Please watch this video of a young Libyan IT worker speaking to the BBC overnight. Nothing can quite sum up what’s happening in Libya as this man’s brave testimony can.
Or, you can begin to grasp the situation in this from the Guardian:
The pro-government Al-Zahf al-Akhdar newspaper warned that the government would “violently and thunderously respond” to the protests, and said those opposing the regime risked “suicide”.
Protests in Libya have grown increasingly large and met with increasingly violent response. Most of the protests have been in the Eastern part of the country, particularly the second largest city Benghazi and neighboring Al Bayda, where Quadafi is reported to be using mercenaries from other African countries to attack the protesters. Google has a very useful map documenting the locations and details of reported protests and attacks. You can view it here. (h/t egregious)
As one person on twitter noted, “in Libya they’ve skipped the tear gas and batons and gone straight to live fire” and now there are reports (as heard above and elsewhere) that government forces are using anti-aircraft guns on protesters as well.
The Independent includes reports that:
A Benghazi cleric, Abellah al-Warfali, told al-Jazeera television he had a list of 16 people being buried yesterday, most with bullet wounds. “I saw with my own eyes a tank crushing two people in a car,” he said. “They hadn’t done any harm to anyone.”
Several reports said government-recruited mercenaries were behind the worst violence including sniper attacks and the use of heavy machine guns. A British-based IT consultant, Ahmed Swelim, 26, originally from Benghazi, said relatives told him the situation had reached “critical point”. “People are living in fear since he [Mr Gaddafi] brought in African mercenaries. They are dressing as normal people but doing random killings. They will shoot or cut people’s hands off. The whole city is erupting. People went out to protest peacefully. They want an end to this oppression. The death toll is much higher than reported. There are more than 200 dead. My cousin, a doctor at a main hospital, has seen the bodies. There are more than 1,000 injured.”
And from the BBC:
A Benghazi resident told the BBC that security forces inside a government compound had fired on protesters with mortars and 14.5mm machine guns – a heavy machine gun typically produced in the former USSR.
They were, he said, machine-gunning cars and people indiscriminately. “A lot [of people] have fallen down today,” he added.
Other witnesses spoke of snipers firing at protesters from rooftops and there were widespread reports of foreign mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa being brought in to attack protesters.
A doctor told the BBC that situation in the city was “like hell”, saying he had been seeing people with gunshot wounds being carried into his hospital all day.
Multiple reports from Benghazi describe snipers firing on the mourners at Saturday’s funeral procession for the dead from Friday. Numbers of killed and wounded cannot be verified nor can reports that the protesters in response have stormed the military brigades headquarters or military intelligence building (Al Fadil Brigade Building).
Imran Khan, AJE web reporter on Saturday quoted sources as saying “In Benghazi men are crying saying there is no room left in the hospital.”
With a total media crackdown in Libya, it is difficult for verified reports to get out but a website run outside Libya in support of the demonstrators is collecting the videos and reports – Libya February 17th and is providing translations of calls from inside Libya via audioboo. One reports that doctors are being attacked by government forces in Benghazi:
Protests have spread across Libya with reports on AJE of clashes and protesters shot by government forces with live ammunition in Nalut and even reports of demonstrations in Tripoli. On twitter:
Many dead and wounded in #Fashloom in Tripoli. My OWN grandma is taking people in. Her house is a make shift hospital now. #Libya
Reuters has reported that:
The bloody crackdown prompted about 50 Libyan Muslim religious leaders to issue an appeal, sent to Reuters, for the security forces, as Muslims, to stop the killing.
“This is an urgent appeal from religious scholars (faqihs and Sufi sheikhs), intellectuals, and clan elders from Tripoli, Bani Walid, Zintan, Jadu, Msalata, Misrata, Zawiah, and other towns and villages of the western area,” said the appeal.
“We appeal to every Muslim, within the regime or assisting it in any way, to recognize that the killing of innocent human beings is forbidden by our Creator and by His beloved Prophet of Compassion (peace be upon him)… Do NOT kill your brothers and sisters. STOP the massacre NOW!”
In Bahrain, after the Crown Prince ordered military and security forces to withdraw, protesters quickly advanced on the Pearl Roundabout and immediately re-established their tent city and encampment. The opposition Wafeq party has agreed to enter a dialogue about reform but at the same time the labor unions have called for an indefinite strike to both protest the killings over the past week and insist on actual reform.
… Though they have resumed camping out in the square, political tension remains acute and the threat of further security crackdowns looms.
…Isa Al-Qubaiti, a middle-aged math instructor, said, “It feels like we won the first round. But there will be rounds 2, 3, and 4 afterward.”
He continued, “We do not trust the government. We want a new constitution, real democracy, and our missing protesters freed”.
The Guardian reports:
“The government is listening to us now,” said Mohammed Najib. “Not because they like us, but because we are in a strong position. The world is watching us and international opinion matters.”
… Perhaps more alarming for the 200-year-old dynasty is that demonstrators are no longer making a distinction between the ruling family and the government during their calls for reform. “Down, down with the Khalifas,” they shouted in English as they teemed towards Pearl roundabout. “The regime must fall, they will kill us all,” doctors and nurses chanted in the grounds of the Salmaniya hospital that had been the focal point of the revolt…
“We will not stop at regaining a piece of land,” said Bassema Mousawi, draped in a banner that read in Arabic: Bahrain is me and I am Bahrain. “They cannot buy us off and they cannot appease us. Real change is what we demand. Nothing less.”
Other countries to watch on Sunday are Morocco today where Al Jazeera reports “a group of young Moroccans that calls itself the “February 20 Movement for Change” has called for nationwide protests, “A Day of Dignity” on Sunday to push for constitutional reforms that would reduce King Mohammed’s powers and make the justice system more independent.”
Protest continue in Algeria, Yemen and were seen in Kuwait on Saturday. New demonstrations have been called for Iran and we’re continuing to see demonstrations like those today in Iraq.
Avaaz is trying to get “secure satellite modems and phones, tiny video cameras, and portable radio transmitters, plus expert support teams on the ground” – you can learn how to help with small donations here.