Blackout. No international journalists. No network cameras. And yet the story of Libya’s revolution has poured out on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other online platforms. It’s a story that has been raw, uncut and shocking. Below is a selection of this material from four days in Libya this week.
WARNING: Videos posted in this article contain graphic scenes of violence and are not for sensitive users.
20 FEBRUARY: Mercenaries reported to have reached Tripoli and deployed in crackdown on anti-Gaddafi protestors. Ongoing fighting in Benghazi between protestors and security forces. Gaddafi’s son, Seif el-Islam warns of ‘rivers of blood’ if demonstrators do not disperse.
On the blog Alive in Egypt, one eyewitness reported: ‘We don’t know what will happen even in the next five minutes. But every so often we get news that an area has fallen in the hands of the protesters. So there was a suggestion that we go to the Green Square, and the youth started gathering themselves…’
The user continues: ‘The youth put their trust in God and at about 10:30 they reached the Green Square. They kicked out the pro-Gaddafi people in the Square and burned the internal security center. They entered and burned it all, and I think the general security building overlooking the martyrs square too.
‘After the speech, of course we were listening, after the speech, suddenly cars came, the land cruisers, with people. They were far away so I can’t tell you if they were Africans or Libyans or from Sirte. They gave us no chance. Heavy fire, like it was a war. Until you can’t even hear or even see what’s happening.
‘The demonstrators scattered, and they suddenly brought in their gangs chanting “Fatih, Fatih” (One of Gaddafi's titles) and they re-entered the square. We took shelter in the neighboring buildings for a while then retreated. There was also strikes by anti-aircraft missiles, we saw this in front of us. Those that I saw with my own eyes, two wounded, one shot in the head.’
This video later surfaced, apparently showing fighting around Green Square.
Another post on Alive in Libya said: ‘It’s a massacre, it’s a massacre, the Libyan regime got crazy. He started killing the protesters who went out in peace to protest to say get rid of this regime and they are tired of injustice.’
In another post, it was made clear that nowhere was safe: ‘There is an attack on the hospitals. The injured that were taken to Tripoli Central Hospital have been tracked down and killed inside the hospital said the doctors.’
This prompted Libyan4life to ask: ‘How can the US, UK other countries stay quiet? THEY ARE BEGGING FOR OUR HELP.’
Later, the situation in Benghazi appeared to have stabilised. This video showed people celebrating victory in Benghazi.
Twitter user ShababLibya tweeted:
‘#qaddafis regime is on its knees, i can see its end, i smell freedom, i have never known it in my homeland before i see it i see it #Libya’
Meanwhile, on Alive in Libya negative reaction to Seif el-Islam’s speech was widespread: ‘We don’t like it, we just hear the same tone, like his father. We don’t see any difference, just another liar. He’s just intimidating us, he’s just challenging the people, but he’s underestimating what’s really going on.’
21 FEBRUARY: Reports that Misratah, a city east of Tripoli, is attacked by airstrikes. Military planes land in Malta: pilots say they refused to attack protestors. Numerous Libyan diplomats around the world resign. Phone lines are cut. Reports of chaos in Tripoli.
Response to Seif el Islam’s speech continued: ‘I ask the Libyan people to unite and not to listen to the words of this dictator…
‘We are one people and the petrol is the petrol of all the Libyans and we are one people who wish to live in freedom that we have been forbidden for forty years, for forty years we have been forbidden from this petrol and now the petrol is petrol for all of Libya…’
Meanwhile, this video emerged as further illustration of the chaos gripping Tripoli, showing buildings being burnt down.
ShababLibya tweeted: ‘we are getting eye witness accounts of terrible crimes currently taking place in the city of #Tripoli we fear the worst #Libya #Feb17.’
And, also from ShababLibya , news that created shock across the world, ‘Fighter jets overhead tripoli confirmed firing at protesters #libya #feb17.’
As news reports began to focus on the rising price of oil due to the crisis, Libyan4life tweeted: ‘I'm starting to get annoyed about this coverage on #Libya's oil. Our people are dying, that discussion is secondary.’
And the leaden-footed international response to the crisis sparked outrage. Libyan4life tweeted: ‘@PJCrowley: We join the international community in strongly condemning the violence in #Libya. Time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed. JOKE!’
EnoughGaddafi tweeted: ‘OBAMA: @whitehouse where are you? nothing? no comment? this is a disgrace. You are standing by as a war crime occurs. #feb17 #libya.’
‘World, people! Libya is being burned, he’s burned the whole coast of Libya… Muammar has killed all the Libyan soldiers and is bringing planes full of mercenaries. Libya is burned! Libya is burned! He is striking with heavy artillery and rockets. Where are you world, conscience! O Rescuer, o Rescuer [God">,’ appealed an Alive in Egypt post.
‘I plead with you, our families, we don’t know what has happened to our families. All connections have been cut. To everyone who hears this message, please open the borders…There are intense military aircraft strikes…God willing this message reaches you, and don’t hesitate, as soon as possible…and peace be upon you,’ said another post.
Videos of shocking violence began to emerge, following on allegations that Gaddafi had hired mercenaries form the rest of Africa to sow terror amongst protestors.
And this video claimed to show soldiers who had refused to shoot protestors that had been burnt to death.
The human cost remained unclear, but Libyan4life tweeted: ‘Almost double the number of the causalities that #Egypt experienced in 18 days, #Libya has suffered in 5.’
22 FEBRUARY: Further clashes reported in Tripoli. Military offices join protestors. Response to Gaddafi’s speech. Death toll reported at 300. Countries scramble to evacuate nationals. East Libya reported to be in control of protestors.
An extract from an email to Alive in Libya reports: ‘Situation is very tense here in Tripoli. Movements are very limited during the day. All shops are closed, except bakeries, gas stations and limited grocery stores.
‘Situation at night is different and dangerous. We heard a lot of gun shots, explosions, demonstrations, and the sound of sirens. Also during a downtown drive this morning, we saw burnt tires, trees, stones, ripped picture of Kaddafi and burned garbage in the middle of the streets.’
ShababLibya appeared to confirm news from Benghazi, tweeting: ‘got through to family in Benghazi and they are CONFIRMING that the East is safe and secure and the Tripoli still under fire #feb17’
Many tweets again pointed to what was seen as an inadequate international response – and international complicity in the situation in Libya: ‘UK Gov't may have licensed equipment used to crush protesters #Libya http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=19274,’ said one tweet.
Twitter user Cyrenaican tweeted: ‘I will never forget the silence of the international community. I will never forget the silence of the United States. #Libya #Feb17’
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera posted an interview with the family of Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian from Sidi Bouzid whose death triggered the Tunisian revolution. ‘I say to the people of Libya: May God help you. I hope you get everything you wish for,’ she says.
Another video to emerge apparently showed security forces conducting house-to-house raids.
As the online response geared up, a Google map emerged showing incidents of violence against pro-democracy protests in Libya. Like in Egypt, a website called 1000 Memories posted names and pictures of those killed.
Gaddafi’s speech, in which he vowed to cling to power by any means, created anxiety. Again, from ShababLibya : ‘We are all a bit upset tonight, not because we feel defeated, but because we know Gaddafi, he will try to kill anyone and everyone #Libya.’
But there was still defiance. ShababLibya tweeted: ‘he threatened to cleanse Libya house by house…we have excess youth Gaddafi, all ready to die for our homeland #Libya #Feb17.’
23 FEBRUARY: UN condemns violence. French doctor claims more than 2,000 killed in Benghazi alone. Pro-Gaddafi forces reported to be roaming Tripoli. Benghazi and Tobruk under protestor control. Libyan protesters claim to have taken over Misurata.
On Alive in Libya, via @speak2tweet, indications were that other towns were falling to protestors: ‘Greetings this is an urgent message from Kufra. Young people have taken complete control of the city, they hoisted the flag of Libya and Gaddafi down the flag. Dozens of Chadian families head to the southern border.’
Also on Alive in Libya , an interview with a Benghazi resident: ‘Things in Benghazi are really good. Streets are pretty safe. There’s a lot of protesters still standing in front of Benghazi courthouse, families still on the street.
‘Very good. No violence, people organizing the traffic movement. Some of the traffic police are already out, people cleaning some of the damage that has happened, things are going in the right direction. We heard yesterday and the day before, some people already left to support the civilians in Tripoli.’
ShababLibya tweeted: ‘the oppressor the dictator the pharaoh he is GONE he is no longer in here and Tripoli is next we are so happy #Libya.’
Meanwhile, a video from One Day on Earth claims to show the burial of those killed in the battle for Benghazi.
And the situation in Tripoli remained uncertain: ShababLibya tweeted: ‘The people of Tripoli are putting on a heroic effort this city is littered with mercenaries roaming streets with snipers #Libya #Feb17.’
More videos emerged, giving an idea of the frightening situation in Tripoli by night time.
And as foreign nationals fled the country and violence continued, osamasolieman tweeted: ‘what is the blood to oil ratio right now for the US govt? a thousand to one? a million to one? a billion to one? higher??? #Libya’
LIBYA: SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS
Overall Twitter hashtag: #libya
Users Tweeting about Libya:
Phone to Tweet service:
Alive in Libya: Transcribing the voices of Libya
Save Libya Youtube channel:
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Patrick Burnett is editor of Pambazuka News, Links & Resources.
* Pambazuka News has not been able to verify these videos, but they are posted here as representing what is available on the internet about events in Libya.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.