Home Page Fiction and Poetry
Essays and Reviews
Art and Style
World and Politics




By Mohammad I. Aslam


The Montréal Review, October 2011




It's often said that fate has a peculiar way of taking us to our eventual destination; perhaps none more so than when the 42 year reign of a tyrannical ruler finally comes to an end. For Libya 's Muammar Gaddafi, the place of his birth would also turn out to be the place of his death.

The city of Sirte was always his most loyal bastion. After all, it was from here that the cadres of young brainwashed soldiers needed to prolong his rule, the longest ever in the Arab world, were recruited. So it was no surprise to many that when he no longer had anywhere to run, when the last remnants of his regime totally crumbled, when every inch of every city was cleansed of his die-hard supporters, it was to his Sirte roots that he would resort to hiding in.

And it could not have been a more bloody and dramatic ending.

At around mid-day Thursday 20 th October, the first images which appeared to show the blood stained corpse of the self-styled guide of the Libya 's 1969 revolution, the despotic Colonel Gaddafi, began trickling in. As the news spread like wildfire, Libyan TV abruptly announced both his capture and death.

Jubilant scenes followed as the young battle-worn revolutionaries of the National Transitional Council (NTC) fell over themselves to claim responsibility. A golden gun (which the tyrant was believed to be carrying) was being brandished by a young man named Mohammad al-Bibi, who says he personally took it from him.

By late evening the events surrounding the former maverick leader's death became somewhat clearer. Following a NATO airstrike on a 10 vehicle convoy of his supporters and subsequent crossfire from NTC fighters, a bleeding Gaddafi took refuge in a storm drainage pipe. What happen next was intermittently displayed by grainy mobile phone video footage.

It shows a bloodied, bedazzled and ridiculed Gaddafi being dragged by a frenzied mob of rebel fighters through the streets of dusty Sirte. Then dramatic scenes showed the ailing tyrant being pulled from his arms and hair, incessantly being kicked and slapped on the ground, before being placed on the bonnet of a vehicle and driven a short distance before it came to a sudden halt.

But staying true to his delusional frame of mind, a clearly dazed and shocked Gaddafi pleaded with his captors and even had the audacity to ask his them 'what did I ever do to you?'

He was then apparently placed in an ambulance heading towards the rebel stronghold of Misrata, although it now appears that he either succumbed to his wounds or was executed at some point before this. The only detail that can be been verified at this time is that the ambulance took his corpse to a nearby morgue - with a bullet hole clearly visible in his temple.

But for all the video footages of Gaddafi's corpse (displayed for days in a meat storage facility for public viewing) and the NTC claims of responsibility, the events of that historic day will remain suspicious. NATO, which has been carrying out a bombing campaign in Libya for months, did confirm it had carried out an air strike earlier on that Thursday morning that hit two pro-Gaddafi vehicles near Sirte. It remains to be seen if these strikes were directly connected with Colonel Gaddafi's death.

The truth, for now, will remain caught in the murky world of revolutionary Libya .

The leaders of Britain , France and the United States were quick to express their hope for the people of Libya finally being able to build a strong and democratic future. At the same time, the UN Human Rights Commissioner called for the NTC authorities to conduct a transparent investigation and post-mortem to uncover the events which lead to the bloody death of the former tyrant, a call echoed by his widow, Safia, who now resides in neighbouring Algeria.

In any event, the fate that the most visceral symbol of Libya 's uprising ended up in came as no surprise. For months he saw the zeal of his countryman in the fight to remove him. He saw thousands of them maimed in unthinkable ways, amputees who refused to remain static, those who could live but would rather die fighting him. But he never seems to have felt a survivor's guilt, for him it was only about staying alive and having the right to rule. It meant he could never say goodbye to death and destruction.

He was inherently cruel and without mercy - a quality that rendered his long oppressed people to never remain obedient. He surrounded himself with mercenaries that were greedy of gain, thankless and studious to avoid danger and whose sole devotion to his cause was the spectacle of being conferred benefits. To ask such people to shed their lives in his hour of need - was a ridiculous one.

The maintenance of a regime by means of plunder, privilege and forced contributions is now no more. Although sporadic attacks by pro-Gaddafi loyalists may be around for some time, the new rulers of revolutionary Libya have all the ingredients needed to assure that there is no rest in the struggle to build a free and prosperous country.

The NTC declared Sunday 23 rd October as 'Liberation Day'. The future looks set to be on the side of the free people of post-Gaddafi Libya . They must now attempt to marvel in a new found democratic tradition. It is the future they deserve; they fought with blood and tears for it.


Mohammad I. Aslam a Ph.D candidate in Political Science at the Department of Middle-East & Mediterranean Studies, King's College London.


Submissions Guide
Letters to the Editor

All featured book titles
home | past issues | world & politics | essays | art and style | fiction and poetry | links | newsletter
The Montréal Review © 2009 - 2012 T.S. Tsonchev Publishing & Design, Canada. All rights reserved. ISSN 1920-2911
about | contact us | copyright | user agreement | privacy policy