War-torn Libya shown through children’s drawings
Drawings by schoolchildren in Libya’s second city of Benghazi show how they view the war-torn city they are growing up in, amid constant clashes between pro-government forces and a coalition of Islamists including the Islamic State.
Many of the hand-drawn pictures show the troubles the 10- and 11-year-old children face, trying to sleep as explosions and air strikes take place all around them. Other images show the destruction of the city. Some show schools and homes being targeted. One shows Benghazi airport under attack. Seen depicted in many pictures are the machines of war: tanks and warplanes, now a common sight in the city and well known to its children.
The children were asked to draw what they felt following a night of clashes. Their teacher, who asked to remain anonmymous, said the children had all been exposed to violence and the school itself had been forced to change location and close its doors due to heavy fighting nearby. Most are refugees in their own city, displaced by fighting in their home neighbourhoods.
“Most of them are refugees; they talk about the time when they were at home. You feel they have their own beds and their own rooms they are away from,”she explained.
The teacher added that the years of war have taken their toll on the children who were unbelievably brave but also obsessed with guns and war. “The children are always talking about bullets, bombs and guns. But they are so good when the planes come they don’t feel scared and they don’t cry,” she explained.
Civilian buildings including the city’s hospitals and its university have been damaged or destroyed by fighting in Benghazi, the birthplace of the revolution against Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. As a result, school has often been cancelled and inhabitants have been forced to find some semblance of normality, however they can, as armed groups battle for control of key districts.
Libya’s civil war is generally considered to have started in August 2014 when militias loyal to the coastal city of Misrata took control of the capital Tripoli but running street battles had already taken hold in Benghazi a year earlier following a merciless campaign of assasinating public officials.
Now civilians are caught in the middle of a deadly stalemate in the city as Gaddafi-era grandee General Khalifa Hafter wages a street war the against Benghazi Revolutionary Council Council, a mix of fighting groups aligned with Islamic State and al-Qaeda.