By Prince Kurupati
“In 2011 (at the start of the year), Libya was going through a huge economic development program with ambitious plans to modernize the country, open up its economy, build thousands of subsidized housing units, curb corruption and improve the lives of its people. All that is frozen now.”- Al-Monitor.
Unbeknown to many at the time, Libya’s huge economic development program was to suffer a stillbirth owing to a massive uprising which ultimately culminated in a civil war. On 17 February 2011, Libyans across the country dissatisfied with the slow progress the country was making economically and to some extent politically decided to go into the streets protesting against the government of Moammar Gadhafi.
What followed was a massive revolt which started in Benghazi in eastern Libya. The revolt soon turned out to be a long journey full of despair, bloodshed and insecurity ultimately culminating in the start of a civil war which drawn in foreign military intervention. With the foreign forces intervening under the auspices of protecting Libyan civilians against Moammar Gadhafi’s government, Gadhafi was soon deposed much to the joy of hundreds of thousands of Libyans.
While the revolution which was supposed to usher in a new era of economic prosperity and democratic governance has up to now failed to meet its objective/purpose, with Libyans languishing in poverty much worse than under Gadhafi’s rule, thousands of Libyans recently decided to celebrate the 8th anniversary of the Libyan revolution.
While acknowledging that the fruits of the revolution are yet to be seen, many Libyans on the 17th of February this year still took to the streets to celebrate the 8th revolution anniversary. Despite the worsening economic situation in the country, thousands of Libyans expressed optimism that things will definitely change for the better in the coming days sooner or later and that when the change comes, everyone will see the fruits of the revolution.
Belkassem Hamed, one of the many Libyan citizens who took to the streets to celebrate the 8th revolution anniversary said that “Libya deserves more than what it is currently experiencing. We reach out to our people and urge them to shake hands and reconcile, to forget our hatred and grief and to bury the past.” Belkassem Hamed’s sentiments were echoed by a lot of other Libyans. Others such as Mohamed Farhat, an independent political analyst said there is every reason to celebrate the 8th revolution anniversary as it brought about freedoms such as freedom of expression. For this reason, Mohamed Farhat says Libyans should be thankful hence take time to celebrate the revolution anniversary- in an interview with Al-Monitor, Mohamed Farhat said “We are enjoying freedom of expression now — including yourself as an author. Under Gadhafi, it would be impossible for you to write in any critical way.”
Despite the thousands who took to the streets in celebrating the 8th Libyan revolution anniversary, there were also others who decided to stay at home in protest at the decision to celebrate the anniversary. Among these were women’s organization groups who argued that “For women, the revolution did nothing. In fact, we used to have lots of rights, but the revolution took away everything.” Al-Monitor reports that “Indeed, under Gadhafi, women were free to wear what they wanted, own a business and work in any kind of job including the army, police and the judiciary. Even Gadhafi’s personal security detail included several women. Now Libyan women lost all that and more.”
Moreover, after “Gadhafi was toppled, polygamy was reinstated and men can now marry four wives without any real restrictions. Women are encouraged to wear the hijab and sometimes the niqab. It is not legally enforced, but almost all religious sheikhs on the government payroll encourage it through prayer sermons and media outlets, including on radio and TV.” It is against this background that many argue that there is no reason to celebrate the Libyan revolution.