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Bunkering Down in Benghazi



Like other photographers captivated by the events in North Africa and the Middle East, Christian Als was keen to get to Libya to document the uprising against the Gaddafi regime first hand. Though he couldn't be there in the first weeks of the fast-moving and often chaotic conflict, his trip in May took him to the rebel held city of Benghazi where some form of tense normality had returned to daily life.



"Due to the birth of my firstborn," Christian says "I was grounded in Denmark when the Arab Spring started to unfold. Tunisia first, then Egypt, and finally Libya. So for me to travel to Northern Africa three months into the revolution in Libya was a chance to experience the historic events first hand. I too had seen all the comprehensive news coverage done by various excellent photographers, covering the Libyan freedom fighters advancing towards Tripoli and fighting the Gaddafi troops along the desert roads.

"I knew I had to try and come up with something different, to try to capture the newly won spirit of freedom and the more quiet scenes. Everyday life is slowly appearing in the streets of Benghazi, more shops are opening and some kind of local economy is developing. But at the same time you can't really say things are getting back to normal, because life under Gaddafi was nothing like Eastern Libya these days. Imagine life where a gathering of more than four men talking in a café was deemed by the Gaddafi regime to be a conspiracy.



"Nowadays, people are flooding the streets in the evenings; talking loudly, laughing cheerfully, enjoying themselves. Children are playing on old tanks and boats on the seafront in front of the courthouse - the rebel headquarters in downtown Benghazi. More than 100 new NGOs had set up small tents along the newly renamed Freedom Square, and local women were handing out dates and free food for everyone.



"This vision was like nothing I had ever seen in this part of the world before. It reminded me of a scene from a major European music festival like Roskilde or Glastonbury. Every day, small friendly demonstrations were marching in the streets, simply because they now could do so. Benghazi and eastern Libya really has this true feeling of freedom, a feeling they have obviously been longing for for decades. I am grateful for having been able to witness a part of the Arab Spring, a truly historic time."
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