By Abdul Kareem Jaffari.
Tripoli, 17 February 2015:
Despite Libya’s problems, many hundreds of people turned out in Tripoli’s Martyrs Square this evening . . .[restrict]to celebrate the fourth anniversary of the 17 February Revolution. Crowds also turned up in a number of other Libyan towns, including Khoms, Hun, Ghadames and Ghariyan.
Numbers in Tripoli, however, were noticeably well down on those of the three previous years and in the east, celebrations were distinctly muted. Nonetheless, both the Beida-based government of Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni and the Constitutional Drafting Assembly issued statements celebrating the anniversary.
Initially in Tripoli, from around midday until 4 pm, the streets were extremely quiet. Checkpoints were operating all over the city. Fashloum, a centre of opposition to Libya Dawn as it had been to the Qaddafi regime four years ago, was blocked off by containers.
Apparent concerns within the Hassi regime, which has been desperate to present an air of normality in the city, that not enough people would turn up to the celebrations resulted in a hospital helicopter dropping leaflets urging people to take part in them.
Whether or not it had an effect, hundreds turned up in Martyrs Square to celebrate the revolution, waving Libyan flags, with cars hooting their horns, expressing their happiness at the overthrow of the former regime and being there today to celebrate it.
Many called on God to protect and help Benghazi in the present crisis, but few mentioned either the rival Operation Dignity or Libya Dawn groupings. They said they were there to celebrate the revolution and Libya, not take sides in the current divide.
“Today I’m celebrating the fourth anniversary of 17 February Revolution,” one told the Libya Herald, “not Libya Dawn. I’m celebrating my country.”
Others in the square were there for the same reason, he claimed. “No one here cares about Dawn. Look at their protests every Friday. Just 20 to 30 supporters come and demonstrate for them. This is the celebration of Libya, not of Dawn”.
Nonetheless, the police presence was pervasive as was that of the Nawasi brigade, now one of the main security enforcers in the capital. They checked almost everyone entering the square. There was no sign of any supporters of IS.
“It felt very safe,” insisted one Tripoli resident who had just returned to the country and who called on others to do so as well.
However, the vast majority of Tripolitans stayed at home. “What is there to celebrate now?” one asked. [/restrict]