Libyan rebels live by 'V' sign: 'We win or we die'

AP News
|
Posted: Jun 17, 2011 3:49 PM
Libyan rebels live by 'V' sign: 'We win or we die'

Libya's rebels are living by their slogan "We win or we die," as daily funeral processions honor those killed in the four-month-old uprising to oust longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi.

The rebels' all-or-nothing spirit _ symbolized by the V-for-victory sign _ is on display everywhere in the eastern half of the country, which they have wrested from Gadhafi's forces.

The opposition also controls the western port of Misrata, scene of some of the conflict's fiercest fighting, as well as towns in the western Nafusa mountains.

This series of pictures was shot in the western port of Misrata, the rebel's de facto capital of Benghazi, and in Ajdabiya near one of the front lines. The images show Libyans of all ages demonstrating their support for the revolution.

A widow holds a portrait of her husband killed in battle; two young boys ask a photographer to document their victory signs in front of Benghazi's "wall of martyrs;" a crying mother flashes the sign at the funeral of a son killed in the fighting; a girl, fingers painted the colors of the Libyan rebel flag, stomps on a wall hanging of Gadhafi's portrait.

Among heroes who will be remembered are the five young men who decided in the first days of the revolt that began Feb. 15 that they had to take out an army sniper who was shooting at a funeral procession for protesters killed by soldiers in Benghazi.

The five friends, armed only with knives and daggers, formed a straight line and charged at the sniper. The first two were shot and killed, the third managed to reach and stab the soldier, but only after he had been shot and later died from his wound.

Another hero is the middle-aged oil executive who was frustrated by the people's inability to take the main garrison in Benghazi. He turned his car into a bomb by filling it with cooking gas canisters that he exploded as he drove at the reinforced concrete gate of the army barracks where snipers had been killing people in funeral processions. His suicide bombing act allowed Benghazi residents to take the garrison, though he left a wife and three girls at home.

Freed from more than 40 years of Gadhafi's dictatorship, Libyans are happy to be photographed freely displaying their hopes for the future. None was asked to pose.