If you walk along thenorthern edge of Tripoli old town, close to the ancient roman Marcus Aurelius arch,you are most likely going to meet many of the Libyan artists that have beenoccupying small studios in the old European consulates that used to be based inthis area of town. Radwan Abushwisha was walking under the afternoon sun withhis shoulder bag, a bearded middle aged man, with lines of a hard life carvedon his face. Radwan is a poet, writer and painter, who lived for many years inIreland in the 1970’s and 1980’s, is a unique example of the Libyanintelligentsia, that suffered persecution and marginalisation by Gaddafi regimefor their stand against tyranny and social conformity, but continued to beadmired and respected by most new and old generations of Libyan writers andartists.

Earlier in the day Ipassed by one of Tripoli’s main cemeteries, Sidi Hamed, in the Gergarish area,near the beach, after reading reports that the main Sufi shrine inside the cemeteryhas been vandalised and demolished by a group of Salafi extremists, who believethat all Sufi shrines and tombs of Sufi figures to be demolished, claiming thatthey are against the teachings of Islam and is considered idolatry. It has beenreported that factions of the same group managed to vandalise a dozen gravesand shrines in east Libya, and Misrata before they were stopped, and now itseems that they are exploiting the lack of strong authority and centralsecurity apparatus in the capital to push their fanatic agenda. The buildingwas in ruins, and there were marks on the shrine’s dome suggesting the use offire arms. Libyan officials and religious leaders condemned such acts.

Later I made a met poetand activist Ramez Enweseri, who told me how he spent the early days of therevolution in Brega, where he worked as an aviation engineer at Brega oilairport. Ramez spoke about the lack of information in the first days, and how hemade the decision with his colleagues to embark on a dangerous journey back toTripoli along the coastal road, where they were always stopped at checkpointguarded by Gaddafi forces, which were suspicious of any individuals coming backfrom the east. He recalled how in few times they thought that they going todie, managing eventually to reach Tripoli safely after three days on the road.

Not far from al-GhazallaSquare, off al-Baladiya Street, you will find a traditional Libyan cafe thatoccupies a piece of land where the pre-Gaddafi Libyan parliament used to stand,which was demolished by the regime in 1990’s to erase all traces of this historicallandmark of Libyan independence era. I met poet and journalist Khaled Darwishat the cafe known now as (The Parliament Cafe), he told me about how he spentthe days of Tripoli’s liberation in the Fashlum district last August on top ofa building monitoring the movement of remnants of Gaddafi forces. Khaled isplanning to publish a book of memoirs he wrote during the weeks and months hespent in Fashlum and Tripoli, which he hopes will help in preserving part ofthe narrative of the Libyan revolution.

Despite all the ongoingpolitical debate in Libya these days, especially between ‘Islamists’ and ‘SecularLiberals’ which sometimes can reach to absurd levels, I found that many young Libyanactivists were not enthusiastic about joining any of newly establishedpolitical parties and groups, and most are focusing their efforts on either mediaor civil societies. I attended the inception meeting of a newly established civilsociety that will focus its work on promoting and supporting democracy and monitoringhuman rights and the political and election process in Libya in the future. Thesociety which is named (Libyan Observatory to Support Democracy) or (Ain) includesintellectuals, lawyers, doctors, journalists, and academics, many of whom werehuman right activists during Gaddafi era who were persecuted and imprisoned manytimes for their activities.

During this meeting Ihad the chance to meet Ahmed, a freedom fighter, that took part in the firstpeaceful protests against Gaddafi in Gurgi area of Tripoli, where he was shotin the leg, and had to hide for many weeks before joining freedom fighters inNafusa mountains, where he took part in the liberation of Yefren, and thenjoined revolutionary forces on their last push to liberate Zawiya and Tripoli.Ahmed decided after Tripoli’s liberation to focus on working with human rightscivil societies, especially investigating the circumstances of the 1996 AbuSalim prison massacre, which his father was one of the victims of this heinous crime.

While driving back home,it was reported that Mutasim Gaddafi was captured by government forces inSirte, and although the news wasn’t verified, celebratory gunfire was echoingin every direction of Tripoli, many cars were flashing their warning lights,and honking their horns. Many Libyans after long weeks of desperation anddealing with tragic news, became obsessed with
hearing ‘good’ news andexpressing their delight with firearms and shooting guns in the air, causinglots of damage in property, and injuring people randomly, although manycampaigns has been launched to discourage people from using firearms in thecity, some incidents of celebratory fire injuries are still being reportedacross the capital. We still have a long way to go… but we are hopeful.

To be continued…