Libya: Anti-Gaddafi activists speak out in Tripoli

By Wyre Davies
BBC News, Tripoli

  • Published

Opposition activists in government-controlled Libya have told the BBC that Col Muammar Gaddafi is more unpopular than ever but is clinging on to power through intimidation and murder.

Tripoli is penetrated by fear and suspicion.

There are police stationed on every street corner and, more to the point, there are thought to be thousands of state agents in workplaces, schools and cafes.

They report back anything or anyone who could be regarded as remotely suspicious.

Wanting to know what Libyans are really thinking, we gave our government minders the slip and headed across the capital to meet four young opposition activists in a safe house.

They all said they had suffered at the regime's hands in one way or another.

Friends have been killed. They're tired of the corruption and nepotism and say pressure is mounting on Col Gaddafi to go.

Salem (not his real name) told me it was, for now, simply too dangerous to head out, unarmed, on to the streets to protest because the risk of being fired on by the security services was simply too great.

Crumbling fortress

In the early days of this uprising, anti-government protests in Tripoli were brutally crushed.

But people are beginning to find their voices again.

At one recent funeral in the capital, several of the red, green and black rebel flags were raised in open defiance.

Gaddafi's opponents know that Tripoli is still a dangerous place. Emal (again, not a real name) was another of the young pro-democracy activists I met.

"When it happens it will be violent and bloody," she said describing what she sees as the inevitable end of the regime.

Image caption,
Tripoli, under attack from Nato planes, is turning against Col Gaddafi's rule

"But I am prepared to die for this cause. I'm afraid, of course I am, but I am prepared to die."

Ten weeks of Nato bombing hasn't yet ousted Col Gaddafi, who resists calls from across the globe to step down.

Indeed, says regime spokesman Moussa Ibrahim, the more Nato bombs, the more Libyans flock to the leader's side.

But what we found, speaking to the young activists, is that there are many more people, in more districts of the capital, who want Gaddafi to go but are, as yet, too frightened to protest openly.

The time will come, they say, when Col Gaddafi realises his fortress capital is solid no more.