EDITOR'S NOTE: William Wheeler, recipient of the first annual GroundTruth reporting fellowship in the Middle East, is now on assignment in Libya. Today he begins a series of guest posts for this blog and will soon be filing a GlobalPost Special Report on Libya's struggle to forge a democracy in the smoldering aftermath of the Arab Spring. As a journalist with a good ear for the Arab street, Wheeler was chosen for the $10,000 reporting grant in large part because he embodies the spirit of 'ground truth' and the attributes of some of its greatest adherents, including the New York Times' Anthony Shadid, who died on assignment in Syria, and the American reporter for the Sunday Times of London, Marie Colvin, who was killed in a rocket attack in Syria. Like Shadid and Colvin, Wheeler is all about being there on the ground and taking the measure of a big and complex story in simple, human terms. The GroundTruth reporting fellowship is funded by the Correspondents Fund.
TRIPOLI, Libya — A few days ago I returned to Tripoli to find what is, in many ways, a very different city than the one I last saw in the weeks after its liberation. On the surface, things look better. Some hotels and cafes have new facades, testament to a brief flush of renewed investment. The sidewalks are thick with vendors, and their tarps stretch overhead like a canopy on some streets, so tightly packed I had trouble at first recognizing familiar sights. You no longer see rebels firing into the air on every street corner. Or families celebrating in Martyr’s Square.
But neither has life returned to normal. Over the last month, in Benghazi, a series of car bomb attacks struck empty police stations, and what may have been an accidental explosion killed three people; in Tripoli, another car bomb hit the French Embassy, injuring two guards and prompting a withdrawal of some foreign embassies’ personnel amid fears the Libyan government is losing its grip on the capital, and militias besieged government ministries, pressuring lawmakers to approve legislation banning those who had worked for the regime from positions in the new government. All in all, it gives the impression, as a jewelry store clerk put it, that “things are getting dangerous again.”