Benghazi workers release pent-up anger
By Asmaa Elourfi for Magharebia in Benghazi – 29/11/11
For years, Libyan professionals felt neglected under the former regime. With the success of the uprising, they are discovering an opportunity to make their long-subdued grievances known.
"I have been working for 20 years, but it was after the revolution that we had to speak up, because we saw no change from the bygone era," said Salima Omar, an employee at the Social Care Institution in Benghazi. "We are demanding our rights and want our dignity restored."
Healthcare workers, media professional and employees of the naval base have been protesting over the past few days in Benghazi, pressing for an end to administrative corruption and better working conditions.
"We are demanding a change for the better," said Rajaa Al-Jamal, head of the Information Unit at the Centre for the Handicapped. "Heads of departments, especially those that deal with people and who are supposedly responsible for the people and taking care of them, need to be changed. Unfortunately, time showed that they have no clue about raising children, social care or handicaps. Many mistakes are committed in those centres."
"To improve the level of the centre and offer our country nothing but the best, we need to stamp out corruption," she added.
Mabrouk Ali Saad, an employee in the Solidarity Fund in the Handicap Affairs Centre, said he had suffered "oppression, persecution and an inadequate salary". The protestors demand "the change of the entire administration", he added.
"There is a shortage of medical equipment, as well as other supplies," said Souad Hamad Saad, a health technician at the Centre of Epidemic Diseases. "Even air conditioning devices are not available in summer or winter. No maintenance is performed for the building."
Lack of transportation prevents medical workers from taking care of their patients in their homes, said nurse Aida Al-Arabi.
"We want the administration changed because it is incapable of providing the necessities," she insisted.
Media workers, intellectuals and writers recently gathered before the municipal council in Benghazi. They agreed on a list of people they want in charge of the media sector. Furthermore, the protestors called for a number of administrative measures to help improve the performance of the media at this critical juncture in the history of the country.
Benghazi naval staff and officers also mounted protests. They decried what they called the marginalisation of the army by the National Transitional Council. Many said they hadn't received their salaries and suffered from a shortage of supplies.
"We have not been paid for five months," an officer said. "We have more than 25 martyrs, whose families barely received any attention. We still have no idea why we are not getting paid. They keep telling us 'next week', but it’s all in vain. We are only demanding that we get paid."
"One of us – divers – named Tawfik Al-Fakhery, died in operation in Sirte leaving behind a family with no one to support," Jalal Mohamed Abdel Qader said. "Many are being treated abroad. Unfortunately, the army is marginalised because it is headed by a civilian. It must be headed by an officer. Civilians are not aware of the military rules."
Ahmad Abidi, an employee at the naval base, said, "We just want them to feel for us. People here are living in dire conditions. We need this issue resolved once and for all."
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