“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”
After six months of struggle, the Libyan revolution has arrived (again) in Tripoli. There may still be a trick or two up the megalomaniac’s sleeve, but the news coming in at the moment suggests a precipitous collapse. Saif-ul-Islam al-Qaddafi has been arrested. The tyrant’s daughter Aisha’s house is under the revolutionaries’ control, as is the military base of the formerly feared Khamis Brigade. The brigade in charge of protecting Qaddafi himself has surrendered. (The foreign supporters of Qaddafi and his supposedly ‘loyal’ subjects must be feeling rather silly now). Inhabitants of Tripoli’s neighbourhoods are pouring into their streets to greet the revolutionary forces.
Much of the credit for this victory must go to the revolutionaries of Misrata and the Jebel Nafusa. While the Transitional Council in Benghazi was busy fighting itself, the people of Misrata fought their way out of Qaddafi’s siege and then liberated Zlitan. The fighters of the Jebel Nafusa broke the siege around their mountains and then liberated Zawiya – which has suffered so much – and moved towards the capital. Last night revolutionaries in Tripoli, who have been launching small-scale operations nightly for months, rose in Fashloom, Souq al-Juma’a and other areas. Today they were met by their comrades arriving from the west and east.
Of course, the controversial NATO-led intervention has also played a major role. Western policy has been clever on Libya, winning friends by helping the people when they asked for help. Credit must be given where credit is due, and the West will understandably have deep credit reserves in the new Libya.
This will be worrying for anyone who wishes to see the Arabs shake off imperialist influence, and the Transitional Council does not inspire confidence either. It’s largely made up of ex-Qaddafi officials and it’s been too willing to have NATO go beyond its mandate to protect civilians. Some form of neo-liberal pro-West semi-democracy seems likely in Libya, at first at least; in fact that may be the best case scenario. There is an immediate danger that the revolutionary forces will now split into competing militias and that chaos will follow.
A semi-democracy would still be a great improvement on Qaddafi’s capricious and sadistic dictatorship. I very much hope the revolution continues and deepens and that the Libyans won’t settle for ex-Qaddafi officials – but that’s up to them. At least we’re in a position tonight where we can hope for that. If there had been no intervention, we wouldn’t be in this position. An Arab intervention would have been incomparably better, but the Arabs aren’t there yet.
So many martyrs have fallen, including, a couple of days ago, the cousin of our brave reporter Nafissa Assed. But tonight, as we enter the last ten days of Ramadan, there is cause for celebration. We congratulate the Libyan people on their victory, and thank them for giving a boost to revolutionaries around the Arab world. We remember the tens of thousands of martyrs murdered by the dictatorship since 1969. Takbeeeeeer!