Benghazi along the Mediterranean (Photobucket Commons)
Nowadays, I drive around town in Benghazi and I see colours and faces of real people on the many billboards around the city. Not so long ago, there weren't many colours just a green rag flapping everywhere you went from the city streets, hotels and even tied to car antennas. The only face you saw was that of the menacing Gadhafi glaring down into your car as you drove by.
Even the flow of traffic was cut off by Gadhafi's Compound being built in the centre of Benghazi dividing the main street of Jamal Abdulnaser. Most destinations required that you snake around the base to get there; so, wherever you went you had see pictures of Gadhafi and his warped green book propaganda.
I always remember cursing under my breath -- to avoid being seen by the many intelligence gatherers -- about what an ugly pessimistic face we had to look at day in and day out throughout our city.
His pictures hung everywhere from schools, hospitals, all public buildings and public and private offices -- anything less was a sign of being a traitor to Gadhafi's one and only party.
TV and radio programmes were also all about the glory -- gory - of Gadhafi and his odd green book that was supposedly going to save the world.
The liberation flag of 1951 with its lively tricolours of red, black and green was changed by Gadhafi to a plain green flag -- everything green belonged to him including all of Libya's wealth.
Libyan currency not surprisingly was printed with pictures of the delusional leader. The Libyan Dinar has a picture of "the philosopher', as he liked to call himself, with his hand placed on the left side of his face as if in deep thought about what else he could do to humiliate the Libyan people. The 20 Dinar bill has a picture of the self-proclaimed "King of African Kings' standing in the middle of his African subjects who were happy to pose for millions stolen from the Libyan people.
Stamps also featured the one and only Gadhafi and his green book propaganda. Even the shutters of all shops in the city had to be painted green. Everything was Gadhafi and the only colour was green. Libya was a country alien to its people who could only look on in suppressed silence.
It's no wonder that even during the protests while still under heavy gunfire and artillery fire, the people tore down all his pictures, green book propoganda and burned down the buildings which were the offices that Qaddafi used to repress them for so long.
Today, in place of all the pictures and billboards of Gadhafi and his alien green world, now stand pictures of Omar Al-Mukhtar - The commander of the Senussi force (who fought against the Italian occupation in the 1920s and was executed in 1931). You also see images of real heroes of everyday people standing up to liberate their country.
Instead of the billboards and many signs painted on all buildings and schools advertising the warped ideas of the green book, such as "the home belongs to its occupant" (which was another way of saying the government supports squatters) or "people who join political parties are traitors to the regime'; these days, the signs are used to inform people of their role in the new Libya from keeping the city clean, to taking care of public property, to slogans of freedom and patriotism.
The green rag of a flag was burned and the liberation flag with its tricolours now flutters proudly with the many other flags of the world that have brought colour, life, and hope to the people of Libya.
All of this has brought back the Libyan peoples' true identity; whereas, previously you would hear people --behind closed doors- swearing at the country, its green rag and all it stood for; nowadays, you see contentment on people's faces, you can almost feel the solidarity of the people.
These days, as I drive around Benghazi, I rarely mutter under my breath anymore -- except for the odd driver. Instead of the feelings of shame and despair I used to have, now, I drive around with my head up high in honour of all those brave people who were gunned down on these same streets to make all this possible.
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