Rebel’s Yell: Benghazi

Posted on: March 21st, 2011 | No Comments

They call it “celebratory fire.”  In some, maybe many, parts of the world men enjoy shooting the guns in the air.  At several points, shooting was so loud that it made talking (during the day) and sleeping (at night) impossible. More than once, conversations have gone like this: “Why are they shooting like that?”

“Because they are happy.”

“But why so much?”

“I think they are very happy.”

But they were also shooting to commemorate people killed (martyrs) since the start of the fighting. There is debate about how dangerous “falling” bullets actually are but it isn’t worth the risk and few rebels seem to be taking care to aim their Kalashnikovs in safe directions.  It’s almost laughable that they say they need more ammunition and training. 

Parts of Benghazi actually look like bits of Miami – coastal water lined by buildings of all sorts but there is also a bit of an old town with narrow streets.  There, the opposition shadow government has taken over a court building and has started putting in place the basic functions of state.  These are still rudimentary and somewhat disorganized.  Outside pictures of those disappeared under the ruling government are commemorated and solace is sought in meetings, rallies and prayer.     

On my second night, deciding the hotel food was worth the risk of moving on the streets, we decided to go out for pizza (there was less shooting that night).  There aren’t many places to go but more than you might imagine.  With a few journalists, we were taken to a place that looked and felt ok but the pizza is worth skipping in favor of samosas.  On leaving, groups of young rebels stood outside waiting for their food or just to socialize.  A pick-up truck with an anti-aircraft mounted on back is parked outside and an effigy of Gaddafi hung from the traffic signal.  I hear someone say “I wish I had my camera.”

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