News / Africa

Libyan Resistance Fighters Make Presence Known in Tripoli

In this picture sent secretly to a VOA e-mail account, Libyan anti-government activists sew the flag of the revolution.  The banner reads, 'We will never forget our martyrs'
In this picture sent secretly to a VOA e-mail account, Libyan anti-government activists sew the flag of the revolution. The banner reads, 'We will never forget our martyrs'
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A senior United Nations official is warning that Libya is a ticking time bomb and that life-saving assistance is needed, especially in the western part of the country.  Little is known about what is happening in Tripoli, the nation's capital and Moammar Gadhafi's stronghold.  To find out, VOA's Carolyn Presutti spoke to two opposition leaders - one in Tripoli, secretly via Skype, the other from Benghazi - as she shows us the daring actions activists take in Tripoli to advance their cause.   

Libyan rebel troops, training in Benghazi, brazen enough at night to burn an effigy of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, and emboldened by day to protest.

The rebels have such a tight control on Benghazi that they consider it their capital. And their recent capture of Misrata's airport gives them a fresh cache of arms.

But, that is not the case in Tripoli, the nation's capital. There, the government controls the people, the media, the message.  These pro-Gadhafi demonstrations and government-led media tours are what the world sees of Tripoli.  No opposition activity.  Until now.

In the pictures sent secretly to a VOA e-mail account, these anti-government activists are sewing the flag of the revolution.  The banner reads, “We will never forget our martyrs.”  They are driving to show where it was hung.  Just past the telecommunications center, above a busy overpass in Tripoli.

“They are very brave.  They’re very, very brave,” said Waheed Burshan, an opposition leader in Benghazi who recently visited Washington. He went to junior high school along this street in Tripoli, but had never seen this video until we played it for him.

“This is the soul of the whole resistance.  Sometimes it takes more courage to do this than to actually take arms,” said Burshan.

It’s not the first time.  These activists have placed their flag in at least three prominent locations in Tripoli over the last three weeks. Their leader describes his group as peaceful, carrying out civil disobedience against Libyan officials.  VOA spoke with him via Skype.

“We highlight deficiencies in security, we highlight the fact that despite neighborhoods being under lockdown, you can go out and do something.  They are not invincible,” said the opposition leader.

Some analysts say this type of protest and its frequency encourages the opposition.  Although, Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress says the rebels need to be better organized.

“Some countries have offered additional support to Libyan rebels and they are finding, that in trying to offer that support, there’s no cohesion there. That creates a problem for the end game politically,” he said.

But, cohesion is tough in Tripoli.  The civil disobedience leader sent us the video of gasoline lines.  

The city is running out of fuel and movements are watched by the government. “Mobile phones are heavily monitored. “The Internet is banned. The use of satellite phones is highly illegal. That’s what makes it so difficult to organize ourselves,” he said.

NATO is pounding Tripoli with airstrikes.  With Moammar Gadhafi still in strict control, analysts say the key to freedom is in Libya's capital.  And they say, “As Tripoli goes, so goes the nation.”  


Carolyn Presutti

Carolyn Presutti is an award-winning television reporter who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters.  She has won an Emmy, many Associated Press awards, and a Clarion for her coverage of Haiti,  national politics, the southern economy, and the 9/11 bombing anniversary.  In 2013, Carolyn aired exclusive stories on the Syrian medical crisis and the Asiana plane crash, and was VOA’s chief reporter from the Boston Marathon bombing.

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