Libyans from across the Lower Mainland gathered at Library Square in downtown Vancouver to celebrate the arrival of rebel forces into Tripoli.
As a crowd of about 25 people hooted, hollered, and sang, there seemed to be no doubt in their minds that they were seeing the end of Col. Moammar Gadhafi, who has ruled their country with an iron fist for 42 years.
"This is probably the most important day for this generation of Libyans," psychologist Rahim Hewaidi told the Georgia Straight. "We think that NATO, including Canada, played a very, very important role in the history of Libya and in preventing a sure genocide from occurring. Right now, we're just overwhelmed with happiness."
Hewaidi, a Canadian citizen, said he has lived in this country for seven years. He thanked Vancouverites and Canadians across the country for supporting the revolution against a dictator whom he characterized as a "pure psychopath".
"Most of us—if not all of us—were forced into exile because of the brutality of the Libyan regime," he declared. "That was Gadhafi. Hundreds of thousands were forced out of Libya....They were deprived of their basic human rights, so they have gone into diaspora all over the world. Canada has been one of the welcoming countries for us."
Hewaidi also called Gadhafi a "criminal", and said it's an insult to people with emotional or mental illnesses to suggest that the dictator was suffering from mental illness.
"He hates his people," the psychologist stated. "He is the only leader of a country that we know who declared a war against people of his own country."
Sitting beside him, Surrey dentist Dr. Gheith Ben-Khaial summed up his feelings with two words: really joyful.
"I cried," he admitted. "It's unbelievable."
Ben-Khaial told the Straight that he hasn't returned to his home country since moving here in 1986. "My kids were born and raised here in Canada," he pointed out. "They know nothing about Libya."
He credited social media and various networks—including Al Jazeera, CNN, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation—for helping keep the Libyan revolution in the spotlight.
"Those guys back home, they are so brave," Ben-Khaial said of the rebels. "I couldn't believe what they did."
Another local Libyan, Ali Kubti, told the Straight that he was in Benghazi at the start of the revolution. Before NATO's intervention, which primarily consisted of aerial bombing, Gadhafi was threatening to launch an air campaign against the city.
"It was a very scary experience," Kubti recalled.
He accused Gadhafi of stealing the country's wealth and spending it on arms and ammunition. "He has killed my nephew," Kubti revealed. "He hanged him. He killed my brother-in-law. He imprisoned another nephew. He imprisoned my brother. Every family has a story to tell."
All three men insisted that Libya will become a democracy. Hewaidi said that more than 30,000 people paid for this with their blood.
"We will never forget them," he emphasized.
Kubti made a point of declaring that this was a people's revolution against the dictatorship and had nothing to do with Islamic terrorism or al-Qaeda. The other two nodded their heads in agreement.
"Thank you Canada for supporting the Libyan people to reach this day," Kubti said.
The photos above suggest that he wasn't alone with that sentiment.