In Libya's rebel stronghold, whispers of disagreement
Libya's rebels, based in Benghazi, are determined to fight Qaddafi's forces to the end – no matter how long it takes. But can they maintain unity?
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She hated it, he said, before he was detained for 12 days for helping to spur the movement through a Facebook page, before government forces nearly killed him and before she, her husband, their children and the rest of Benghazi found themselves living in what the Western world now calls a stalemate.
But still he vows not to give up, even though the push to rid Libya of Moammar Gadhafi now appears likely to take months, not the weeks that people had hoped.
"We didn't think about how long it would take when we started this," he said. "But we had to do it. It was an opportunity. We just wanted to start a revolution."
Faced with the prospect of a prolonged battle, many residents of eastern Libya are digging in for the long haul. Most say they welcome the challenge, even though it's forced them to make decisions they're uncomfortable with.
Selma Bargathi, the manager of a popular women's clothing shop here, Mango, said she'd finally decided she needed to reopen her store, despite how wrong it felt to her.
"People are dying, and I am selling Season Four at Mango," she said. "But the workers here need the salaries to pay for their homes and food."
Whispers of disagreement among rebel supporters
There's universal agreement that Gadhafi must go, but how it will happen, at what cost and how long the movement can stay united is something that people here are debating – quietly, furtively, and away from the front lines. Many fear voicing their concerns out loud because Gadhafi will exploit the seeming divisions. A public discussion must wait until he's gone, they say.
But privately they're discussing a number of themes. One is that various tribes still back Gadhafi, making the conflict a civil war. Another is questioning the abilities of the rebel council, about which people here confess they know little. There's even concern about whether the rebels will carry out revenge attacks on Gadhafi supporters if his regime falls.
Friends are starting to criticize one another over how little they're doing to help the movement. Fighters mock those who spend their time making posters rather than picking up guns. And the fact that much of Tripoli hasn't risen against Gadhafi, despite rebel efforts and major defections within the regime, worries some.
Residents here are preparing for months of fighting followed by years of rebuilding their country. Those who started the revolution never knew how it would end. Yet turning back is impossible; Gadhafi will kill them.
"I am miserable. I haven't seen my family since this began. I work all the time. I have seen my 13-day-old daughter twice," said Kwafi, who posted an anti-Gadhafi image on his Facebook page just before the uprising began Feb. 17. He was promptly arrested.
Thousands eventually poured out of their homes and attacked the main military base here, where Kwafi said he was being held – and tortured – by Gadhafi forces for his efforts. He was freed in the mayhem.