UK & World News
Libya Prepares For Historic First Elections
The buildings in Zawiyah, which were torn apart by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's tanks and machine guns, are now covered with election posters.
Every street in the city is now festooned with banners of individual political candidates.
The city which the Libyan dictator tried so hard to crush is now about to take its revenge in the ballot box for the first time.
In the corner of Martyr Square, where tanks were once positioned, there is now a monument to those who died fighting for freedom.
In a series of rooms, pictures of men and boys fill the walls. Underneath each face is the date of death.
A quick glance shows most died on two significant periods.
One was the weekend of March 4 last year when Col Gaddafi ordered his troops to surround the city and brutally snuff out the rebellion - and again at the end of August, around the 19th and 20th when the city rose up again, took on the tanks and this time won.
An array of the weapons used against them by the regime lies in a corner - amongst them anti-tank missiles which were fired by Col Gaddafi's soldiers against the city's civilians.
In another room, a model shows tanks on the one side of the square ranged against unarmed people of Zawiyah - all mapped out using spent bullet cartridges.
"We can never forget," said Salem Alshanouk. "We knew there were going to be sacrifices. I had to sacrifice members of my family but we have won and we got rid of Gaddafi and now we have democracy."
In fact, he lost three members - his 22-year-old son, his brother and his nephew - all killed in the fighting trying to overthrow the dictator.
He does not labour on his loss. He almost mentions it in passing, matter of factly. He knows he's not unusual. Almost everyone in Zawiyah has suffered a loss, or an injury or imprisonment, some many times over.
A Sky News team was in Zawiyah on March 4 when Col Gaddafi surrounded the city with his tanks and soldiers and mounted a systematic crackdown against its civilians.
We cowered in the city's mosque with other civilians as Col Gaddafi's troops pounded the area with machine guns and heavy weaponry.
We watched as many of those young men whose pictures now hang in Zawiyah's Museum to the Martyrs bravely battled to defend the city.
We filmed the city's doctors desperately trying to cope with the mounting casualties as the hospitals were overwhelmed with the injured and dying.
"It was a terrible time," says Doctor Mohamed Murabit. We filmed him frantically trying to save lives and angrily denouncing the regime.
"The international community needs to help us," he furiously said, as Sky cameraman Martin Smith filmed his pleas at that time.
Six days later, after we smuggled the film out and it was broadcast, the Nato campaign began and the tables slowly began to turn in the rebels' favour.
Democracy less than a year after Col Gaddafi's toppling and death has seen an explosion in the creation of political parties here.
One hundred and forty-two different parties will contest the elections. The voters will be able to choose from more than 2,000 independent candidates and more than 1,000 associated with the different parties.
Voters are being asked to elect 200 members to a national congress which will in turn appoint a president and a committee, which will draft a new constitution, plus oversee parliamentary elections sometime next year. There are undoubted challenges.
Zawiyah along with many other cities and towns in Libya still has its own militia - rebels who took up arms during the revolution and who are reluctant to give them up just yet.
"We are still needed because it's not yet secure here," said Mohamed, a rebel fighter.
The country has a huge number of weapons around with few households now unarmed and the transitional council has failed to persuade the militias to hand in their weaponry.
In the cradle of the revolution, Benghazi, there are even a small number calling for the elections to be boycotted.
They are unhappy with their allocation of seats in the new congress, and believe the numbers are unfairly weighted in Tripoli's favour.
They want a federal set-up in the new Libya, so they have more say over their own affairs in the east.
"The revolution isn't over for us," one told me.
Although violence is denounced by the federalist leaders, their supporters have stormed the election commission offices in Benghazi over the past few days and set fire to ballot boxes in Ajdabiya, which may end up in the voting there being postponed.
But the challenges refuse to dampen the spirit and the enthusiasm of the tens of thousands here who are desperate to vote for the first time.
"Is it worth it?" said Safa Alshanouk, who lost her brother in the fighting. "This is what my brother died for. This is what he wanted and I will cast my vote with great pride on Saturday."