and thousands of mercenaries.
The United Nations led months of talks that resulted in an agreement in October. The deal ended the fighting and required the withdrawal of all fighters within three months. It also required the acceptance of a U.N. arms ban.
Most of the requirements of the deal have not been met.
The talks also established the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum. It met earlier this month and named the caretaker government to lead the country through elections on December 24 of this year.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made separate phone calls to leaders of the caretaker government. He told them of the importance of holding the elections and accepting the requirements of the deal, including the removal of all foreign soldiers from Libya. The U.N. says there are around 20,000 such fighters in the country.
Amnesty International released a report to mark the anniversary. It called for arresting and charging individuals involved in war crimes and human rights abuses of the last ten years.
Those responsible for the violence and human rights abuses must be “brought to justice” or the suffering of civilians will continue, said Diana Eltahawy, a local Amnesty official.
She added that the caretaker government must make sure that those who are suspected of crimes are not given positions in the new government.
In the past several years, Libya has become a major transportation point for migrants fleeing the war and poverty of Africa and the Middle East. Human trafficking organizations have grown very large as desperate migrants try to leave by the Mediterranean Sea. Thousands have died, while others have ended up in crowded and dangerous detention centers.
I'm Caty Weaver. And I’m Susan Shand.
The Associate Press reported on this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
chaos – n. a state in which behavior and events are not controlled by anything
interview - n. a meeting at which people talk to each other in order to ask questions and get information
deserve - v. used to say that someone or something should or should not have or be given something
mercenary – n. a soldier who will fight for any group or country that hires him
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