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Op-Ed: Sixth anniversary of February Revolution celebrated in Libya

Tripoli municipality has been preparing Martyr’s Square in downtown Tripoli for a ceremony marking the anniversary with thousands expected to gather in the historic square to chant support for the 17th of February revolution. The celebrations actually began yesterday with the opening of part of the Tripoli International Airport that was destroyed in conflict between the Zintan brigades loyal to eastern commander Haftar and Libya Dawn forces as described in a recent DJ article. The Libya Observer says: In line with bringing happiness to Libyans in good times as these of the revolution anniversary, the Libyan Salvation Government of the General National Congress, headed by Khalifa Al-Ghweil, inaugurated the reopening of the Tripoli International Airport on Thursday amid a ceremony celebrating the anniversary of the revolution in the presence of several officials and businesspersons as well as revolutionary fighters. Given that Al-Ghwell is a coup leader against the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA) supporters of the GNA are unlikely to be happy at seeing this opening part of the celebrations. There are already some tweets describing the celebrations in Tripoli. One tweet says: “Thousands of people flock to #Tripoli’s Martyrs Square to celebrate the 6th anniversary of the 17th February Revolution”

In the east of the country the situation was entirely different. One of the key cities in which the revolution began had no celebrations at all. Alaraby reports: “In Benghazi, pictures being shared on social media show that the Freedom Square, an area where gatherings usually centre, remained completely empty on Friday. ” Two other cities Bayda and Tobruk the seat of the House of Representatives (HoR) government also banned demonstrations. All are under control of General Haftar who at one time supported Gaddafi but turned against him after he was double-crossed and abandoned by him. Haftar said the celebrations were canceled for security reasons. Marwan Younis, spokesperson for the Tobruk city council said: “Celebrations of the anniversary of the February revolt are canceled until all Libyan lands are liberated from the grips of terrorism.” The HoR, however, did issue a statement on the anniversary saying it served to remind Libyans of the sacrifices they made for freedom.

The Libya Herald published a rather pessimistic article on the celebrations. The Herald claims that even those who supported the revolution are in little mood to celebrate and that , “they are struck by the constant recurrence of negativity pervading the capital.” The Herald quotes Tripoli resident, Khalil Gharghum, who opposed the revolution as saying: “I never loved Qaddafi, but I thought from the start it was just a conspiracy shared by other countries to destroy Libya and take over its resources.” Mohamed Sultan, a freelance journalist from Tripoli who supported the revolution said: “The revolution is a principle I will never give up. But I will not celebrate due to the awful circumstances we are seeing that include women being raped and the kidnapping of children. All the beautiful things we created have been destroyed in the name of revolution and religion.”

There is an obvious split in Tripoli between those who support Ghwell and those who support the GNA and PC head Serraj. Residents are also disappointed in the failure of the UN-brokered GNA’s inability to provide basic necessities. There is a fear that conflict could break out between anti-Haftar and Haftar forces. It is also possible that there will be conflicts between forces loyal to Ghwell and those loyal to the GNA. Nevertheless as the appended video shows many celebrated in Tripoli.

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