News / Middle East

Tripoli Resident Recalls Gadhafi's Early Days


Elizabeth Arrott

Many in Tripoli are still stunned by the events of the past ten days, which saw their long-time leader Moammar Gadhafi swept from power.  On the edge of Tripoli's main square, where Gadhafi had planned to hold his 42 anniversary in power Thursday, one resident of the Libyan capital shared his views with VOA's Elizabeth Arrott and Japhet Weeks.

Nawar: "If you lived under an oppressive rule for 40 years, no matter what people tell you, because you have seen, you have heard, you have witnessed, you have relatives who were brutally treated, so you have to be extra, extra, careful."  

Arrott: "Your name?"

Nawar: "Oooh!!! The man might come back and get me! [laughs]  I managed to, you know, lose him for these 42 years.  My name is Salem Nawar."

Nawar: "As you people say, or people say: 'the prisoner falls in love with the jailor.'  And cannot live without him.  When you are under domination for so much, it becomes normal.  Anything else will look strange. These youngsters, they've heard.   They've seen their friends, you know, being badly treated.  And they came out.  Nobody asked them to come out.  Nobody asked them, they're going to pay them to do this.  Okay, a lot of them maybe, they think it's fun.  But no, they paid dearly.  You know, when you're fighting, you don't exchange flowers."

Back in the beginning

Nawar: "And I must admit, at the first years of the revolution, I was 22 years old, when he performed his coup d'etat then.  And we came out and shouted and screamed and yelled and did everything in his support.   Well, for three, four, five years, everything was okay.  I've seen him crossing this very street, in a Fiat 124 car - I still remember, the color was sort of yellowish to gold - and he was driving by himself.  I've seen it, by myself.  But all of a sudden the man has changed.   They put so much in his head [that] he thinks he's a god."

Arrott: "Do you worry that maybe all these hopes they're having right now, it could turn out the same way?"

Nawar: "I certainly hope not.  I sure hope not.  But I can say something, maybe just me, in my own opinion, things couldn't be worse than they were.  Not even in the craziest, strangest imagination.  I don't think it will be this bad."

Nawar: "He ran this country for more than 40 years.  For the young people, that's all they knew.  Incredible to this minute, I do not believe it.  I am still imagining he will pop out of somewhere any minute.  Not only me, [but] my generation [feels this way]. I'm 64 years old.  So, 'God is Great', as we say in Arabic."

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