Voices for Libya
This is a book about the Libyan Revolution of 17 February 2011. It is not a day-by-day account of the fighting, nor an analysis of military or diplomatic strategy. It is a collection of voices of ordinary people who became involved in that conflict in many different ways. These are the stories they chose to tell about how the Libyan conflict touched all their lives.
Gaddafi had a collection of gilded guns.
Gaddafi had huge stockpiles of Soviet armor and the elite British-trained Khamis Brigade. The other side were civilians with no military training and no weapons. But what they did possess was such ingenuity, passion and fearlessness that it captured the admiration and support of the entire world.
From the top of their impregnable barracks, Gaddafi’s ruthless murderers used anti-aircraft weapons to gun down unarmed kids. On the other side, it was an ordinary man, a supplies manager named Mahdi Zew, who spent three days burying kids’ bodies, then could stand it no longer. He brought down the wall of this fortress by driving a car packed with a couple of cylinders of cooking gas into a thunderstorm of Gaddafi machine-gun fire. He lost his life and his two daughters lost a father, but the Revolution was saved.
The “Freedom Fighters” the Libyan Revolutionaries, were a collection of civilians, clerks, lawyers, engineers, pharmacists, students and salespeople who learned to weld captured rocket launchers guns to wheelbarrows and beds of their Toyota pickups. Clad in flip-flops and t-shirts, they crafted weapons out of sewage pipes and, lacking an air force, hoisted artillery to rooftops with cranes. The fight for justice which they undertook is a history of endless sacrifice, constant improvisation and incredible bravery.
A pen is mightier than a sword, or so the oft-repeated quotation goes.
As well as his Libyan forces and an army of thousands of mercenary fighters, Gaddafi had a state-run propaganda machine with 42 years of experience and massive financial resources.
But the Freedom Fighter side had Mo Nabbous, a mathematician and founder of Libya Al Hurra TV in Benghazi to bring the world’s attention to the dire plight of Libya. The Freedom Fighter side had Bernard-Henri Lévy who persuaded French President Sarkozy to act, and this brought the United Nations and NATO into co-operation with those seeking to protect the innocent.
And they had a small army of supporters posting on Facebook, on Youtube and Twitter and on Internet blogs. These “Freedom Writers” did everything they could to publicize the plight of the Libyan Revolutionaries, helping with their pens (or keyboards) those unlikely freedom fighters who had followed Mahdi Zew in taking up the sword against Gaddafi.
The stories told here are penned by those who never before wielded anything more menacing than a fork or struck anything more intimidating than a computer key. These are the voices of those who could no longer remain silent and passive in the face of totalitarian injustice. Some are told by Freedom Fighters. Some are told by those who loved them, fed them, cared for them and wrote about them, making sure their flame burnt brightly enough to be seen all across the world. Intertwined with the stories of Libyan people are those of strangers from all over the globe. They came together to care and write about people they had never met and a country most had never visited.
The Libyan struggle for freedom resonated throughout the world. And the place we felt that resonance first and foremost was, of all places, on the internet live blog pages of Al Jazeera English! AJE is the lens through which we’ve all come to see and appreciate the depths of pain and the heights of triumph of these incredibly brave people in Libya.
How is it of all the media outlets, that Al Jazeera English became such a focus for foreign supporters of the Libyan Freedom Fighters?
It is because AJE reported from the very start of the Libyan Revolution, and, when the attention of other news gatherers drifted away, remained so faithful in its continued coverage of the Arab Spring that millions around the world supplemented their news diet with Al Jazeera English. That’s really where this story begins for all of us in this book: AJE and its interactive Libyan blogs.
AJE: veni, vidi, scripsi
The AJE blogs have attracted the most amazing, educated, diverse and caring audience mass media ever gathered. After all, who would read Al Jazeera in English? The English speakers who cannot get their Middle Eastern news from other sources are a pretty sophisticated bunch of primarily American, Canadian, British, Australian and New Zealander readers. There are even more refined groups from among the non-English native speakers: French, Swiss, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and yes, Arabic. The list goes on to South America, Africa – pretty much everywhere else. The only continent not yet represented is Antarctica. But that’s only a matter of time.
At its peak, the AJE Libya blog was getting over 10,000 comments per day. If you follow Groundswell statistics, that easily represents hundreds of thousands of readers. That is a remarkable accomplishment for Al Jazeera, and one that has gone largely untrumpeted.
Radwan Ziadeh, a member of Syrian National Council, said the best source for accurate news on any Arab Spring revolution is Al Jazeera English and their live blogs. He remarked that this world wide connection and support for democracy is the greatest improvement in human rights the world has ever seen, and it is unstoppable. This connection has and will pull down any dictatorship that opposes it. Ziadeh pleaded with the audience to join it and to do for Syria what was done for Libya.
The Al Jazeera blogs, having established themselves as a forum for the dissemination of unbiased up-to-the-minute information about Libya, inevitably attracted Gaddafi’s propaganda machine. The vehemently anti-Muslim, the defiantly anti-NATO, the reflexively anti-West, it seemed at times as though they wore the Wizard of Oz’s green tinted spectacles as they sought to shout down the Freedom Fighters’ side of the argument and to dominate the information agenda in favour of Colonel Gaddafi’s regime. These entertaining folks still believe that the liberation of Tripoli was staged and filmed in Qatar and that Gaddafi forces captured Misurata in late August. For them Gaddafi never died, and the truth never lived.
But first and foremost, it is here, on the pages of the AJE that the caring world community gathered for over half a year to share the news, repost and make sense of often contradictory tweets, to discuss the future of Libya, to try to figure out various ways to help. It is some of these people that gathered and organized on the improbable koussa.info site who bring you this book. Why koussa.info? Well, that too is in the book. Read on!