Al Zawiyah Protests started on the evening of 19 February 2011 when young men began to congregate in the central square in Al Zawiyah, now known as Martyrs’ Square. The protest took the character of a sit-in. Several of those interviewed stated that the police forces in Al Zawiyah did not attack the protesters.161 One of those interviewed stated that the head of the Al Zawiyah police spoke directly to the protesters and told them that the police were not going to shoot at them and that, having made their point, the protesters should return to their houses. The Commission conducted multiple interviews in which it was told that the situation was calm during the first three days of the sit-in protest, with the head of the Qadhafi forces in Al Zawiyah  attempting to hold negotiations with tribal chiefs aimed at having the protesters disperse.162
The situation appears to have turned violent on or around 23 February 2011 after the 32nd brigade under Khamis Qadhafi arrived to try to regain control of the town.163They invaded the square, firing on the protesters, who were reportedly still unarmed at this point.164 It is unclear if the forces were under  or under Khamis Qadhafi, as it was around this point, based on information received, that a transfer of responsibility for operations in Al Zawiyah occurred.165
Reportedly, 20-30 military vehicles carrying 200 armed soldiers made its way to the central square, shooting as they entered. In multiple interviews, the Commission has been told seven male protestors died on this initial incursion.166 It was at this point that those protesting reportedly decided to arm themselves and attacked a military camp between Al Zawiyah and Bir-al-Ghanem167 leading to an armed confrontation with the Qadhafi forces, under the control of Khamis Qadhafi. Running battles intensified on 5 March 2011 with Qadhafi forces re-taking Al Zawiyah on the evening of the 9 March 2011. Qadhafi forces then appear to have targeted those involved in the protesters and later armed confrontation for arrest, with many reporting abuse while they were held in detention.168
Zintan According to testimony received, protests in Zintan started shortly after the protests in eastern Libya. The response of the Qadhafi Government was swift, with Qadhafi forces surrounding the town and establishing checkpoints, reportedly preventing access of people into the town and limiting supplies of food and fuel.169 A number of witnesses told the Commission that protesters at Algeria Square in central Zintan were shot at and beaten in the streets.170 It was also stated that Qadhafi forces were coming into hospitals in Zintan and removing people who had been injured in the protests.
The Commission has received reports of people being arrested during attempts to pass through the checkpoints surrounding Zintan (see chap. III, sect. C).