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Libyan Rebels Struggle for Normalcy After Revolution

March 8, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
Many Libyan rebels who took to the streets to oust Moammar Gadhafi are now struggling to return to normalcy. GlobalPost correspondent Tracey Shelton reports.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And now: life after the revolution for Libyans who took to the streets to oust Moammar Gadhafi.

Tracey Shelton with our partners at the international Web site GlobalPost reports from Misrata.

LUFTY ALAMIN, Former Libyan Postal Worker: If you frighten somebody, you would be nervous. Killing people and the others kill your friends and you see their blood and the dead body, and all this month, you were far away from your family, even will you — and every day, you’re hearing bombing, bombing, bomb, I think it will reflect bad things in yourself. I know, myself, I’m sick. I’m really sick.

TRACEY SHELTON, GlobalPost: Like thousands of Libyan civilians, Lufty Alamin became a soldier overnight. He was a postal worker when the revolution started.

LUFTY ALAMIN: If I didn’t do this, I would have died and the Gadhafi forces will come into the city and kill many people. And I have to defend my city. And I think it was a necessity to do this. I can’t just watch.

TRACEY SHELTON: Others were students, fishermen, I.T. professionals, accountants, truck drivers and almost none of them had held a weapon before facing Moammar Gadhafi’s national army.

Mohammad Alhorshy was a mechanic.

MOHAMMAD ALHORSHY, former mechanic (through translator): Before, none of us knew anything about weapons, but now even the small babies can use a Kalash.

TRACEY SHELTON: Former fighters say the transition was tough, but necessary. Ahmed Alsied, a computer programmer and father of four, became a prominent fighter when Misrata was invaded by Gadhafi’s troops.

AHMED ALSIED, computer programmer (through translator): When the killing started, we made the decision to face the troops. With no guns, we faced them, with only knives, sticks, and stones.

TRACEY SHELTON: With no weapons, Alsied said some men designed homemade guns. Others made bombs from whatever explosive materials they could find.

Although he had no army training, Alsied began designing new weapons from salvaged ammunition, toys and broken machinery. Sometimes, the rebels picked up guns retreating soldiers left behind.

LUFTY ALAMIN: The first time we used the guns, and it was a little bit afraid, not from dying, but because we have no idea about how to fire. We have no idea about everything was happening at that time.

TRACEY SHELTON: But now they are trying to adjust back to civilian life.

Ahmed Alsied is rebuilding his shop that was destroyed in the fighting, though he has no equipment or customers yet. But that’s not the hardest part.

AHMED ALSIED (through translator): It’s very difficult from a psychological side, especially when you remember your friends that passed away, the ones who were injured, lost arms and legs, those who were kidnapped.

Stop it.

TRACEY SHELTON: Libya’s economy is struggling, and high rates of unemployment are one reason many of the regional militias haven’t disbanded. They fight regularly with each other and with suspected Gadhafi loyalists.

Lufty Alamin says he’s had enough.

LUFTY ALAMIN: Actually, I don’t like to fight anymore. I hate the blood. I hate to kill somebody.

You know, even in the war, when I was fighting, sometimes, I saw my enemy, but I — I can’t shoot him. I said, if he can run, I will leave him run. But some — some others, they want to carry on.

And now, to get back to normal life, for me, it’s — I’m struggling. I was struggling when I was — fight, and now struggling to get back a normal life.

TRACEY SHELTON: That struggle threatens to take even longer than the fight to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi.