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A messy sort of freedom in post-Khadafy Libya

TRIPOLI, Libya — Fuad Gritla, the morning host on 100.7 FM, knows his listeners in Libya’s capital are grouchy, and he is trying to help.

Tripoli has not witnessed the change that many had hoped it would see a year after Moammar Khadafy’s fall. Political progress has been downright sluggish. There are lots of weapons and little security. And people here are getting more and more anxious.

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‘‘The Libyan people are very cranky, so we’re trying to cheer them up in the morning,’’ Gritla said, turning the dial up on a track from the Bee Gees. ‘‘Our slogan is ‘Your voice and your voice only.’ We try to give people what they want.’’

Radio Zone 100.7 is just one of some two dozen new radio stations to hit Tripoli’s airwaves since the dictator’s fall. And despite all the doom and gloom, residents say it is just one indicator that postwar Tripoli is not actually as bad as it may appear.

In fact, Tripoli is a spectacle of postrevolution paradoxes. It is a place where all of the successes and failures of the Arab Spring’s most thorough revolution go on stark display side by side; where one can brave a militia gun battle and shop for designer dresses in the space of an afternoon.

For all the weapons floating around, there is relatively little crime. Libyans go to work and pick up groceries. Adults talk politics over cappuccinos. And teenagers chow down on burgers and blast pop music from their cars.

There is even Tripoland, an antiquated but popular little amusement park, where the city’s residents line up to ride the miniature roller coaster on Friday nights.

Beneath the surface, of course, it is all a mess, locals say. This is a capital city in a country without a functioning government. The police officers directing traffic in Martyrs’ Square are actually militia members. There is no designated day for trash collection, and no working court system.

The country pulled off its first democratic election for a General National Congress in July, but has yet to seat a government — in part, because protesters sometimes storm Congress while it is in session. Members of Congress even debated moving their body to a new city, to avoid the protests.

By far the biggest change brought by the end of Khadafy’s rule is the freedom that Libyans are now enjoying. Gritla plays foreign tunes that never would have touched the airwaves under Khadafy’s suffocating, xenophobic rule. Kids are learning French in school. And traders are importing old, ratty cars, something the old regime did not allow.

Libyans are so free, in fact, that much of Tripoli’s current trouble stems from the frustration that follows when friends, neighbors, and resident militias do whatever they please.

But at least, said Sadat Elbadri, the head of Tripoli’s self-appointed local council, and others, freedom has yielded a cacophony of free expression and a newly awakened city trying to make sense of it all.

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