Magharebia (Washington DC)

19 April 2013

Libya: 'Friday Libya for All' Kicks Off in Benghazi

Asmaa Elourfi in Benghazi contributed to this report for Magharebia - 19/04/2013

Benghazi on Friday (April 19th) kicked off a carnival to celebrate the city's standing as the 2013 Libyan Capital of Culture.

The festival was the start of several celebrations organised by the culture ministry. The "Friday Libya for All" events are planned for Benghazi, Tripoli, Misrata, and eastern towns from Ajdabiya to Tobruk. Organisers are reportedly trying to include Tawergha and members of the Warshafana tribe.

In Benghazi, residents used the opportunity to express their support for a unified country and show that Benghazi was not the dangerous city the reported by media.

Hundreds of people participated in the parade, the Libya Herald paper reported, including boy scouts, students, civil society organisations, sports clubs, marching bands, horsemen, traffic police and unusual motorcars.

The event also featured sporting events, musical performances, a car show, a laser light show and fireworks.

"Libya is not like any other country," the newspaper quoted Mohamed Alshokri, one of the event's organisers, as saying. "We are being watched to see what we do with the freedom we fought for."

Alshokri added, "The audience is not just the international community, he said. The rally aims to send a clear message to Libya's governing bodies, that citizens want to move on and rebuild the country."

"Citizens are enthusiastic about going out in the hopes of seeing reform and security," 32-year-old law student Seraj al-Meqsebi said.

Not all residents agreed with the purpose of the festival.

"Five million dinars (2.9 million euros) is spent on the Ministry of Culture's celebrations to buy candles and toys while the people need security and decent life," culture ministry employee Abdallah al-Zaidi said. "The borders are porous, and the people are hungry while the Ministry of Culture is spending money on worthless celebrations that have nothing to do with culture."

"A lacklustre carnival costing a lot of money... Benghazi is not a cultural capital, but a capital of armed militias," poet Ahmed al-Obeid said.

The celebrations were for a very small class in Benghazi, 29-year-old Ali al-Obeidi said.

"While Libya uses its budget for large celebrations, there are sit-ins everywhere by employees and simple citizens demanding the rights such as improving income and providing security," he added.

Other Benghazi residents this week chose to protest the suspension of three lab engineers because they objected to using expired materials.

"We're staging this sit-in for the people and not for our personal interests... We're demanding the best for the Libyan people because they deserve that," housing department employee Adel Taher al-Sheiki said.

The Benghazi Medical Centre was not the only site of where sit-ins occurred. They were also held also held at the Ministry of Education, army headquarters and Chamber of Commerce.

"There are many sit-ins at all Benghazi sectors to demand Libyans' rights, including security and removal of armed militias that are spread all over Libya," 24-year-old art student Amira al-Fitouri said.

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