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Benghazi children witness horrors of war

By Asmaa Elourfi for Magharebia in Benghazi – 25/03/11

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As war rages between Libyan revolutionaries and forces loyal to Moamer Kadhafi, the children of the country are struggling to cope with the violence. At an art studio in Benghazi, Magharebia met children expressing their feelings and views of the conflict through simple drawings.

"We've noticed a change in children's imagination," said Omar Ahmed al-Abbar, director of Tiba al-Menawara School and a member of the committee supervising the art studio. "A child drew Moamer going into a tank and shelling a mosque, as compared to children's drawings in the past, which were restricted to either flowers or toys. The war has had an impact on children."

"The children's studio starts at 10:00 AM and comes to an end at 5:00 PM every day," al-Abbar said. "This is a suitable time to keep the children and give them the chance to express their imagination through drawing. We provide them with colours and pencils."

In his turn, educational inspector Saeed Mohammed said that he came up with the idea of a children's art studio "so that children may express their inner feelings and to prove to the world that we're not backward barbarians; rather, we're a civilised society with refined thinking contrary what Kadhafi is saying about us that we're rats."

"We've seen the trends of children without any guidance from us. These are spontaneous, innocent expressions showing peace," Mohammed said.

"It's unfortunate that these young children would draw wars and spilled blood," he added. "Children express what's inside them very simply. We will collect these drawings to hold a children's exhibition and we'll nominate the best expressive drawing." Sixth grader Ghada Ali said that she drew "a complex picture showing Moamer Kadhafi as having octopus arms, with hyena teeth and he himself was a monkey. The second is a ship at port symbolising free Libya after the suffering that we're living is over."

"The third drawing, which I gave the name 'Libya is in our eyes,' is in the form of an eye with the independence flag inside it," Ghada explained.

She added: "I would like to read this statement in the name of Libyan children. In it, we say: 'In the name of God, most gracious, most merciful. We the February 17th children salute all those who stand by our side in demanding our legitimate rights and realising our dreams. We want to grow up and live under a new regime full of peace and security. We ask all world countries to stand by our side in fighting this tyrant, and we as children tell him that 'depart' means 'go away.' The Libyan children have become fed up.'"

The statement continued, "We also want to salute France that took the initiative and stood by our side against this oppressor and recognised the transitional national council."

Magharebia then spoke to a little girl drawing with her friend. "I'm drawing a picture of Kadhafi and his sons while escaping from Libya with a lot of money, leaving behind Libya and its people facing a lot of explosions and fires," she said.

Seven-year-old Omayma Massoud was drawing a picture of a child, "killed in Kadhafi's battalion's bombardment". "They have killed innocent children," she said.

"I'm drawing Libya's emblem, the independence flag, with a leg kicking Moamer Kadhafi out of Libya," Abdul Salam said.

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  1. Anonymous thumb

    Essid 2011-8-22

    Continuation to Sab- If the country’s leaders fail to do this, the upheaval that they see today will be just a drop in the bucket. However, there is a large difference between what we see in London and what we saw in Libya during the last 40 years, let alone this year. I imagine (or I hope, at least) that you are able to appreciate this difference and simply overlooked it when writing your comment.


  2. Anonymous thumb

    Essid 2011-8-22

    To Sab- If Cameron had denied the people the right to self-determination for 40 years, if he had repeatedly resorted to violent measures to oppress and repress the people, if he had killed hundreds of peaceful protesters, if he had then proceeded to use heavy weaponry against the rioters in London and if the rioters ask for international air and tactical support to overthrow Cameron, your comment would make sense. However, at this point, the rioters are responding to the murder of a single young man by a single police officer who abused his power. The rioters have not asked for Cameron to resign, they have not been murdered in mass and Cameron has not ordered the army to use heavy weaponry against them. It is clear that the rioters come from the economically disadvantaged class since their targets seem to by shops and businesses. It is also clear that they feel that they are the victims of racial discrimination since the young man who was murdered was from a racial minority. However, the rioters have yet to make specific demands to call for a regime change. If they do make such a demand and if enough people in the country agree with these demands, I would support them. But, at this time, it seems that the country’s leaders would do well to note the targets of the riots, which are economic in nature, and the straw that broke the camel’s back, which was racial violence on the part of the police, and to develop reforms to fix those problems so that the disadvantaged classes are able get training and good jobs and the police respect minorities.


  3. Anonymous thumb

    sab 2011-8-18

    If we take this approach, now the UN and other clowns should go fight for the rebels in London and get Cameron and Queen Elizabeth out of power to take their wealth and be sure to leave the country in civil war!


  4. Anonymous thumb

    عمر حمدونة 2011-4-4

    Viva revolution of 17 February!


  5. Anonymous thumb

    محمد 2011-4-2

    I say to Moamer Kadhafi, fear God in your people, go away and leave Libya alone!


  6. Anonymous thumb

    Essid 2011-4-2

    To خالد- What is an “intervention”? Is it an invasion? Or is it when the people of a nation, who are fighting for their freedom from a dictatorship, ask for help and the international community responds? What are “the affairs of the Arab nation or Islamic Umma”? Are they the inaction of the Arab people who have done nothing to help the people fighting for freedom and democracy? Are they the bloodthirsty dictators, who are unfortunately a universal characteristic of every Arab country? Or are they the goodwill of the Muslim people, who should be in favour of freedom fighters in Libya and anyone who supports them. What is America? Is it the American people who want to offer their support to the Libyan freedom fighters? Or is it the few American individuals who place profit above morality? What is Israel and Jewish? Is it the Israelis who are prejudiced against the Palestinians? Or is it the Israelis who despise the actions of the Israeli government against the Palestinians and who despise the actions of the Palestinian government against the Israelis? And what is this crisis? Is it the crisis of our rising cost of living? If it is this, is it the fault of the few profit-seeking Americans, who offered money to open our borders to their products or is it the fault of our dictators who put this money in their pockets? The world is not black and white! The Libyan people asked for UN intervention. And if you think this is all about hypocrisy and lies and greed, then that is Kadhafi, who has looted the country for 40 years and murdered thousands of Libyans while claiming to be its “guide”?


  7. Anonymous thumb

    حمو 2011-3-30

    What are you making of us, o our Arab rulers loyal to western countries?


  8. Anonymous thumb

    Molly Richardson 2011-3-28

    I read the article on the Tiba al-Menawara School in Benghazi with great interest and I am delighted to learn that such a school exists. Art has always provided a means for children to express their innermost thoughts, find a release for their stress and try to find answers to the puzzling adult world around them. I taught art at Tripoli College from 1968 - 1970; this was under a joint contract between the Libyan government and the British Council. My first year in Libya was during the final year of the reign of King Idris 11 and my second was immediately following Ghaddafi's revolution. I, too, saw the change that traumatic happenings can bring about in the drawings and paintings of children. Following the takeover of Libya by Ghaddafi I had to ensure that some of the art work was hidden on completion, as it expressed only too clearly the children's parents' dissatisfaction with the new regime - in their innocent way the children could have brought trouble upon their families - we were very aware that new members of staff were appointed to the school as administrators and we were sure that they were 'watchdogs' for the new regime. The students that I had in my art room during those years are now middle aged with children and grandchildren of their own. They were an absolute joy to teach and I clearly remember so many of them. I wonder if they can look back and remember some of their drawings as clearly as I do - and if any of them read this they might, at last, understand why their art teacher 'lost' some of their drawings. I hope that these old students are safe and that they will remain so until Libya is once more the beautiful and peaceful country that it is meant to be. My good wishes to you all.


  9. Anonymous thumb

    Anonymous 2011-3-26

    By God, they are nice and kind people preserving their religious rules. I personally love and respect them. God suffices me against those who oppressed them! God suffices me and He is the best mandate! The solution of God will soon come for them and for all the Islamic Umma!


  10. Anonymous thumb

    خالد 2011-3-26

    I am against the intervention of the United Nations in political or economic problems in the affairs of the Arab nation or Islamic Umma because we have minds in the Arab world. This is because crises were and are still made by America and Israel. This policy in particular is Jewish policy. Why should the United Nations intervene in our affairs? All this is hypocrisy and lies to exploit resources, this is all!


  11. Anonymous thumb

    من دعاة الحرية 2011-3-25

    With all love, solidarity and respect, we support the Libyan revolution for change, freedom, democracy and a better future for them, their sons and the whole Arab nation! We support you, we support you with our hearts and souls. May God help you in your strife to get out to the era of light, justice and democracy! There is an end to every injustice! This will be the end of Kadhafi in your hands, sons of the Libyan people!


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