By Nihal Zaroug.
Tripoli, 15 September:
As news of the deaths of Ambassador Stevens and the other Americans now identified as Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, as well as a number of Libyans, became public, Libyans the world over have voiced their dismay at the tragic loss of lives. In protests and over social media networks they offered their condolences and unwavering condemnations on the attack against an ally to the Libyan people.
Large numbers of Libyans regarded him as a “friend to Libya”, especially those in Benghazi where he played a crucial role during the revolution.
On the U.S. Embassy Libya facebook page, hundreds of messages from Libyans were posted, such as:
“Mr. Chris Stevens, really honored his country and family, but he is also one of us, no one in Libya forget what he did for us, particularly the people of Benghazi. We are very sorry for his family and friends.”
And a message posted on behalf of the National Protection Against Violence Committee by Dr. Laila Bughaius stated:
Benghazi will never forget what the American Government did for us.
Their humanitarian stand with the Libyan people is something that can only inspire gratitude. Benghazi was the cradle of a revolution against barbarism, violence and abuse. It was a revolution to bring forth dignity, justice, and democracy. Those people who do not want Libya to prosper, and do not want to see democracy, and who are against humanity and civility will keep on committing their acts of injustice and inhumanity to ruin the dreams and achievements of honest Libyans….
Chris Stevens was a brave man. He remained with us in Benghazi when all others fled during the war, he connected with our people, he has done his best to help our civil society prosper and grow, promoting several cultural and educational programs, and he showed us what tolerance means. He certainly did not deserve to die this way, even if no one meant to hurt him personally, the consequence of the action touched him and his family and his friends. Our deepest condolences go to Chris’s family and his friends, and to the families and friends of his fallen countrymen who died in Benghazi.”
United Nations US representative Susan Rice, acknowledging messages and condolences she had received, said on Twitter;
“Thank you to our Libyan friends for your kind messages yesterday about Ambassador Stevens. I appreciate all of them. We know you dream of a strong, united Libya. Ambassador Stevens shared your dream. The best way to honor him is to make it real.”
Social media is being used as platform to explain that the perpetrators of the crimes do not represent Libyans and acted against the tenants of Islam and the teachings of Prophet Mohamed. Ordinary Libyans, they say, do not want to be associated with the attacks at the mission and deplored the fact that initial protests there intended to defend the character of Prophet Mohamed from an anti-Islam movie that has in fact been described as “disgusting and reprehensible” by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a press conference.
Various Facebook pages have been created to mark the attacks such as We Muslim Libyans strongly condemn the Violent acts on the American embassy, I am Libyan and I refuse the murder that happened to Chris Stevens and more notably The Sorry Project has gained over 2000 likes and is acting as an exchange board for Libyans to express their condolences to the victims’ families and oppose the crimes and violence committed against the US consulate.
A video message Libyans Against Terrorism in Memory of Ambassador Chris Stevens produced by Intajj, a local production house, shows Libyans denouncing terrorisms and extremism as a cohesive group.
Protests planned within hours of news breaking and still ongoing, show many people holding signs reading “Libyans against terror”, “Murder is not Islam” and “Thugs and Killers don’t represent Benghazi nor Islam”.
Many sites’ profile pictures and cover photos were changed in memory of Stevens and in solidarity to denounce the attacks and deaths as un-Islamic and un-Libyan.
A photo of Benghazi youngsters cleaning the consulate was tweeted by Emad Dlala and news of donations being collected to aid in the rebuilding also spread on Twitter.
All these expressions clearly indicates that the vast majority of Libyans have nothing but contempt for the perpetrators and their actions, and are truly sorry for the deaths at the consulate.
Recent tweets by Asma Magariaf, who visited the consulate, shows how lamentable Libyans feel:
“Since arriving to Benghazi last night, the general mood of people is feeling of disgrace at death of Chris Stevens. People in Benghazi express almost uniform feelings that extremists in population need to be ‘rooted out’.”
A small group of extremists, however, protested on Friday in front of Benghazi’s Tibesti Hotel against the US. Waving black flags, they called for the closure of the US embassy, labelling President Barack Obama and the USA as enemies of Islam. Similarly in Tripoli and in Misrata, individuals who wanted to disrupt protests against the consulate attacks were told to leave.