Beneath veneer of true love for Qaddafi, rebellion simmers in Tripoli
While the chest thumping of many Qaddafi loyalists in Tripoli is authentic, other Libyans in the capital are not afraid to say they side with the rebels.
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But even in this repressive society, where rebels are dismissed by Qaddafi as “rats” and “terrorists” who have to be rooted out of every closet in every house, Libyans seem increasingly willing to share anti-regime views – in private, at least.Skip to next paragraph
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“Believe me, people are not afraid of food shortages or lack of water – they are afraid of what Qaddafi will do if the rebels arrive in Tripoli,” says one Libyan professional who could not be named. “Will he send in his mercenaries to attack? These people are waiting.”
Tripoli on edge
Many loyalists have been given guns by the government, part of a plan announced by Qaddafi to arm “all the people” – whom he says “love me all” – against a foreign onslaught.
“We are not frightened of them because they are Libyans and we know they will throw down their guns,” says the professional. “Libyans do not like violence, it is not their natural inclination. What frightens Libyans are the people from outside.”
That fear was manifest on one downtown breadline, where the government minders officially escorting journalists could not hear every conversation.
One man said he was afraid for his safety if he were seen speaking in English to journalists. Another man, an art teacher with grey hair, drew a face with tears spilling down in a notebook, and said: “This is the face of war.”
Another man spoke in code beside the empty bread racks, waiting for some loaves.
“We don’t think about the future,” he said, except that he hopes it will be “good for all Libyans.”
Elsewhere in the city, an educated Libyan who could not give his name says that while Qaddafi is "a warrior" who won't give up easily, the endgame for the regime will be quick – contrary to a common belief that a months-long stalemate might ensue.
Counting on Qaddafi staying in power are the regime cheerleaders who accompany foreign journalists to visits of bombsites and funerals. They come swathed in green headscarves and carrying posters of Qaddafi, and exude total devotion.
During a long drive to the outskirts of the rebel-held enclave of Misratah on Monday, one woman sitting at the front of the journalists’ bus had the job of clapping often to the kind of festive Arab music usually heard at weddings.
But is she part of only a minority who loves Qaddafi? One that is doing little more than clinging with their leader to a final few days of influence and power?
If so, the answer may soon be known. But during another Tripoli taxi ride, the driver played songs that praised Libya and its beauty. Yet he also had an eye on the news that rebel forces were advancing on Sirte, the hometown of Qaddafi that he has virtually made Libya’s second capital.
Rebels at the gates of Tripoli? “Welcome! Welcome!” the man cheered.