To enter the city of Zawia you must pass under this check point that was erected by liberation forces once the city was captured. Yes, it is made from shipping containers. This is the original check point and probably will remain. I presume an official structure of some sort will be built. Im not sure how ascetically pleasing shipping containers are.
The guards were young, very young. I know a baby face when I see one, but these young men could not be more than 24. The area around the check point was clean and the men were all dressed in camouflage, cleanly shaved, hair gelled and stood tall. They looked smart. I was proud of them for the way they took their position so seriously. They looked the part and were vigilant about checking trucks and cars with young men, insuring that they werent up to no good. As we approached, the guards gave us a wave and let us pass. Three women in a car is not considered a threat.
About half a meter after you pass the check point on your right hand side comes what used to be a banquet hall.
It was struck by NATO forces because it was holding both weapons and Gaddafi forces. Ive been told that the building still has dead bodies inside that no one has bothered to retrieve. The official reason being the structure is too unstable to go in and find them. The unofficial and real reason is they are bodies of Gaddafi troops so no one cares to uncover them. Its a bit startling to see this sight right off the bat when entering the city, but its an immediate and sobering reminder of the battle for the city.
The most fascinating part I found to be is, people still live in these homes and operate the shops. Some store fronts have been repaired by upper level apartments have not and families have no choice but to return. There were many windows covered up with plastic where glass hasn't been replaced, gaping holes where RPG's blasted through. The people of Zawia, resilient as ever, continue with every day life as if its nothing was out of the ordinary. Bullet holes, Shmullet holes.
The war has not been a clutch that Zawia has chosen to continue to lean on. The price was paid for freedom, its almost as simple as that. As I walked the streets seeing the destruction, I felt this immense respect for Zawia and her citizens grow and grow. This is a city that suffered so much, endured multiple fronts and attacks, yet keep their humility. How often do you hear about Thuwar Zawia holding places/things hostage in retaliation or act with stupidity and no foresight as to how their actions will reflect on others? They dont. MashaAllah this is a town that stood against a tyrant and wanted nothing in return. Not notoriety, not to become a sprawling city center, they only wanted the freedom they fought for.
The destruction continues beyond the small side streets. The concentrated and massive destruction of the city occurred in the city center, now known as Martyrs Square. The battle for Zawia was pinpointed to this area. The damage so extensive, that it requires a post of its own. Zawia part 2.