News / Africa

Libyans Mark Holiday by Touring Gadhafi's Former Compound

A Libyan woman holding the rebellion's flag tours with her daughters Moamer Kadhafi's destroyed headquarters of Bab al-Aziziya in Tripoli, August 31, 2011
A Libyan woman holding the rebellion's flag tours with her daughters Moamer Kadhafi's destroyed headquarters of Bab al-Aziziya in Tripoli, August 31, 2011
TEXT SIZE - +

Families in Tripoli are celebrating the festival marking the end of Ramadan without the visible presence of ex-strongman Moammar Gadhafi, now in hiding.

Families bundled kids into their cars Wednesday and set off to tour Tripoli’s top new attraction - the 6-kilometer square compound that was the secretive heart of Gadhafi's regime.

Driving through once forbidden gates, they drove slowly past shell-blasted sentry boxes, graffiti covered walls, and the burnt remains of Gadhafi’s famous Bedouin tent.

Rebel fighters sang “Where is he? Where is he?” referring to Libya’s runaway leader.  Visitors climbed down into tunnels, half hoping to find him.

On the second floor balcony of Gadhafi’s bomb-blasted residence, a teenager in a "Free Libya" hat set the crowd laughing with comedy versions of the ex-dictator’s speeches.

Even celebratory spurts of automatic weapons fire into the air did not deter families climbing of their cars with babies and children.

Khalid, an engineer, explains that living in Tripoli during the last months of Gadhafi's dictatorship was like living in a prison.

“We were in prison, six months," he said. 

Nale, his daughter, remembers when guns were fired at cars that drove too slowly past the compound.

“If you stop even the car, they might shoot you, it’s so dangerous. But now we are so free, finally, finally,” said Nale, a dentistry student, who remembers watching Gadhafi ranting a few weeks ago that Libyans who do not love him do not deserve to live.

“If you don’t love him, you should die, you don’t even deserve to die," said Nale. "It’s so hard to hear that. You cry, and you don’t know what to do. But now, thank God. It is like a dream. It’s one day and everything come up.”

As a pickup truck drove a figure-eight pattern on Gadhafi’s former lawn, soldiers and civilians joined in joyous song.

Upstairs, another Khalid, visiting the compound with his younger brother, was still in shock that they were walking freely on this once-forbidden ground.

“I can’t believe myself," said Khalid. "This is incredible. Look at the people. This place was out of bounds for five million people, except for his cronies.”

Families posed for cell phone photos, often holding the new black, red and green flag of Libya. Many, like Mustafa, were stunned at the novelty of free speech.

“I am 34 years old," said Mustafa. "This is the first time I am free. I can say anything."

The feeling of liberty was contagious. The most popular rebel invited to pose in family snapshots wore a T-shirt that proclaimed: “For a Libya Free and Democratic.”


James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid