Libya’s leading lady


Glossy bleached locks, a perfect model pout, tailored tops and tight-fitting pants . . . until now the world has seen Muammar Gaddafi’s only daughter as nothing but glamorous and groomed.

But these days she’s presenting a different image to the world. She’s shaken her supermodel style and adopted a more modest look befitting a married Muslim woman.

That doesn’t mean the 34-year-old lawyer has lost any of the star power that attracts photographers to her.

They were out in full force when Aisha Gaddafirecently joined her father’s supporters. Pictures of her waving a flag with the dishevelled masses that formed a human shield around his Tripoli compound were beamed around the world.

She could play a key role in helping her father survive the political fallout in Libya, analysts say. Some even called her his secret weapon after she successfully rallied his battle-weary troops with a rousing speech.

The mother of three is fiercely protective of her family and has been outspoken on Nato-led attacks on Gaddafi’s home. She says her love and devotion to her father is “beyond description”.

“We are a very close family,” she told a UK newspaper. “People forget that before he is a great man he is my father, my friend and my brother. He is very close to me and I feel safe when I am with him.”

This isn’t the first time Aisha has had cameras trained on her for championing a man the world deems a dictator. She made headlines in 2005 when she was part of the team of foreign lawyers who defended executed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein after he was arrested by American troops.

But she seems to genuinely want to change the world for the better. Aisha is linked to a charity in Libya that tackles issues such as HIV/Aids, poverty and women’s rights. “I have always seen my role in the charity sphere,” she says. “I do my best to give a helping hand to anyone who needs assistance.”

Aisha didn’t have an easy childhood and was aware of the Western world’s influence from a young age. She was nine when a US air raid hit Gaddafi’s compound, killing her adopted sister, Hanna, who was sleeping next to her. The attack was in retaliation for Libya’s involvement in the bombing of a disco in Berlin, Germany, frequented by American soldiers.

Family means everything to her and she’s quick to highlight her father’s virtues. They meet at least once a day and she tells him to look after his health. He’s also the first person she turns to for advice.

“If I had to pick his single best piece of wisdom it would be that he underlines being modest, not to be arrogant and that we should shoulder our responsibilities.”

Read more about Aisha in the YOU of 14 April 2011.

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