‘We are all going to die’

2011-02-26 15:15

“If this revolution is not successful, we are all going to die. Muammar Gaddafi will take his ­revenge, and our friends and ­families are going to die,” a Libyan doctor who lives in South Africa said this week, commenting on the uprising in his home country.

Speaking from Cape Town on Friday, Dr Mohammed Altaib (35) said that trying to get information about his family in Tripoli had been very difficult.

He managed to hear from friends in the capital that Gaddafi’s ­regime was doing everything in its power to cover up the atrocities committed by security forces.

“People are taking bodies from the mortuaries at hospitals to unknown places to hide how many people have been killed. They are also cleaning the streets in Tripoli that have been riddled with bullets and forcing people from their homes to say on state television that nothing has happened.

“I have seen some of my friends from a hospital where I used to work, clearly saying under duress on state television that nothing is happening.”

Tripoli is under siege by the ­Libyan leader’s militia and nobody can move in or out of the city.

Altaib said his family was among those who are hiding in their homes, too afraid to venture into the streets of the capital.

He has been living in Cape Town for the past four years and is studying to become a plastic surgeon.

“I have worked with blood and flesh, but when I see the pictures of my dead countrymen coming out of Libya, I cannot look at them.

“It is really horrible, terrible. In one incident we know of, three people from one family were killed.”

On Friday he joined a group of fellow Libyans to march on Parliament in Cape Town, very aware of the threats that he and fellow protesters have already received.

“We have been warned that our families will be killed if we march here. If we are threatened here, in South Africa, how much more afraid must our people be back home? Many of our friends have been killed already.”

But why have Libyans not stood up to Gaddafi before?

Altaib said that from a young age Libyans were indoctrinated by state media that Gaddafi was the “Supreme Leader” who cared deeply for his people.

“But as we grew older and started to learn more about the world around us, about how citizens in other countries are treated and the rights they have, we started to ­realise that we have been living one big lie for 42 years.

“We have no democracy or freedom. In how Gaddafi has responded to the uprising, we are now also seeing that he wants to and will do everything to stay in power, even kill his own people,” he said.

Altaib is hopeful that his countrymen will succeed. “Many of Gaddafi’s ministers have resigned. He is alone,” Altaib said.

» Meanwhile, the South African government and the African Union (AU) are facing mounting criticism for not responding “more forcefully” to Gaddafi.

On Monday, government noted its “grave concern” about deaths in Libya and the AU on Wednesday expressed “deep concern”.

Ingrid Srinath, the secretary-general of Civicus, the World ­Alliance for Citizen Participation, said this was not enough: “If there is no stronger condemnation, African countries are complicit in the deaths of the Libyan people.

“Their lack of adequate response has implications beyond Libya. Other dictators on the continent are reading the tea leaves and ­taking note of how the AU is responding to fellow dictators.

“They should condemn Gaddafi and let him know he has no friends on the continent.”

» Go to www.citypress.co.za/Multimedia f­or more pictures, plus Z Pallo Jordan: ‘The revolution has been televised’ 

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