These photographs of Libyan men adorned the walls of the courthouse on Benghazi’s breezy seafront during the spring and summer of 2011
Over the course of the revolution in Libya, from its early days in February to the eventual capture and death of Colonel Gaddafi in the city of Sirte on 20 October 2011, the people of Benghazi posted pictures of their missing sons, fathers, uncles, cousins, brothers and friends in the hope that someone might recognise a face.
The faces read like a ghoulish storybook of Libya’s recent history; a man who had not returned from a secret and brutal war with Chad in the 1970s; a man publically executed in Benghazi in the 1980s; faces of men who disappeared after being arrested by Gaddafi’s secret police during his four decades of brutal rule.
Also among these faces are the images of those who never returned from the front lines in the desert during the early months of the uprising – young men who went to help defend their homes from advancing army forces loyal to the loathed dictator. Thousands remain missing as a result of the eight-month conflict.
The persistence at which people bring pictures of their lost loved ones to the courthouse may seem futile – after all, what are the chances of someone recognising a faded family photo taken almost 30 years ago? And even if they did, how could anyone be sure that they were alive or dead? For many it is hope that keeps them coming, while for others, the photograph on the courthouse wall is a substitute for a grave, a place where they can finally go to publically remember and mourn.
After 42 years of Muammar Gaddafi’s erratic and repressive rule, these communal places of memory are all that is left for many bereaved Libyans.