Silence and fear return to the streets of Tripoli
A month on from Tripoli’s fall to rebel forces, the leaders of France and Britain are traveling to the city in a show of support for the regime their warplanes helped put in power, while those who backed Colonel Gaddafi remain defiant but fearful.
On the eve of the visit of French President Nicholas Sarkozy and British PM David Cameron, the head of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, has asked for more weapons to fight pockets of Colonel Gaddafi's loyalists and remove them from their remaining strongholds. The rebel government thinks the ousted dictator is hiding in southern Libya and planning a fight-back.However, the new authority is asserting an increasing level of control over the country.For some, that is cause for celebration – but many others are reserved in their optimism.In parts of Tripoli it feels as if the rebels’ triumphant campaign never happened, or did so elsewhere, in some parallel version of the Libyan capital. “We will do anything for Muammar, only Muammar! Even if we give our life for that!” claims one street vendor, while hiding her face from RT’s camera.In today’s Tripoli, it is becoming a commonplace to meet people who are afraid of speaking openly to journalists as RT’s team discovered on the streets of the city. This is how one encounter went:“All people here love MuammarGaddafi.”“We are from television – could you tell us that on camera?”“No, no.”“Why?”“This is dangerous…”And it was the same story with others who fervently support the ousted Libyan leader. “Gaddafi is 100 per cent good!”“We don’t want this revolution, we don’t know the rebels.”“We want them to go away.”“Could you talk on camera? We are from TV.”“No, no, no thanks, if I appear in front of the camera, they will send a bullet to my head…”“Who? Who?”“Who? The criminals! You don’t know them? You call them the rebels!”“Hey guys, do you remember Ehab, the black guy, he was arrested few days ago, after he appeared on TV… don’t do that!”Those calling themselves rebels are once again celebrating on Martyrs’ Square in downtown Tripoli. This time, they are welcoming Libya’s new government to the capital. The head of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, spoke before large crowds, leaving Libyans in no doubt about who is now in charge.But while the NTC leader was giving his speech, most of Tripoli’s population preferred to stay close to their businesses and homes.Those who do not support Mustafa Abdul Jalil and could be seen all across the city proudly waving green flags just weeks ago backing Gaddafi, are now reluctant to leave their own backyards.“They are afraid because if they go out they will die instantly because there are many people with weapons and guns,” one man, who was afraid to speak on camera, told RT. With Gaddafi effectively gone, the new authorities have settled down here in the capital, Tripoli. People are chanting that Libya is now a new free country. But it seems there is at least one thing that still remains – fear.We finally found one young man – Ahmed – brave enough to talk to RT’s crew. This is what he had to say: “Tripoli is now under the control of the National Transitional Council and we don’t feel we have freedom to talk or to express our opinions. If we say something in favor of Gaddafi they can kill us or arrest us. Of course, many are in fear.”The 19-year-old says many of his friends have been arrested recently for making statements critical of the new regime. Ironically, we were talking just a kilometer away from one of Gaddafi’s top secret jails for political prisoners known as Abu Sleem.“The rebels, they only represent themselves – not the Libyan people. This revolution started with killings to intimidate through fear. Their hands are all covered in blood,” Ahmed said.Amnesty International has recently accused both Gaddafi's regime and the one which replaced it of committing war crimes, including killings and torture of soldiers, prisoners and civilians.Here in the Libyan capital, there is widespread fear that more is in store.