By Umar Khan.
Tripoli, 9 August:
With armed violence continuing to blight Tripoli from time-to-time, civil society groups are pushing hard to reduce . . .[restrict]the number of weapons on the capital’s streets in an effort to reduce the number of gun-related casualties.
In recent weeks, there have been several mass demonstrations and rallies calling for an organised withdrawal of weapons from the streets.
Handicap International (HI), an NGO, is amongst those groups working to highlight the dangers of the proliferation of arms and removing explosive remnants of war from affected areas. HI has erected numerous billboards across different cities raising awareness about small arms and light weapons.
As part of their ongoing campaign, HI hosted an iftar event in Martyrs Square on 8 August where they also gave away tTshirts with ‘I’m a Libyan and I’m against weapons’ slogan printed on them and leaflets discussing the dangers of weapons proliferation.
The HI stand appeared very busy as people lined up to get their stickers and demonstrate their support for the issue. Many people said that there can be no security with all the weapons in the hands of ordinary people.
Shane Brady, project manager of the HI, told the Libya Herald about the seriousness of the issue, revealing that there already have been hundreds of cases of stray bullets causing injury to civilians this year.
“More than 1,100 cases of gun related incidents have been treated in Tripoli Medical Center and Abu Salim Hospital so far this year. Libya is in danger of reaching endemic level of gun problem. The whole Libyan community should work together to solve this issue.”
Brady also said that HI was working closely with the Libyan authorities to raise public awareness about the issue.
“We are working with the Ministry of Education to train the teachers to educate their students about the dangers of weapons. We are also working with civil society on raising awareness and encouraging people in safer behavior when it comes to small weapons.”
There have been several shooting incidents in Tripoli over the past few weeks where people used heavy weapons to settle their personal disputes.
The presence of weapons in large numbers in civilian hands is largely attributed to the 17th February revolution, as the people raided the military bases to arm themselves in order to fight Qaddafi’s forces.
Since the end of the revolution, there has been little or no progress in getting those weapons back because of the still-weak security infrastructure and the failure of the interim authorities to undertake a concerted effort towards civilian disarmament.