|Tripoli residents walked among the bullet casings left from Thursday’s celebration in Green Square [Evan Hill]|
In his first Friday sermon since the rebels entered the capital, the newest imam at Triploli’s centuries-old Naja Mosque praised God and the revolution, and called on followers to practise forgiveness, not revenge.
The imam was well tuned to the human consequences of Libya’s civil war; his predecessor was shot and killed along with hundreds of other protesters in Tripoli on February 20, just days after demonstrations began across Libya against Muammar Gaddafi‘s regime. He is the third imam at Naja Mosque this year.
Speaking to parishioners packed inside the low-ceilinged mosque supported by Roman-era columns, the new imam asked God to help Libya and gave thanks for the freedom to finally, after more than 40 decades of authoritarian rule, speak freely.
“Now, it is the time to start cleaning,” he concluded, according to a member of the congregation, Jelal Krikshi.
Building a future
Nearby, in Green Square, which rebels have renamed Martyrs’ Square, a calm had settled in after a raucous celebration on Thursday night. Rebels and their supporters had fired streams of tracer rounds from AK-47s and anti-aircraft guns into the sky until the early morning.
By Friday, only a lone man in a straw hat moved methodically around the plaza, picking up spent bullet casings and putting them in a plastic bag.
Overhead, giant cranes arched over the square. Several onlookers said the machines had been brought in to hang an enormous image of Gaddafi, but nobody could be sure.
In an earlier interview, Mahmoud Ashour, a 58-year-old Tripoli shop owner, said: “We are going to construct a new country with the law and with discipline.”
Ali al-Ayam, an aircraft mechanic, brought his two young sons to the square on Friday. By his reckoning, 90 per cent of Tripoli was free and calm, but he said rebels still had to push the remnants of Gaddafi’s army out of the city.
When rebels first swarmed into Tripoli on August 20, Ayam said he took his children into the streets to greet them.
‘Relief’ at last
In a shady intersection across from the square, Abdel Rahman, an electrical engineer, was withdrawing money from an fully-functional ATM.
“The people, they know this is the people’s money,” he said, explaining why there had been no attempt to loot the cash machine.
Rahman worked at the oil refinery in Ras Lanuf, east of the capital, the scene of heavy fighting between the rebels and Gaddafi.
He returned to Tripoli, his hometown, on February 21 after learning of the bloody crackdown Gaddafi had brought to bear against the uprising.
“I called my brothers here and they told me Gaddafi was bringing in mercenaries,” he said.
As prayers ended in the many nearby mosques, pedestrians and vehicles began to circle the newly named square. The cars honked horns as passengers fired guns out the windows and into the air.
Soon, a crowd of around 200 people marched in from the east, chanting against Gaddafi and cheering the heroes and martyrs of the revolution.
“People have been nervous, stressed, depressed, for the last six months. You could see their heads hang down,” said life-long Tripoli resident Krikshi.
“Now they come outside just for relief.”