Monday, July 9, 2012

Libya Votes

Its been sixty years since Libyans were last able to lend their voices to shape the body that governs them. After a 42 year dictatorship and 1 epic revolution later Libyans are finally at the polls. Only 9 months after declaring complete liberation from Gaddafi's iron fist, Libyans queued in lines, single file may I add, for their chance to be heard. Although polls opened at 8am, lines began to form as early as 6am.

While personally unable to vote, I tagged along with my uncle to the Hayundulus neighborhood of Tripoli to vote.  Outside the station were hastily constructed boards with the various candidates and their corresponding number. This was the voters last chance to take a look at the entire list and find the number of the candidate they needed to cast their ballot.

At least to me, this system seemed very inefficient in that it confused some voters to see so many names and numbers. A lot of people were second guessing which number corresponded with the candidate they wanted. The system worked well in that it created dialogue and debate amongst Libyans about various candidates. It was surreal to hear Libyans debate, hotly at some times, political candidates. What a novelty to be in Libya and hear the government, or what would be the new government, criticized openly and freely. It was just one more thing to add to my list that made Feb17 real for me. 

Every SINGLE person who exited the polling area had a big ol'grin across their face. Bottles of water, juice boxes, cakes, and chocolates were all passed out. It was an overwhelmingly historic event for Libyans. While some cried, some laughed, I saw many who took a moment and prostrated in thanks to God. It was an emotional scene to be sure. I saw so many mothers and fathers holding pictures of their martyred sons. What a bitter-sweet moment. I pray they find solace in seeing that the sacrifice their sons made was not in vain. 

Now that the civic duty was fulfilled, it was time to party. If there is anything Libyans are good at besides having rockin' revolutions its having a good time. The streets were filled with cars honking and flags waving. It was an amazing scene. While it was peak heat of the day, people had their windows rolled down, grinning at each other and throwing up peace signs. While I stepped off the sidewalk to snap photos, people stuck their heads out of windows so I could take better pictures. Children shouted ''Allahwho Akbar!'' I think I had goosebumps for a consecutive 6 hours. 

The glee and excitement was infectious. You couldn't help but have this goofy grin on your face. Libya just voted its first democratically elected body. It wasn't some farcical ''Lajna Sha3beeya'' (Peoples committee) of Gaddafi's. We had done it. 

I kept coming across scenes of Libyans celebrating that had me cracking up. Guys parking their cars in the middle of traffic, blaring their music and dancing in the middle of the street. One of my favorites had to be this guy who climbed, nimbly in fact, to the top of the fountain and was dancing and waving the flag. I couldn't stop smiling. It just exemplified how bursting with happiness and excitement people were. 

Everyone was having a good time, but safety was always priority one. Checkpoints had be increased tenfold across the city to insure all went well. And although security was heightened, even the police and army patrolling were in the best of moods.

 I honestly cannot put into words how SPECTACULAR it was being in Martyrs Square in Tripoli. It was mind blowing. There were THOUSANDS of people, it almost seemed never ending. People just kept arriving. Everyone waving their flags, singing songs, hugging, rap battles. It was crazy. There were groups of guys who came prepared to jam, drums in to, leading the crowd in chants and songs. 

While everyone was out honking and celebrating throughout the day. The real party started in Medina right before Mughrib, or sunset. This is just one of the MANY videos I have of crowds breaking into song.

Have to say the one specific thing that made this whole night a hit was the fact that everyone was dedicated to making it a safe and fun night. There wasn't pushing and shoving. If someone bumped into you, they always turned to say excuse me. There were genuine smiles and nods. No one was causing trouble. Everyone was in the same state of mind: They wanted this day to be as successful as possible. I was in the Square from 5pm to 1am local time and I did not hear a single celebratory bullet fire. I have to say that really was my number one concern when going out in a crowd. It was so nice to be out and carefree. 

Really if I were to try to capture this night it words, it would be require multiple lengthy posts. It was a dream come true. While I felt incredibly happy, blessed and thankful that I was able to be in Libya for this event, what took the cake was while in Martyrs Square I COMPLETELY RANDOMLY ran into the the families and individuals who grew up with me in the US. My expat Libyan family is as dear to me, if not more, than my real family. We created a little Libya in Lexington, Kentucky when our parents bravely said ''No'' to living under Gaddafi. In all my years I never believed we would all go back to Libya and be reunited. 

Alhamdulilah. I was so proud of Libya. We proved all the pessimists wrong. Libya wants to move forward, build a better nation built on democratically elected bodies. We aren't being held back by a handful of trouble makers. Libya is on the rise. While it may take baby steps, we are committed to  a free, functional Libya. 

It was a magical day and God willing, a day such as spectacular will occur for our brothers and sisters still fighting in Syria. 

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