Before the revolution the common definition of Libya consisted of one word -- "Gaddafi." Now it consists of "Gaddafi & rebellion." Since I rushed in with other journalists in February, the images have only reinforced this simple definition, but of course, Libya's history and psyche is much more complex than the glorified war images we see.
So now I have returned to try and learn more and explore the small towns in the peaceful eastern Libya.
For a country at war the east is surprisingly secure and unified on the surface and as far down as I could dig. But the effects of the war are still felt every day with funerals, a lack of hard currency and electricity cuts.
Each crisis comes on the individual level, from the farmer that can't reach his normal markets in Tripoli to the father that can't find a hospital to treat his daughter's rare illness.
The Friday market in Shehat is divided into sections for livestock, fruits, vegetables, equipment and pigeons. Pigeons are a surprisingly popular hobby with the market, rivaling Cairo's in size, even though the local area has only a small fraction of Cairo's population. Many other hobbies such as soccer, music and movies were systematically suppressed by the government out of fear of any cult of personality that could rival Gaddafi. Soccer games were announced using just numbers, songs had to include references to Gaddafi, and artists that became too successful were given posts overseas.
The wall of a community room in Derna's main mosque commemorates locals that have been killed by Gaddafi's forces throughout the city's long history of rebellion. It includes the photos of political prisoners who died in a prison massacre, soldiers that were shot for refusing orders, rebels from a 1996 uprising, and the latest youth that died on the street in Derna, and at the front. Derna is infamous for sending many fighters to Iraq and Afghanistan, but now the flow has stopped as youth go to Libya's front and say that they have hope in the future in Derna and have no reason to leave anymore.
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A long way from any fighting, the children at the small sea village of Sosa swim in the quiet port. The village has a large hotel built beside an archaeological site, but tourism has completely dried up and the small town's progress has frozen.
The archaeological ruins of Shehat are impressive evidence of the Cyrenaica civilization that predated Islam in Northern Africa. With no tourists around, it is once again returned to the locals as a park for picnickers and school groups to visit.
I took this photo because, as a friend told me, it looks like it could have been taken in Austria. I want to show how "they" and "there" isn't very far from "us" and "here."
David Degner, 27 years old, is a photojournalist living in Cairo, Egypt, seeking out interesting stories and ideas. He studied photojournalism and philosophy in Kentucky, interned at a few newspapers and returned to Egypt to freelance. Lately David has had work published in TIME magazine, the Guardian's magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. He tries to be the local expert, to cultivate long term relationships, tell the untold stories and give novel analysis.