Until about a year ago, Sirte was in the frontline of a war between Libya’s Government of National Accord and the "Islamic State" (IS), which had taken control of the Mediterranean city in February 2015. It was freed in December last year and life seems to be returning to normal.
In the streets of Sirte, still marked by the war, cars move along the road, the buildings are being repaired and people prepare to go to wedding ceremonies. Between 60 to 70 percent of the population has now returned to the city.
Mahmoud Emsameen, who looked after Sirte’s refugees in Misrata during the war, sits in the cafe of the national football headquarters. According to him, the situation in the city is good: "People here are happy. Most of them have reopened their shops and life is back to normal here. Others will soon return to their homes in Sirte."
Many people have returned to their homes
A large number of buildings have been destroyed, especially in a suburb called "Area number 1," which IS fighters used as their base. But many families have returned despite the damage. "There are families living in destroyed houses, Emsameen explained. Many are living in just one room of the house because most of it is destroyed. These people wanted to come back home no matter what."
In his gym, which reopened in April, Ali Saleh regrets the lack of support from the state. He says that the bank in Sirte has received money from Tripoli only twice since march. The 32-year-old man assures that it is the inhabitants who shoulder the burden of services that need to be done in the city: "When we came back to Sirte, nobody supported us. We cleaned the streets ourselves; there was no foundation or organization that helped us. We did it on our own because it is our city."
Ali Saleh is aware of the material and psychological problems that exist in Sirte. According to him and his friends, sports are a way to get rid of the stress. He hadn’t had any chance to do anything for a year and a half because of the conflict. "We left our houses, our money and all that we had. That’s why we didn’t have any desire for sports. But thankfully, we got into it again when we returned. Sometimes I feel upset and I come here, I feel better."
The inhabitants of Sirte feel safe, but the threat has not entirely disappeared. Last month, US forces conducted an airstrike on jihadi camps less than 200 kilometers away from Sirte.