Field report: lessons from Libya
Libyan activist-turned-business consultant Khaled el Mayet knows not everyone shares his view of what happened in Libya. But for him, the most important measure is how little fear is felt on the streets of Tripoli now compared with a year ago, or with the forty-two years of Ghaddafi rule before that.
“It was a great success,” says el Mayet. “It was very much needed and the Libyan people were very appreciative for the action NATO took.”
The 28-year-old el Mayet grew up in London, a life that was outwardly comfortable, but emotionally on edge as his family, friends, and his own sense of self were split between Britain and Libya.
As the early sprouts in Libya’s “Spring” were being crushed by the Ghaddafi regime, he and other members of the Libyan diaspora sent humanitarian assistance, desperately hoping for international protection for those resisting the regime.
“Everyone was so scared,” he says. “We all saw that radio speech from Ghaddafi where he said. ‘We’re coming for you. We’re going to hunt you down one by one like rats in your cupboards, zanqa zanqa.’”
The phrase “Zanqa zanqa,”–Arabic for alleyway by alleyway–would become a catchphrase, even a jingle for the opposition. But at the moment the Libyan leader issued the threat in February 2011, it was a death notice.
El Mayet actually thinks that language helped convince permanent UN.Security Council members Russia and China to abstain in a March 17th vote, rather than veto resolution 1973, which authorized “all necessary means” to protect Libyan civilians.
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