This time last year, hundreds of pro-democracy protesters were taking to the streets of Benghazi, demanding free elections and significant reforms of the Gadhafi regime. Over the next few days the protests swelled in the face of violent crackdowns, and the regime was on the ropes. Before long, NATO decided this was its war and bombs were falling.
Today, Gadhafi is long gone and the National Transitional Council claims the mantle of post-revolution Libya for its own. Yet what Libya has today bears little resemblance to what those first Benghazi protesters were hoping for.
Libya remains split down the middle, even though the NTC nominally rules the nation, and Western militias are forming a federation to openly contest their dominance. Human rights have deteriorated, if anything, with the mass arrests of suspected Gadhafi supporters by various pseudo-legal factions leading to torture and open-ended detentions.
Elections are still only a vague promise, and particularly in Benghazi, the city where it all started, there is rising unrest and a sense that the “new” regime has a lot more in common with the old regime than with the hopes for a new, freer Libya.