Report From Libya
JIHAN HAFIZ, JOURNALIST: Across the border from Egypt there is a new sovereign country ruled by revolutionaries. After 42 years under the rule of president/colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi, the Libyan people are in full revolt and are now firmly in control of the eastern part of the country. In the liberated city of Benghazi, the stronghold of the opposition, the people have formed a deep sense of community. This is a revolution without leaders and tens of thousands of volunteers. People collect donated food, some coming in from neighboring Egypt and Tunisia, and safeguard it in a warehouse before distributing it for free to the population. The shops and restaurants surrounding the city now serve as communal kitchens for the revolution.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): I cook every day, sometimes rice, sometimes macaroni, sometimes kiksou, sometimes beans. It tastes good and everyone is well fed, thank God.
HAFIZ: Foreign journalists were seldom seen here. Now they are welcomed with open arms and report freely. The first independent newspaper in liberated Benghazi [was] named after the February 17 uprising that led to the government's ouster from this city.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): The newspapers and magazines could not discuss the regime, and freedom of the press was non-existent. He had cut them completely. Journalists that attempted to be free disappeared. Not just them, but their immediate and extended family would vanish.
CROWD (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Dear God!
HAFIZ: But liberating eastern Libya of the Gaddafi regime came at a heavy price. It's estimated over 1,000 civilians were killed when the regime responded to the peaceful protest with extreme violence. Some of the images we have obtained are too gruesome to broadcast. The hospitals are still packed with patients with gunshot wounds. After the violent battle for the eastern city of Benghazi, there's no turning back for the people here. You're hearing them screaming, "The people of Zawiyah will join us." They're counting on the other cities in the West to join them in a fight against a leader who has ruled this country for 42 years. Libya's second-largest city has become the unofficial capital of this uprising, and thousands of protesters continue streaming in from the surrounding region. Gaddafi has called the pro-democracy demonstrators "extremists" and "members of al-Qaeda", but people here refute those claims as absurd.
UNIDENTIFIED: We don't have radical people. Our Muslims are moderate. We are--we will be--I am sure we will inspire a lot of Arab nations, I am sure, and also Muslim nations. Libya will inspire the world! Libya will inspire the world! Libya! Libya!
SISTERS (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): God is Great!
HAFIZ: These sisters lost their father when he drove his car into Gaddafi's military barracks. The crash was the turning point in the battle for Benghazi, as thousands stormed the building, liberating the city. They call them martyrs, and the memory of how and why they died fuels this revolution. The celebration of eastern Libya's freedom continued late into Friday night, as people were elated to hear of Libyans revolting in other parts of the country. Many here believe it's a matter of days before the force of people power makes history once again in the latest and bloodiest Arab uprising to rock the region since the beginning of the year. Jihan Hafiz for The Real News in Benghazi, Libya.
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