Amidst -- and beyond -- the rebel bombs and Gaddafi’s bunkers, the people of the Libyan capital finally feel free to speak out, and say what the upheaval means for them.
TRIPOLI – It took us until early Wednesday morning to reach the capital. We had landed on the Tunisian resort island of Djerba the day before, and then traveled by car over the western mountains. At the Libyan border, members of the rebel army offered safe passage to Tripoli.
First stop: Green Square. It is a dangerous place to be, but it is the most symbolically important place in Tripoli for the revolutionaries, who were firing shots of joy into the air when we arrived. But our objective was another: to meet citizens across the Libyan capital to find out what the revolution, and especially the last few days, has meant to them. What do they expect from the future? With Muammar Gaddafi's four-decades-long regime crumbling, these are the voices of four Libyan men in the capital.
Abdelnasser Trabulsi, 54, Engineer
Trabulsi works in the petrochemical industry; he has always been an opponent of Gaddafi. "Since the beginning of his tenure, it was clear that nothing good would come out of it -- and I soon began to hate him," says Trabulsi. Throughout Gaddafi's 42-year reign, he never doubted that he would one day witness his fall. "I was sure that I would see the end of his reign, before I died. A regime that is ruled by terror cannot last forever. That is true both in Libya and elsewhere. When I saw the rulers being overthrown in Tunisia and Egypt, I realized immediately that this would also mean the end of Gaddafi," he said. "I find no words to express my feelings today. Joy and happiness, these words are by far not enough to describe how I feel. It is so much more than that.
Naji Sbai, 28, Waiter
For Sbai, it's hard to grasp that Colonel Gaddafi no longer rules Tripoli and Libya. "Since I was born, there has been no other ruler but him. I thought, I will die and he will still be in power," says the young man. "You cannot imagine how happy I am." He now dreams of freedom and democracy, but also of equitable distribution of wealth in the country. "Here, nothing works properly. There is no law and no state. There has only been Gaddafi and his family. They claimed everything for themselves, and have killed and imprisoned so many people without anyone to stop them."
Khaled El Maadi, 25, Doctor
El Maadi, who has sympathized with the rebels from the beginning, is only partially satisfied today. He knows that Gaddafi's fall will not solve all of Libya's problems. "Gaddafi is not the only problem here. This country has been ruled for 42 years on the basis of a dictatorship and a mob. As long as this system is not completely destroyed, I will not be satisfied," he says. Nevertheless, the young doctor remains optimistic: "We have suffered so much that nobody wants a return to a dictatorship. I am convinced that the future of this country will be marked by democracy and freedom. However, it will take a long time to get there, because we have lived under terror and oppression for decades."
Even though he sees a positive future ahead for his country, the 25-year-old is apprehensive. He worries about the thousands of weapons that now exist in Libya. "Gaddafi distributed arms to all of the people that fought for him. Now the rebels have plenty of weapons, but this creates a very dangerous situation for the country," he said. "There is hardly an adult – or even teenager – who does not have a weapon. The new authorities need to find a solution to this problem as quickly as possible, otherwise we might risk falling into another civil war."
Yassine Charafeddine, 36, Shopkeeper
"I am the happiest person in the world. Never in my life have I experienced such a strong feeling. For the first time, I can smell true freedom," says Charafeddine, a young shopkeeper. "Never again will this country be like before. We have endured this dictatorship for 42 years, and we see now that it was never right for us. Believe me, Libya will be a great democracy, a modern country and a constitutional state." Some worries remain: "I am concerned that some Gaddafi loyalists may attempt to sabotage our revolution. Our new leaders must be very attentive to this, and must make every effort to neutralize this threat."
Read the original story in German