People protest to be heard. Their voice is the most powerful driving factor when it comes to political decisions. The people gather in places that draw attention to them, and nothing is more important than public squares to protest.
From 2011 to the present, public squares in Benghazi play a critical role in the recent history of Libya. There are three main places shifted from one to another acted as the favorite public spaces in the city.
Freedom Square: (2011- 2013)
While the whole world watched the 2011 Arab Spring in many Arab nations, public square names resonated everywhere, such as Tahrir Square in Egypt.
Libya had its own famous square at the time. Freedom Square in Benghazi is where it all started.
This square is located in Benghazi’s center adjacent to the courthouse. It was originally a parking lot.
People of Benghazi gathered every day during 2011. However, Islamist groups started rising in Benghazi, making this square as their main place to gather. It became rabaa al-adawiya square of Libya. People moved to a new public square in the middle of 2013 after the US ambassador was killed (in Sept. 11, 2012), and when the ideological differences started to rise. Check my blog post on Freedom Square almost 2 years ago.
Tibesty Square: (mid 2013- end 2014)
It is also called “ Martyr Abed Assalam Al Masmary Square). This square is located within the public park on the main lake in front of Tibisty Hotel. People abandoned the Freedom Square as a reaction to the other groups’ support to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups. One of the largest protests that took place in this square was “Benghazi will never bow” in August 2014.
Its downtown location and proximity to the Freedom Square makes it a perfect place to protest. Because of the war in Benghazi and the square’s location close enough to the scenes of clashes, people moved to other safer public squares.
Alkeish Square: (2015- Present)
Alkeish Square is located in a place accessible to most areas under the army control. It used to be a frequent venue for Muammar Gaddafi’s speeches, as it was located in front of his main brigade (Al Fadeel Bo Omer Brigade) inside the city. This square also held one of the most important speeches in the recent history of Libya when Abd Aljalil announce the Liberation Day in 2011. One of the largest protests held in this square was on Oct. 16 when people went out to reject the latest UN envoy for Libya Bernardino Leon’s unity government proposal.
In this, one of the squares or in any other places, people of Benghazi will never stop protesting. As history tells us, Benghazi is the city that creates the future of Libya.
Mutaz Gedalla is an architect at Assarh Engineering Consultancy and a Lecturer at Benghazi University’s Architectural Department. He runs a blog wakeupbenghazi.com. An unedited version of this article first appeared onwakeupbenghazi.com. He can be followed on Twitter at @mutaz20042000