News / Africa

Libyans Mark Eid with Optimism, Sadness

Wahabi Mohammed Yemeni stands at a checkpoint in his neighborhood in Tripoli, August 31, 2011
Wahabi Mohammed Yemeni stands at a checkpoint in his neighborhood in Tripoli, August 31, 2011

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Elizabeth Arrott

Libyans began their celebration of Eid al Fitr Wednesday with conflicting feelings about the holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

Libyan Wahabi Mohamed Yemeni won't be celebrating this Eid el Fitr holiday with the joy the end of Ramadan usually brings.

"Our family, we [celebrate] can't, because we're sad," said Yemeni.  "No one [is] dead from our family.  But our family, the same [Libyan] family, have dead people.  Libya [is] one family."

During the battle for Tripoli, as rebels entered the capital, Yemeni's neighborhood came under fire from forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi.

"Saturday we had many snipers here, here and here," explained Yemeni.

While none in his immediate circle were killed, some were wounded. His neighbor took a bullet through the hip.

"It came in here and went out here," Yemeni recalled.
His brother was shot while coming home from evening prayer.

Yemeni, who runs a delivery business, took up arms during the chaotic days Gadhafi's forces were routed.  He says he never had to shoot anyone, but was willing to if it meant protecting those around him.

"We'll do anything for the safety of my family, the safety of my people, for country, from Gadhafi.  Anything," added Yemeni.

Men like Yemeni seem to have accomplished much of that, but there's much more still to be done.

Running water in Tripoli is in short supply. Electricity is sporadic. And food for this Eid al Fitr holiday is scant.

"People these days eat what the sheep eats," Yemeni said.

Yemeni understands the current shortages; the uprising has lasted six months.  It's more the relative poverty of the past decades that makes him angry.  Libya under Gadhafi, he points out, had no shortage of oil wealth.

"This fancy hotel - this big hotel - this hotel is for presidents. And behind us poor people. You can see how the poor people live," he noted.
But what makes him angriest of all was living under a man he believes was crazy.

"It was bad, bad, bad dream for the Libyans," Yemeni explained.

That nightmare, it seems, is likely over, making this first Eid without their longtime leader especially sweet.

"We wake up in the day without Gadhafi!  Smell the free!  Smell the free!" exclaimed Yemeni.

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