TRIPOLI—Angry protesters marched in Martyrs’ Square yesterday, defying government measures to ban such gatherings. Earlier this month, French Special Forces conducted air strikes on a number of Libyan cities. Fayez al-Sarraj, Prime Minister of the UN-installed Government of National Accord (GNA) and Chairman of the Presidential Council, gave no public response to the attacks. Outraged by the passivity of the new UN-installed government, protestors denounced al-Sarraj and demanded that he leave office. “Get out Sarraj…Sarraj is the enemy of God,” they chanted.
Prominent Libyan figures have spoken out against these events. Grand Mufti Sadiq al-Ghariani called the blatant French intervention a declaration of war. As the highest religious law official in Libya, al-Ghariana influences the Muslim community strongly. The Salah Burki Brigade, one of many paramilitary forces unofficially responsible for law enforcement, denounced the airstrikes along with all French intervention in Libya. On its official Facebook page, the group encouraged Libya's revolutionaries to unite against such involvement.
The airstrikes sparked outrage on social media. In a public display of anger, many activists changed their profile pictures to anti-French images that bear the phrase, "Go to hell France."
Khalifa Haftar—former commander of forces for the General National Congress (GNC) and longtime senior military official in Libya—also drew the people’s ire. It has been two years since he first introduced the popular Operation Dignity, which aims to dismantle Islamic terrorist organizations in Libya by driving Islamists out of the country. Haftar is reportedly being supported by French-led military operations.
Following the GNA’s decision to raise the security alert to its highest level, the Interior Ministry blocked all roads to Martyrs’ Square yesterday. Nevertheless, protestors managed to get into Tripoli’s main square.
Media outlets were prevented from covering the protests. Security forces seized cameras, which were later released with forceful warnings against filming the protests. Television stations al-Nabaa and Tanasuh TV were ordered to leave the square early in the day. Two cameramen from Tanasuh TV were arrested while preparing to film the protests, and the channel’s cameras were never returned.
Protestors in trade capital Misrata called for the GNA to be overthrown in light of its inaction toward French intervention. Similar protests were also held in northern cities Gharyan and Zawia.
Versions of this article were originally published in The Libya Observer.
Additional reporting by Isabel Bolo.