With Lights, People In Eastern Libya Press For Help

May 23, 2011

As the revolt against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi drags into its fourth month, people in the rebel-controlled city of Benghazi are doing what they can to keep themselves motivated — and to keep the outside world, interested.

Sunday night, that meant a light show.

As dusk fell, people gathered in a plaza outside our hotel, holding up lights. They formed the outlines of a crescent and star — symbols of the rebel flag — while others spelled out the names of other Libyan cities; including that of Zintan, a town in the western mountains.

The fact that the words were oriented toward our windows, and spelled in Latin letters, made it abundantly clear that we — the journalists, aid workers and other non-Libyans in this hotel — were the intended audience. And for good reason: rebels are worried about flagging international interest in their battle against Gadhafi.

Despite the apparent stalemate on the front line, officials with the rebels' National Transitional Council are usually quick to assure foreigners that the end is near. They believe the rest of Libya will rise up against Gadhafi in a matter of weeks, not months.

But there's a deepening concern here in eastern Libya that the rebellion is stuck, and needs another push. A few days ago, the National Transitional Council publicized an opinion poll conducted in rebel-held areas by a local university. It purports to show "overwhelming support" (87 percent) for the idea of bringing in foreign military trainers, and "strong support" (80 percent) for the presence of foreign ground troops, as long as they focus only on humanitarian aid.

The validity of the poll aside, the rebels' message to the outside world is clear: More help, please.

[NPR's Martin Kaste and producer Jonathan Blakley are reporting on the crisis in Libya from Benghazi.] Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.