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Celebrations erupt in Cairo following the defeat of Libya's Gaddafi

Libyan exiles cheer long-awaited downfall of dictator; 'I've always prayed that God would let me live long enough to see the day Gaddafi fell', says celebrating Libyan forced to flee Gaddafi regime

Sarah Raslan, Friday 21 Oct 2011
(Photo: Mai Shaheen)
Views: 4425
Views: 4425

The death of Muammar Gaddafi, marking the end of four-decades of fear and corruption, sent a wave of excitement throughout the world and is a day Libyans are unlikely to forget.

Youssef Ismail and his family say they will always remember the moment they heard the news of the dictator’s death.

The Libyan family was sitting in their flat, located in the Mohandiseen district of Cairo, when their daughter Farida saw conversations on social media sites discussing the possible capture of the now dead dictator.

"We called family members in Cairo to tell them of what Farida had heard and quickly turned on the TV," said Majda Querie. "It wasn't confirmed yet and there were a lot of mixed stories but after a while it was finally confirmed."

And the celebrations began.

The Ismail family's friends and relatives got together to celebrate the historic day that Libyans have dreamt of for years and have been fighting for since people took to the streets of Benghazi, the undeclared revolutionary capital, in February calling for justice in their homeland.

There was cake and cookies, smiles and tears, and lots of cheering.

"This is a day we have all been waiting for," Majda said. "I've always prayed that God would let me live long enough to see the day Gaddafi fell."

"Gaddafi did nothing good for us or for the Libyan people as a whole. He made people leave their homes because of the fear and torture he instilled in the country," she added.

The Libyan family arrived in Egypt 16 years ago to flee Gaddafi's tyranny.

"We ran away from his regime," Youssef said.

Youssef said that his family left Libya after Gaddafi took their factories, nationalising them and seizing their house as well.

"We were afraid he would come after us and harm us next," Youssef added.

"He's a son of a gun. He has no limits."

Youssef said the former strongman did not allow anyone other than his loyalists to attain wealth or live luxuriously.

"Everything was about him and his people," he said.

"The word 'I' meant everything to him. If he had stayed in power a few more years he would have declared himself a god and made us worship him."

Following celebrations at home, Youssef went to visit injured Libyan fighters who were brought to Cairo for treatment.

At the New Kasr El-Aini Teaching Hospital, located in Cairo's Garden City district, injured Libyans who had put their lives on the line fighting Gaddafi forces waved Libyan flags proudly and sang the Libyan national anthem.

A Libyan flag hung behind each young man's hospital bed and each one wore his best smile.

Mohamed Abu Fanas, a biology student, was fighting alongside the rebels in Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte when a missile hit his left foot, shattering every bone.

The 21-year-old has already gone through one surgery and will be getting surgery to re-grow the bones in his foot soon. He hopes to be back in Libya by mid-November.

"Gaddafi used to say he would chase us out of every 'zenga' or alley, but we're the ones who ended up taking him out of a sewer," he said.

Abu Fanas said that he couldn't believe his eyes when he saw the photo of the dead tyrant.

"My family called me from Libya congratulating me," he said with tears in his eyes. "We can't believe it finally happened. The martyrs must be proud."

Waleed Ahmed Mostafa, a 31-year-old whose leg was blown off by a missile in the city of Misrata's Tripoli Street, circled around the hospital room in his wheelchair waving Libyan and Egyptian flags.

"I don't care that I lost my leg," he said. "Others lost their lives. As long as Gaddafi is gone I don't care what happens to me anymore."

Mostafa may have lost his leg, which he can never get back, but he said he found his smile once he heard the news that left Libyans worldwide ecstatic.

The young men went to the hospital's cafeteria where they celebrated Libya's well-deserved victory.

They sang and danced, and hospital workers and visitors congratulated them. An elderly nurse joined them in song, and kissed each young man on the forehead.

The hospital, which is usually sad and sombre, was transformed into a place full of happiness and excitement.

Celebrations in Cairo extended well beyond the Ismael family's home and the hospital walls.

Libyans and Egyptians celebrated throughout the night at the Libyan Embassy in Cairo's Zamalek district, Gamet El-Dewal El-Arabia Street, outside the Arab League's headquarters, and in the famous Tahrir square, a symbol of hope and freedom following the Egyptian January 25 Revolution.

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