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Joy, grief and hope at Libya's feast of sacrifice

world Updated: Nov 07, 2011 00:33 IST

Joy was tinged by past sadness, hope mingled with anxiety for the future as Libyans thronged their mosques at dawn on Sunday to celebrate one of the great festivals of the Muslim year, Eid al-Adha, or the feast of sacrifice.

Nowhere was the emotion and religious symbolism more acute than in Misrata. The city suffered heavy losses resisting a siege by the army of Muammar Gaddafi.

Local forces, which took credit for last month's capture of the ousted strongman that ended in his death, are pushing for a big say in the new Libya.

Men streamed away from dawn prayers at the mosque in Misrata's Zorugh neighbourhood, preparing to feast on sheep slaughtered in a ritual inspired by Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son to God.

They spoke of the special savour of a first Eid free of Gaddafi's personal rule, of embracing a new democracy but also of sorrow for loved ones killed in the war.

"We are happy," said Mohammed Bashir, a 40-year-old merchant in the prosperous suburb as he exchanged handshakes with friends and neighbours, all dressed in fresh robes and new clothes for Eid. "But we are crying for our children we lost in the war."

"This Eid is different -- we killed Gaddafi," laughed Ali Sheikh, 86, his English spiced with a rich Texan drawl acquired over decades working for American firms drilling for Libyan oil.

"Now we're all going home to kill our lambs. "It's gonna be OK. We can fix this country real fast."

Ibrahim al-Assawi, 41, a university chemistry lecturer, said: "This Eid is a special Eid because Gaddafi is gone. So we ask God for our country to be better. We want the next government to be better. It can't be worse than Gaddafi."

Teacher Abdelsalam al-Madani, who at 40 was born two years after Colonel Gaddafi seized power, said simply: "This is a special Eid, because Eids before, there was no freedom."

Sacrifice must not be wasted
Yet others, grieving for those killed in months of fighting and heavy bombardment of the rebellious old port city, remain anxious that a new government and new constitution have yet to be established as rival factions coalesce and jockey for power. Mohammed Hwel sums up the mood and says, "The people came together and felt solidarity ... There is now civil society."