A Disruption of Peace By Omar Tambakti

A Disruption of Peace By Omar Tambakti


You can’t speak, you can’t demonstrate, you can’t protest, and if you do, they will not beat you up or spray hot water on you, but they will kill you.

The Libyan people suffered from dictatorship for more than 40 years, and most of those who tried to oppose that were either exiled from the country, got thrown in prison, or got killed just like the Abu Saleem prison massacre when 1269 men were killed on January 29, 1996.

After what happened to Tunisia and Egypt, people in Libya thought it was time to revolt. They went out on peaceful protests but they faced brutal force, so they decided to take weapons to defend themselves. A lot of people died, it was horrible and frightening and the night of the 22 of August 2011 was the scariest night of my life.

It was around nine or ten in the evening. I was sitting at home with my family following the news of the Libyan rebels as they reached Tripoli at last after months of fighting, when suddenly we heard screams and shouts coming from the streets!

It was a group of young men protesting against all the killing, trying to help the cause. Me and my older brother Taha decided that we should go out and join the protest, but my family were not on board with the idea. I heard my younger brother crying and for a moment I hesitated. I understood their fears but we still wanted to go.

We told them that we had to do something, we cannot just stay home, we are not better than those who were killed. They still did not agree with the idea but we went out anyways .

We got out, took the elevator to get down, and I remember my heart was pounding very fast. It was the longest elevator ride of my life.

We got out the elevator, then we got out of the building, and we started running to catch up with the protestors. Some of them were friends. Some of them were people I see almost every day but never talked to. It was the first time that I saw the others.

After putting up road blocks, we started yelling and shouting slogans against Gaddafi and his family and all the terrible things they did to the Libyan people, trying to attract more people to come and protest with us.

Not many came, but our number was not little. I was still scared though. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I might get shot like all those people we heard about.

We started walking, heading to the Martyr Square, or the “Green Square” as Gaddafi used to call it, hoping to join a bigger protest there, but we never made it that far.

A few minutes after we started walking, we heard a gunshot, and one of the protesters fell. I felt like my heart jumped out of my chest. We knew that he got shot, we did not know where the shot came from, but we were certain that it was a sniper. The guy next to him tried helping him and dragging him to safety, but he got shot as well, and at that point it was every man for himself. Everybody started running, and all I was hoping for was to not be the next one to get shot. My brother and I took cover behind cars and buildings.

A few minutes passed, and it was obvious that the protesters wouldn’t be able to gather again. If we did, more of us would get killed. Deciding to just go back to our house, we tried to take cover behind anything that we could find, hoping to make it back alive.

On our way back, we saw two pickup trucks with Anti Aircraft guns on their back parked in front of the building facing ours. Our neighbor stopped us and said that it’s better to go around our building so they wouldn’t see us.

We got to our building safely and we stayed there for some time. I heard the sound of gunshots from across the street and my heart almost stopped. I thought they might be aiming at us, but they were aiming at the building facing us. A guy at their roof was throwing Molotov Cocktails on the roadblocks. When the gunshots stopped, we decided to just go up to our families as they probably were worried sick after hearing all these gunshots.

Our neighbor stopped at the fourth floor and told us to be careful and not to go out without him if we ever decided to go back there. We thanked him before returning to our apartment on the tenth floor.

Taha rang the bell, and we were able to hear my younger brother’s footsteps running to open the door. He hugged us both and said that he was so scared that he might not see either of us again. I remember that when we walked in, the rest of our family started asking us all sorts of questions about what happened and about the gunshots, but they missed one question: if we were alright.

Now after almost three years, I wonder if I would do the same thing again. Would I go out or just stay at home, would I run away or stand my ground, would I stay unarmed or would I pick up a gun and try to fight? I only know I do not regret any of the decisions I made that day. I just did what I thought was right.

Omar Tambakti