7 April 2014

Libyans Protest Insecurity, Slow Transition

Shahat — Libyans staged a day of "civil disobedience" on Sunday (April 6th) to denounce the deteriorating security situation.

Protestors demanded the suspension of the General National Congress (GNC) and the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections.

In Benghazi, a general strike temporarily halted flights at the city's international airport. Schools and banks also shut down as part of the civil disobedience call.

Civil society organisations announced in a press conference held at a Special Forces camp in Benghazi that the protest would continue until their demands, including the approval of the February committee's proposal, were met.

The "No to Extension" movement supported the statement and stressed the need to implement it until the GNC and interim government have met the demands.

Response to the protest call was mixed, with demonstrations occurring in several eastern cities. At the University of Benghazi, students were divided between those supporting and those opposing the civil disobedience, prompting the administration to suspend classes.

Omar Mokhtar University in al-Bayda, eastern Libya's second largest university, decided to suspend classes and exams until April 10th "for the service of public interests".

Abdul Basset Haroun, a popular political activist, encouraged Libyans to take part in the protest movement.

"Civil disobedience is a form of non-violent resistance against a repressive or colonial authority," he said on a Libyan satellite TV station. "Through this form of resistance, such an authority is challenged by not going to work and not obeying its orders. All people can take part in it with a minimum degree of risks."

Others were more sceptical.

"The GNC and government will just ignore it," said Mahmoud al-Mufti al-Kateb, 48. "On the civil disobedience days, GNC President Nouri Abu Sahmein and defence minister al-Thani will appear on Arab satellite TV channels to say to the world that Libya is fine as usual."

"I say that next Sunday, we shouldn't close our schools and airports to avoid more sufferings," he added. "Just expose those who are responsible for our sufferings on Twitter and Facebook pages with clear and strong statements from civil society organisations. Today, they fear the new street, i.e. the social networking street."

Tarek Zidan, 31, a trader, said, "Let's be realistic and put our hands on wounds, but ever since we abandoned the goals of our uprising, we've been living in a dreadful condition."

"As to security and safety, I swear there is none at all; I don't even feel safe at a traffic light. I fear someone will come from the opposite direction; I fear going to hospital and find it closed, or to pass near Jenehein market," he said. "How can we possibly want security and safety when the police are asleep at home? Who would protect us, after God, except them? Are we supposed to rid the city of criminals, thieves and highwaymen and then tell them, 'here is the city; it's secure, come work and secure us?'" he asked.

"There is so much talk, and so much pain, but in the end, only the right thing should be done," he concluded.

Saleha Mohamed, 35, a journalist in Benghazi, explained that protestors were "not calling for fighting or for taking up arms".

"You can learn from history, you can read it and find out that civil disobedience is a peaceful means that has changed a lot of events and that peoples were able to win their rights through it," she said.

In her turn, teacher Mona Khalifa, 35, said, "Going out from our homes to work and our children going out for school is a form of resistance. But how long can we go on?"

"We've had enough. The police must be cleansed, and those policemen who don't work shouldn't receive any salary," she added.

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