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Verses 4 Libya

This is Ilya’s book review recommendation of Verses 4 Libya, consistently in a verse form. Click the image below to purchase the Verses4Libya book.

War against Gaddafi’s threat
Which raged in Libyan towns
Was also fought on Internet
Against his trolls and clowns.

On the Al Jazeera Libya blog,
Gaddafi puppets cursed;
Brave Sir Hen cut through their fog,
Made fun of them in verse.

Trolls have perished since those days,
And the freedom won;
Through Hen’s Psalms and turns of phrase:
  The Freedom’s March and on.

The Wheel of History’s Libyan turns -
Sir Chicken archived them:
How Libyan Freedom had been earned
In Psalms from Book of Hen.

Book cover: Verses 4 LibyaVerses4Libya: Psalms from the Book of Hen
Authored by Blue Hen95

In 2011, Libyans did something extraordinary. And a world followed it through a blog. This is the story of both, with poetic license, through the eyes of an American blogger with a penchant for rhyme. Follow the Libyan revolution, as seen through social media, one poem at a time.

Benghazi has voted in Libya’s first free elections

Zorica’s photo story of Libya’s first free nation-wide elections after four decades of tyranny. (140+ more photos)

My young neighbors –Areej, Lana, and Mariam– asked me to accompany them on their way to their very first election. They were really happy, as well as all the other people we have seen coming or going out from the voting stations.

The security folks were very friendly, and the atmosphere was like during Eid. Everybody was excited, and happy. People asked me to take a photo of their blue fingers. They were so, soooo proud!

I second Khadeejah’s report stating that Libyans are lovely people. I could not go inside [the polling station], and while waiting for the girls to come out, I was looking for a place to sit. There was a small concrete block, so I took a sheet of paper from my bag to sit on it. All of a sudden one of the security guards stood up, and gave me his chair. This is a small thing, but for me always very big appreciation.

After the voting, we went to the next shop and I bought cold juice and some sweets for the security guards. Lana was interviewed by TV Libya Hurra.

Later we joined the coloumn of all the cars heading towards the Court House. It took us hours to reach it, but it was very interesting. Loud music could be heard from each car, and people were singing.

They used to congratulate each other, showing their colored fingers. One young man asked me: “Are you a federalist?”. I told him that I am by no means a federalist, I am a foreigner. In Arabic that sounds like “Ana mish federaliya, ana ajnabiya”.

There were a lot of people at Benghazi’s Court House. Shuruq –a young girl, very well known in Benghazi since the revolution– was on the stage again. She gave a great speech, and it was so cute when she asked: “What is wrong with you, federalists?”.

People changed the famous chant and shouted: “Raise up your finger, you are a free Libyan”. They chanted to Tripoli, again: “Tripoli is the capital, Benghazi … never mind”. It is not that easy to translate, they expressed that they want Tripoli to stay the capital, and Benghazi just not to be neglected again.

Really, citizens of Benghazi are special. I mean, yes, Tripoli is the capital, but the very heart of Libya is Benghazi. All of Libya was waiting to see what will happen in Benghazi on the election day.

Dr. Agila told my husband, Abdelaziz, that in his area came the federalists, a gang of armed young boys, and took away the ballot boxes. Within not even an hour the young people from that area wanted to go to bring the boxes back, because they knew who took them. But the elders stopped them, fearing of bloodshed. New boxes were brought, and voting has started smoothly. More than 1,000 people stayed all the day in the place to secure the polling station. Most of them even have stayed over the whole night at the polling station in order to secure uninterupted elections.

Personally, I’m quite happy that a majority voted for M. Jibril’s coalition. Libyans used to tell me that they are moderate Muslims, and that they do not approve Salafists nor radical islamists. With this election they proved it. To Benghazi, to Libya, to the overly skeptical world.

View 140+ more photos of Benghazi’s election day

An American hero visits young English learners in Libya

Matthew VanDyke, along with his friend Masoud Bwisir, visited the staff and students of International House Benghazi, an English language institute in Benghazi, the evening of June 25th, 2012.

This time last year Matthew was being held in solitary confinement in Libya’s notorious Abu Salim Prison. After his release, Matthew stayed in Libya for awhile to find the friends that he had been separated from during his capture, and now has returned to Libya to help organize a charity to help the Libyan people.

Matthew kindly took time out of his busy schedule while in Libya to speak with a group of young English language students and teachers and discuss his experiences during the Libyan war as well as political developments in Libya and the future of the country. Students asked many questions about democracy as well as more personal questions about Matthew and were very happy about the chance to speak with a man who had come from so far away to help their country.

This meeting was a wonderful chance for young Libyans to discuss formerly forbidden topics face to face with someone from a very different background and they loved it. The discussion lasted over two hours, with both young men and young women participating. All the students and staff enjoyed the meeting. Even those few students, who had to join classes in the middle of the meeting, came back out of classrooms to hear Masoud when he began to sing.

The students were quite encouraged when Matthew told them that they should be involved in the political process of democracy rather than just leaving it to the older generation. They also were very happy when Matthew complimented their English, by telling them it was so good that they were having a normal conversation. Students signed letters of appreciation for both Matthew and Masoud and presented them at the end of the meeting.

We at International House Benghazi wish Matthew and Masoud well and thank them for their visit. We hope that there will be more meetings like this in the future and that Libya will join the rest of the world as a peaceful democratic country.

#LYELECT: Blue fingers of solidarity

Khadeejah’s article above hit my email account on July 7 2012, the day Libyans celebrated their first free and nation-wide elections after many decades, with a note that I just have to quote:

I was very proud that all the people in my family eligible to vote did so. I went to the polling station with my son, asked if they would let me see the voting, and they even let me have a “blue finger of solidarity”. That is why I love Libya, if you care about them, they care about you.

Matt VanDyke meets Voices 4 Libya

On June 23 2012 in Benghazi, Libya, Matthew VanDyke, the famous American Thuwar, met the Voices 4 Libya team.

Matt VanDyke fought in the Libyan revolution with his fellow freedom fighters all the way from Benghazi to Sirte, where Gaddafi found his well deserved end in October 2011.
He was wounded and captured in Brega on March 13 2011, and was detained in Tripoli’s Abu Salim prison for 5.5 months, until Tripoli’s ‘zero hour’ in August 2011.
Once freed, he immediately rejoined the Ali Hassan al-Jaber Brigade to help finish off the ruthless regime. Here’s his remarkable story.

Khadeejah wrote this report of the meeting:

I would like to report on an absolutely wonderful meeting in Benghazi with Matthew vanDyke. The location of the meeting was a lovely Italian-built villa owned by Awad Al Mukhtar.

The house was decorated with historical photos of Omar Al Mukhtar and the Italians at the time of his capture.

Zorica, Khadija Al Mukhtar and the other ladies (not me) provided wonderful Libyan refreshments including stuffed fried potatoes, cheese-filled savories and a beautiful cake filled with fruit and nuts, and of course juice, coffee and tea.

Members of the Voices 4 Libya Benghazi branch attending were Laujain Idriza, Hawa Al Masdour, Halima Trablsi, Abdelaziz Al Shaari and Zorica, Khadija Al Mukhtar, her husband Sharif Burahil, her brother Awad Al Mukhtar and nephew Yousef Al Mukhtar, my son-in-law Mohamed Al Gazzah, and myself. Of course Matthew was there with his (and our) friend Masoud the guitar-playing revolutionary.

Matthew is back in Libya trying to work out the details of his charity work and the V4L group is hoping to help him where possible, and learn from him too. The conversation included Matthew talking about his experiences during the war and his hopes to follow up with a book and film. He writes a Freedom Fighter Blog blog with lots of information, analysis, and insights.

We discussed how difficult it is to try to establish a charity considering the lack of organization in Libya at the present time, but the necessity of getting this done. Zorica and I told Matthew about the Bubbles group and how much you all did during the war and are still doing now. We told him how much we admire your dedication and all the time you spend helping Libya.

We mentioned how important Gerhard‘s reports were to us. Zorica told of how she and her husband relied on his assurance of safety when deciding to return to Libya after a short break out. I told him about my daily reports to friends and family relaying what Gerhard told us on the blog, which kept our spirits up during the days and months of waiting for Tripoli to be freed and then Sirte. We told Matthew how amazing you all are, Michael, Charlotte, Ilya, Mark, Glen and everyone else who have dedicated so much time and effort to Libya.

While he was imprisoned, Matthew didn’t know what we all did. He didn’t even know that NATO was involved. He thought that the guards were probably coming to kill him the day that he was released by the revolutionaries, having no idea at all the revolution was almost won. He told us of his amazing mother, who did what so many mothers here did. She drove him to the airport, sending him to war in Libya, what an amazing supportive mother! Strangely his capture seemed to have brought about an unbelievable, Hollywood type happily-ever-after for his mother and father, but that is his story to tell.

Matthew mentioned how difficult it was in Abu Salim, although there was no physical torture, the psychological torture was horrible. He said that he was pretty tough, having been through a lot in Afghanistan and Iraq and that had helped him get through his difficult times and recover after being freed.

He stated that the Libyan war was a just war and the involvement of the international community was, for once, based on doing the right thing. All agreed that it will take some time for Libya to completely transition into a democracy, but we all have faith that there is a better future for the Libyan people.

Masoud reminded us of something very positive in the Libyan character. During the revolution, he had some arguments with the more religious fighters about the wisdom of playing music on the frontlines. As you all know, he persisted in playing his music to keep up the spirits of the fighters. This reflects on the situation in Libya now. There will be discussions and some noisy arguments, but no Libyan has any more tolerance for anyone making his or her decisions for him or her.

We know that you couldn’t be there in person, but everyone of you were there in our hearts and minds. We here in Libya know that we are very fortunate that you all chose to support Libya, and Zorica and I are personally very happy that we have come to know you through the blog. We hope that someday soon, you will visit us here in Benghazi and we can show you our beautiful city which you helped save. Of course, Zorica has done her best to provide full coverage in photos, which are presented on this image gallery.

Mary’s report on the book launch

Benghazi, Libya
June 6 2012

Dear Charlotte and Ilya,

A warm hello to you all and anyone else that isn’t mentioned above. I feel that I already know you through Zorica and the AlJazeera blog. Although I wrote hardly anything on the blog, I was an avid reader of it from late summer (when the internet began to start functioning) up until recently. You and all the people there certainly kept my spirits up during this time – so thank you.

I will write a short report of the Book Launch from my personal perspective. I must say that when I first held the book in my hand I was unprepared for how I felt. When Zorica came to me last summer full of excitement and enthusiasm and explained this project, I have to admit that I was extremely skeptical. Remember, we were still in the middle of a war, the country was divided, dead and wounded freedom fighters filled the hospitals and the cemetery, communications were awful – and Zorica wanted to collect stories and publish a book! Many people here helped Zorica but the driving force behind us all was her – she was dedicated to this book and inspired us all to try to do our bit. I know what she’ll think of me writing this about her – but I have to give her the recognition she deserves. I know how dedicated and how much time and energy the people on the blog spent on this book as well and huge thanks from me to all of you – I still can’t believe it reached fruition.

Voices4Libya Book Launch party, Benghazi, Libya on May 30 2012

Report on the Voices 4 Libya Book Launch

The Voices 4 Libya book launch, which took place on the 30th May 2012 in Benghazi, Libya was a huge success. It honored so many people – the people who wrote their often painful account of events, not only of the war, but of lives lived under a brutal dictatorship for 42 years. It honored the people around the world who dedicated their time and energy to compile and publish this book.

As a member of the team in Benghazi I had the honor of shaking the hands of people who had lost loved ones, lost limbs and lost parts of their lives in prison under that dictatorship. I saw the appreciation and respect in peoples’ faces as Libyans and foreigners alike were acknowledged and applauded for the effort that they put into this book. When the books were being handed to the authors of these stories there was a mix of so many emotions – pride tinged with sadness when the mother, brother or sister accepted their book – for me the most emotional moment was shaking hands with three young children who had lost their father in the war. Yes, most of the Libyans were there in person to accept their books, but the foreigners who had also written their account of the war from their perspectives were equally applauded and honored.

I hope that the foreigners who attended the book launch were inspired to spread the word abroad and to buy their own copies. I know that several of them approached me at the end and complimented everyone on a job very well done. So on this note I left the book launch extremely satisfied that the message had well and truly been got across.

[...] this is my personal view of the book launch and I’m not used to writing reports [...]



[Webmaster's note: Thank You, Mary, for this awesome and very touching report!]

More information and image galleries

Voices4Libya Book Launch party, Benghazi, Libya on May 30 2012

This is the story of the Voices 4 Libya book,
and the people who created it

Voices 4 Libya Book Release Ceremony, Benghazi

As promised, here is the first report of our big book launch party on May 30, 2012 in Benghazi.

We have yet to receive the official report of the Book Launch in Benghazi, but we have received many informal reports, and photos are beginning to arrive. We have printed here some extracts from some of the messages we have received.

“First of all, congratulations for all the people who made this awesome book :) It was very successful & perfect launch Party … Honestly I did not expect that the party will be that good, I can’t explain how much the people [were filled with] joy to see the book …”

“The book launch ceremony was wonderful. There were photographers, Masoud played his guitar and sang. There were speeches in Arabic and English and video presentations … This is Libya, so of course there was food. A relative of Mehdi Zew expressed his appreciation of your efforts. Many people shed tears, there were smiles all around, many of the authors received standing ovations and everyone was thrilled to get their copy of the book. I already have a waiting list to read my copy.”

“Today I went to Dawa Islamiyah building for the party. Really it was a great party. Nice people and nice work, also the book is very, very, very interesting … so I’m glad I got the invitation and I’m glad I was part of this book.”
“People from the corridor and employees in Dawa (the security and the others) entered inside when they heard the music and applause … [A friend] told me that her husband told her that men were crying … all the memories from the first days came back … All of us on the stage were standing most of the time … to honour the authors of the stories … as you know most of them are real heroes.”

We’ll upload more images to this gallery page soon.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012: Big Book Launch Party in Benghazi

Let’s come and read our book together
A book that we wrote with
the blood of our martyrs
Through the tears of the widows and
the bereaved mothers and children
Through the sighs that penetrated the silence
of the nights and were stronger than bullets
Its pages are extraordinary
Its words have been chosen
from the dictionaries of freedom
It speaks through voices that were kept mute by
the noise of injustice

Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Dawa Islamiya building at 6pm
Libya is awaiting you there, to read its book

Project Team Voices 4 Libya – Libya branch
Sponsored by
Council of Culture- Benghazi

Photos and reports of the party will be posted in a few days. So please not only come to our party, come back here to view the coverage :-)

“White Saturday” May 19, 2012 – Benghazi’s first local elections

Good news are no news? That goes for the international mainstream press, only. We’d like to share with you some photos regarding the election day in Benghazi, showing bill boards with photos of candidates, activity around polling places, and voters with their fingers showing the marks of ink as a sign that they have voted.

From the Libyan press:

Voter registration starts in Benghazi April 8 2012
Benghazi Election Heats Up, Voter Registration is Extended April 18 2012
455 Candidates file to run in Benghazi including 22 women April 22 2012
Benghazi: Local council elections – the first test? April 28 2012
Benghazi local elections on 19 May; disappointing registration figures May 7 2012
Benghazi Council candidates grilled May 11 2012
Benghazi goes to the polls May 19 2012
Benghazi local election results announced May 21 2012
Benghazi NTC members stand aside for new local council representatives; Jalil calls on Misrata to follow suit May 22 2012
Benghazi’s Local Elections: A Message of Confidence to the Rest of Libya and the World May 23 2012

The List of Benghazi Local Council candidates and the results (official results (PDF, Arabic) will be linked here as soon as available in English language). For more information in Arabic please refer to The Higher Committee for Elections‘ official Web site.

A winner: Najat Rashid Mansur Al-Kikhia

Najat Rashid Mansur Al-Kikhia

Only one woman out of the 22 female candidates was elected, but she was resoundingly backed. Not only did Najat Rashid Mansur Al-Kikhia top the ballot in District 4, Al-Birka, with more than twice the number of votes of her nearest rival — 7,784 in all — she gained more votes than any other candidate in the entire election. She thus also becomes a Benghazi representative on the NTC. [Source: Benghazi local election results announced — woman candidate wins most votes, Libya Herald, May 22 2012]

YAY! The Voices4Libya Book Is On Sale!

Thanks for your patience! Finally the book got printed. As of today you can buy it!

Voices for Libya - The Book

Voices for Libya - The Book

Thanks to the authors! Your copy celebrates “wheels down in Tripoli” as we speak. And thanks to the editors and everyone else who made this happen. Remember:

All earnings will be split between the families of the martyred heroes and the children / orphans of the war.