Tripoli Eyewitness: ‘As We Prayed, We Heard Gunshots’


Libyan protesters flash the ‘V for victory’ sign in the eastern city of Tobruk on Feb. 24, 2011. Photo by Patrick Bazi/AFP/Getty Images.

This dispatch from Tripoli comes from a Libyan man who goes by the name Niz. We were connected with him by Libyan-American analyst Hafed Al-Ghwell during our reporting on the situation for Friday’s NewsHour:

We walked to Mezran and entered a mosque there, only to find the Imam reading off a pre-scripted sermon. I looked around and it was obvious that the congregation were not happy. My group stood up and left, at which point we decided to drive around and assess the situation.

The city, in that area, appeared quiet. No protestors, no pro-regime gangs, no security, no cars. We ended up meeting some others and going to a friend’s house and praying together in a group.

It was almost poetic, as we prayed we heard gun shots. Near, far, continuous, sporadic. It continued for the duration of our four duhur rakat! As we finished a very old man entered the room, just having returned from Friday prayers. He told us that the Imam was repeating “Nefdeekum ya Benghazi”… “We will redeem you Benghazi.” This, the man said, was sending the congregation into a frenzy. He pointed us in the right direction and we made our way.

Within minutes we were greeted by a small group who had began congregating and loudly suggesting places to march to – “To Fashloum” one would say, “To Zaweyat Dehmany” another would suggest. The crowd was growing.

Anti regime slogans, pro-Benghazi and the east slogans, morale raising slogans, and religious slogans. The spirit was good, defiant and fearless.

>Within minutes of marching we were faced with gun fire. Severe, and very, very close. We all stood our ground, but behind shelter. As we were being fired upon, it ceased to become a peaceful march and turned into a game of cat and mouse.

We pelted the security with rocks in defiance. They continued to fire and advance. Suddenly they mobilized at speed. Three or four large trucks with armed and uniformed men in the open back. No attempt was made at dispersing us by non-lethal methods (tear gas, water cannon, rubber bullets, smoke bombs, etc).

We ran into the side streets, being ushered into houses by elderly women, young children and old men. All wishing to protect us, all standing up to the regime in their own way. We would wait for the security to pass and then return to the streets and flank them.

Blockading the streets to slow their progress, we would then regroup and start our chants and marches. We were so many. Tripoli would not remain silent forever. This cycle of cat and mouse occurred for a few hours and I found refuge in three different houses, the last of which even brought us tea and cake by the proud women of the house, spurring us on and encouraging us in our struggle…

Find more coverage and analysis on the Libya protests on our world page.