the revolution unravels


I saw a murder one afternoon in central Benghazi. The victim was a tall, heavily built man in his thirties wearing jeans and a grey sweatshirt. Three quick shots rang out to our left, my driver pulled the car in and there the man lay, one leg still moving as a slick pool of very red blood ran down the tarmac from his head. The city courts, used as offices by the rebels’ Provisional Transitional National Council since its ascent to power in Benghazi in mid-February, were just five minutes away. For all the judicial authority they had over the murder scene, with its guns, gangs and absence of police, they might as well have been in another country. The victim was a local man irritated by the sound of shooting in his apartment block doorway, where the killer had stood firing aimlessly in the air: a regular pastime in the city. He had asked the gunman to go elsewhere. Instead, the man shot him three times in the head and throat and then fled, pursued by passersby. Over the next two hours, the victim’s family seized the killer’s brother and a friend, who was blind, as hostages. Then two pickup-loads of rebels tried to storm the apartment to release the men but were driven off by heavily armed family members and residents. Guns and rage determined the outcome, not law. I left without seeing it end after the fury became too much to endure. Revolutions are tumultuous, and it would be naive to expect a smooth establishment of law and order in Benghazi so soon after the frantic violence that accompanied the populist uprising of the early spring. But Libya’s revolution is regressing, despite the air strikes by the Nato-led coalition.

more from Anthony Loyd at Prospect Magazine here.