On February 15, 2011, Libyans began to protest against Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi’s 41-year-old dictatorship. Qaddafi’s response was to send his army to attack the protesters. In Benghazi, one of the protesters, bank manager Abrahim, 38, watched in horror as the clashes turned more violent. He felt compelled to document the bloodshed around him, and to exhibit the evidence on the body of his car.
The flag of pre-Qaddafi Libya is waved in the streets of Benghazi. A chant of “the people want regime change” grows louder. An army of people with no military training, under the command of ex-soldiers from Qaddafi’s army, holds a position in the east of the city, firing at forces loyal to the Libyan dictator. According to Human Rights Watch, the first four days of conflict leave 233 people dead; by March 2, the World Health Organization estimates the number has climbed to 2,000.
“I do not fear storms that sweep the horizon,” Qaddafi says, “nor do I fear planes that throw black destruction. I will resist.” He seems to be the only one who speaks. Internet access has been restricted in the country, and people are afraid to talk. “Local reporters face intimidation and the threat of worse,” Jon Williams reports for the BBC.
My car is like a journal that people come to read every week.
Abrahim, 38, Benghazi, Libya
But there on the ground in Benghazi is Abrahim, facing his fears and turning his car into a statement in favor of freedom of speech. “In the beginning, there were no journalists here to see what was going on,” he says. “I wanted to record what was happening to show the world. Qaddafi’s men were killing us just for speaking out. I cannot say with words how bad Qaddafi is. He’s worse than evil. He takes everything there is to take in Libya.
“All of this has happened so quickly; it’s made me proud and forced me to do more. Every week I take new pictures and change them. This is the seventh edition. My car is like a museum, like a journal that people come to read every week. I park near the court where there’s a lot of traffic and people are able to see the car. Qaddafi would have put me in prison for a car like this. He would put you in prison if you said anything bad about him or his family. You couldn’t even tell a joke.”