When I was 18, adulthood hit me like no other! It hit me with the sound of sniper’s bullets, mortars, rockets and different types of weapons which I’ve never heard of before but definitely heard them. Heard them all that year of 2011. The anticipated freedom that comes with that age came through overdosed; I got to leave the house for the longest times, not for partying but for camping, in the field hospital, for days.
I was in Misrata -where I was born and raised- the time the Arab Spring infected the country, looking at the situation now is not the same as looking at it back then; it was a fresh air, adrenaline rush and violent spring that bloomed explosively. We were excited, happy, sad and scared at the same time as 17 Feb took us from few weeks to 8 months. A wild gate to adulthood in the shape of a revolution, in that strong smell of burnt blood mixed with sweat, in using the word “martyr” referring to a friend and joke about who’s next? In running towards a fallen body at the frontline to check for a pulse, and in waking up to the sound of anything but peace. I’ve definitely gotten older than 18 in that year.
The optimism has reached its highest as my body has reached physically the highest levels in going on an airplane for the first time and got to practice my English that I’ve had improved during the war by meeting plenty of foreigner journalists, doctors and other NGO’s workers.
I’ve never been interested in politics, perhaps due to the shortage in political education in my first 18 years. But surviving 2011 puts you in the scene, the reality that can’t be ignored, the change that Libyans have fought for. However, my knowledge was not big enough to even contribute in a small café discussion with all the thirsty young Libyans for political criticism. I may have not been able to form a political view back then, but I was surely influenced by my humanitarian job as a paramedic and study as a medical student to listen to all humans problems and not to dismiss them for merely the difference in ideology. I’ve always been on the left side but it never felt right to my fear of being labeled, the fear of being used for the agenda of other thieves wearing ties with lies. The skepticism was real, so was sticking to the comfort zone.
The election’s ink has kissed my index finger for the first time, these first times of adulthood (new Libya) felt refreshing but I was aware enough of how deep the roots of corruption in the Libyan soil are, hence my low expectations towards the candidates. The candidates with their cliché campaign’s slogans and vague identities never helped with my searching. By the second year post revolution, I have realized that the war put Libya on the map for the world and for me as well. My knowledge about the Libyan history, identity and visiting different Libyan cities have expanded and I am not sure if this would have happened if it wasn’t for 17 Feb.
2014 (Another war? Shocking!)
It’s the rhythm of the civil war and the denial of the people to call it as such. The disappointment in the martyr’s mothers, and the smoke that has become a norm of the Libyan landscape. It’s all of that and more that disrupted the wishful thinking and the probability of “it’s going to get better” for the country, but not individually despite the evacuation of the embassies from Tripoli and the hope with them to take a path for a better future. Misrata, my city, like in any other war, is involved and strongly so. However, I initially -and for the first time- refused to join the emergency and ambulance service to help in that controversial war in Tripoli but with the increasing loss of friends I had to give in and be there. Because when you’re a paramedic, the blood attracts you. And when you’re a Libyan paramedic, you’re barely at rest.
2015 (One way ticket)
ISIS seeds had started exploding the Libyan soil and with that, ironically my voluntary job since 2011 as a paramedic had come to an end. I had to take the slightest 17 Feb opportunities with my new shiny blue passport and leave in order to evolve in medical service. The terrorism is taking a serious turn and the islamic values and origins within me had to be faced and analysed. Although my 4 years after the revolution were not enough yet to create a political view that reflects my values. Besides putting the blame on me for that, I do also put it on my boring history teacher and the deficiency of representation in the Libyan political scene. I left Libya without knowing where I belong and who to support, if there will ever be another chance for my finger to kiss the ink again.
2016-2020 (Observing from outside, transforming from inside)
Taking a step back, allowed me to see the view with a wider angle. From a different perspective filled with nostalgia, homesickness and curiosity to learn more about it. Hence my high artistic activities in introducing Libya wherever I go. Living abroad is not a synonym for disconnection. In spite of the relative peace you’re in, but family and friends who you’ve left at a heated home keeps you up at night. Through social media you passionately follow the updates, connect the events and care more than when you were there! You participate in virtual discussions that mostly do not end well. Virtual but real. From all the mistakes that Libyan leaders never learn from, you learn when to keep it to yourself and when you share an opinion that potentially can cost you friendships! Knowing how divided the country is and the tension between the east and the west, the cities of the west alone, the Imazighen and their haters.. etc, I have grown politically by trying to be as politically correct as possible through picking my words wisely to avoid losing more friends, Because you’re now aware of how conservative the environment you’ve lived in and how intolerant the people you’ve made friends among to the different. Studying the human body with attending different debates has polished my views about certain social topics such as freedom of expression, reproductive health, women, LGBTQ rights and other controversial issues that don’t necessarily agree with the religious values of where I come from. The political view of mine has gotten clearer but not discovered. I felt that it has been always there, but knowledge is spectacles to my blurry instincts.
The last second half of the past decade was geographically distant but ideologically close to where I stand in the Libyan politics. However, I am still not a fan of being labeled but both of my profession as a doctor and my hobby as photographer have obliged me to not dismiss the minorities that as far as I know, have no clear nor strong representation in Libya.
Do the results evaluate the action? Do intentions matter?
I am turning 28 years old this year as a medical doctor. Not a naive paramedic anymore but I am as distant as I have been before with the awareness of how dangerous it is to speak your mind this time. Surprisingly, my gratefulness for the revolution of 17 Feb is resisting to exist despite the disappointments because I know how the opportunities have increased for the young adults like me. Although 17 Feb is back again with that same diffuse shame on the people’s faces whenever they pass by a Libyan cemetery, but it was a justified necessity with a real stimulus of dictatorship nonetheless.
This bumpy ride in the form of 10 years has gone fast enough to make you not sure if you’re ready for 10 more. Unfortunately, these 10 years were not enough to make me forget the sound of when I turned 18.