Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Martyrs Square Tripoli February 17, 2013

Part of the celebrations at Martyrs Square in Tripoli as the people marked the second anniversary of the February 17 Revolution

By Gada Mahfud

The world, indeed we Libyans, are in awe at the fantastic spontaneous celebrations that have taken place all over Libya marking the second anniversary of the February 17 Revolution. Libyans across the country celebrated in a civil, peaceful and organised manner, the ousting in 2011 of the long-time former dictator Muammar Gaddafi

Families in their hundreds came out to the martyr’s square in the Libyan capital, Tripoli and in the main squares in all the towns and cities, particularly also in the eastrn city of Benghazi, to celebrate this historic occasion.

The crowds started pouring in a steady stream from early morning on Sunday and continued until very late into the night. The jubilation of the crowds was a joy to witness.

People were hard at work in the days leading to the actual celebration sweeping the streets, decorating them with streams of flags and lights, while families in each neighbourhood collected money to buy a camel to be barbecued as a February 17 celebration meal.

On the day commemorating February 17, people woke up to a glorious sunny day; families enjoyed lunch together and then proceeded to the martyr’s square. As one passed through the different neighbourhoods the Libyan army could be seen in all the main crossroads organising traffic.

People waved at them shouting and wishing them happy February 17 anniversary. Soldiers shouted similar greetings in return, while others sprayed people with perfume or orange blossom water. Orange blossom water or perfume spraying is a Libyan ritual reserved only for weddings.

The Libyan revolution was continually put down, by some Arabs as being ruthless and not as organised as our Arab spring neighbours, Tunisia and Egypt. The criticism varied, some saying that the Libyan revolution only survived because Libyan oil was an incentive for the world to back us, NATO to help us.

Well, to that I will say that the brutality of the system was why the Libyan people had to resort to violence to defend themselves.

Though some may think I am bragging, which in all honesty I am, Libya has outdone its excellent neighbours because while people in Libya celebrated their revolutions second anniversary, in Egypt and Tunisia the people did not celebrate. They demonstrated in a messy fashion, many people died and government institutions were stormed by angry mobs.

The weeks before the February 17 anniversary, the Gaddafi agents who had fled the country, and some members of his exiled family, made some empty threats about coming back to avenge themselves of the Libyan people. They imagined that the Libyan people will take their cue from Egypt’s streets and go out in demonstrations; that they could manipulate us into chaos.

In a generous gesture the Libyan people denied them that opportunity. Even though there were many causes to demonstrate against they realised that the danger was too grave and instead opted to put the country’s interests before their own.

The secret of the Libyan success story, that in my opinion never ceases to impress the world, is the people’s ownership of the revolution. A friend described the celebratory scenes we saw in the streets in this way: “it’s as if they were all in a huge wedding where no one was a guest; everyone feels they are a host and wants to serve everyone else.”

I hope that Libyans will continue to inspire the world and may God bless Libya and keep it free and safe forever.

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