The weather was good, yet there was perspiration all over our body. The temperature was normal, yet we had a feeling of high fever. The physical fitness was robust, yet our heart-beat was pulsating unusually. The lips were parched and the throat dry. The life seemed to be ending in a moment.
By and large, Zliten, from the very beginning, had been a safer place in Libya when the armed struggle for power started months before. The people at this place had rejected out of fear the idea of taking up arms to decide the political course of future.
That is the reason why many persons chose to shift to Zliten out of concern for safety from various places such as outskirt of Misurata, Dafniya, Naeema, Majer and Souk-ut-talaat. The place provided a hope for peace and security to the common people.
But the peace could not hold its breath longer and the trouble began to start. The full scale of fighting was not known till it was dark.
Initially the sound of gunshots appeared to be the celebratory fire by the army or the supporter of the government, for such echo was common to our acoustic faculty.
But soon it was realised that the familiar sound did not have the mark of its common feature. Heavy fighting had erupted between the security forces and the armed opposition…the first and fieriest case of hostility in what appeared to be a place of living in harmony and amity.
Then followed the drama of high class adventurous movie. Only the actors were different…the risk, the violence and the suspense were the same.
Bullets after bullets were fired. They seemed unstoppable. The impact of heavy machine guns and the rocket launchers being used shook the building. The sound pierced the ears and frightened the infants to the point of crying. The younger children were given earphones to minimise the impact of big bang. The birds fluttered their wings in utter panic. The animals raised their ears in bewilderment.
The death seemed knocking every door. We were greatly worried. Where to escape was out of question.
The army had cordoned off the area. We could see through transparent glass window that army personnel had taken positions in the streets.
The fire shots were louder than ever. The pounding of bombs seemed to be just on our roof. There was no hope. There was no way-out. Life appeared to be coming to an end.
Sometimes our body trembled with fear. The other time we prayed to God. We had to convince ourselves…we might survive the next day.
There was no call for prayer from nearby mosques. That further aggravated our insecurity.
The night passed in that state of danger and vulnerability. First time we regretted over our decision to stay back in Zliten…the place which also witnessed some of the most passionate campaign of bombings by NATO.
The fighting in the morning resumed after lull. It lasted till eleven in the morning. The Friday prayer was under doubt.
The bullets hit our building thrice. We survived the onslaught. But the top floor of a nearby building was completely destroyed.
Fighting had erupted in most of the streets and the loud sound of gunshots filled the air with ever growing threat to life and property.
Some families desperately tried to get out of the hellish situation but were stopped after a few yards as the intensity of violence did not authorize any exit to safety. The only option was to remain inside and be grateful to God if one survived.
The assault continued. We did not know how long fighting would last. If that lasted for a week, what would be our fate? We would be certainly dying of fear, thirst or hunger.
In the late afternoon, the gun shots were minimised. A few dared come out. Soon many people were noticed coming out of the door.
In the background the slogan of ‘Allah-o-Akbar’ was heard that came from every corner of the town. The victory was declared. We could see through the window the vehicles with tri-color flag running around and securing positions.
‘Hurriya, Hurriya, Hurriya’ meaning freedom went through the air. Men, women and children…all seemed to be experiencing a rebirth of existence.
Two old men who could barely walk were seen hugging each other with tears of freedom in their eyes. That was a million-worth sight to behold.
The heavy weight that people carried over their heart for long was suddenly lifted. The pain that they carried in the headship of Colonel Qathafi was abruptly released.
Truly, the price the common people have paid for freedom in the death and destruction will go a long way in history.
May the light of freedom, coming to all darkened lands, flame brightly…until at last the darkness is no more! May the posterity in Libya preserve the freedom for which they have paid the higher price!
Published online: The article appeared in The Tripoli Post.