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Libyans fear West is more interested in Gaddafi’s money than human rights

Published time: March 12, 2011 06:50
Edited time: March 12, 2011 23:52

Some European leaders have expressed clear support for the Libyan opposition, but many ordinary Libyans fear Western countries are more worried about money than their safety.

­With the balance of power constantly shifting from the opposition to the government, there is a lot of confusion and chaos.

People in Benghazi are almost losing hope and feel by the time help arrives it may be too late.

Hasty and unabashed: the uprising in eastern Libya is like most of its participants.

Young, impulsive and irreverent to the regime, like 22-year-old rebel Hammed Mahdi Hammed, who had never held a gun before, let alone used it.

“My father showed me how to use it a few weeks ago. I'm ready to die for my country,” he says.

Many in Benghazi proclaim their readiness to sacrifice their lives for the liberation struggle. Now this heroic rhetoric is becoming a real prospect. As the pro-government forces edge closer, a bloodbath seems all but unavoidable.

International deliberations on what to do about the Libyan uprising have been going on for so long that many people in Benghazi no longer hope that help will come. Instead, they are appealing to Allah, their last hope, as the Gaddafi forces are closing in on the embattled city.

Friday prayers in Benghazi were the most passionate so far. City residents turned their palms to the skies that many hoped would have been declared a no-fly zone by now.

As more coffins arrive from the frontline, high spirits have given way to a sense of abandonment. After several weeks of encouraging statements from Western capitals, many here feel deceived.

Benghazi resident Kaled Obeidi says that he feels sorry to say that they expected Barack Obama to be a “real democrat” who is looking for liberty for people, but in reality, he says, Obama is looking for Gaddafi’s money first.

Meanwhile, the city's artists are mobilizing their best resources to boost morale.

Gaddafi preying upon his people is just one of many themes that local caricaturists have adopted for their visual offensive. Impromptu exhibitions like this one are now on display in almost every rebel-controlled city. The Libyan leader has unexpectedly unleashed unprecedented creativity in his people.

As yet there are no signs of people leaving Benghazi, partly because some are really finding themselves in a Catch-22 situation. Leaving now may be seen as betraying the opposition, staying for too long may lead to persecution later on.

Ironically, it was in Benghazi that Muammar Gaddafi began his quest for power 42 years ago. A young revolutionary, he overthrew the king in a bloodless coup with calls for liberation and an end to tyranny. Those who now oppose him are even younger and demanding the same things. However, that is where, many fear, historic parallels might end.

Meanwhile, in Zawiya – a city ravaged by clashes – forces loyal to the Gaddafi regime celebrated its recent retaking.

Watch Paula Slier's report

­The Libyans are very clear that they want foreign support, but they want foreigners to keep their hands off their revolution, claims John Graham, former US diplomat to Libya.

And if we intrude in too clumsy a fashion, or if we intrude in an unwise fashion, then we will lose the support we have among the Libyan people. And then there could be a very possible future with a prolonged civil war and a lawless state,” said Graham.

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