By Daniel Fisher –
SEVEN months ago Nizar Mhani was a Cardiff dentist with no history of political activism.
But since then the 30-year-old, from Heath, has returned to Libya, where he has waged an underground campaign of civil disobedience and protest in Tripoli which made him one of the Gaddafi regime’s most wanted.
He has now spoken to the Washington Post newspaper about his struggle.
While the world’s media was held captive in the capital’s Rixos hotel, it was Nizar who broadcast to the world that the revolution was growing, despite the regime’s efforts to stamp it out.
He was denounced on state-run television as a rat who must be hanged and has had his family threatened.
When the rebels’ uprising spread to Tripoli in February, Mhani packed a bag and jumped on a plane, only to find that the protest movement was in danger of foundering.
In a bid to reignite the protest movement he began speaking out against Gaddafi and draped the rebel flag across Tripoli, right under the regime’s nose, and blasted the old national anthem on street corners.
Nizar told the Post: “I wanted to really annoy the regime by doing something they most hate, and that is telling people what is really going on.
“The fact it annoyed them so much means we must have done something right.”
He staged demonstrations – always appearing in a scarf to conceal his identity – denounced the regime on camera and, with his cousin and two close friends, founded the Free Generation Movement.
Nizar’s cousin Mukhtar Mhani, at only 26, was a government IT expert whom Nizar said hacked into the government’s still-functioning intranet system and used it to access a satellite dish to transmit messages of protest to the outside world.
But as their prominence grew, the group realised they could be tracked down through the intranet route – so they went to Mukhtar’s workplace, climbed to the roof and found a 1.8m satellite dish.
“We needed a satellite connection, so we dismantled it. Then we took a deep breath, and we just walked out,” he told the Post.
Fortunately for them, his was one of many government offices abandoned after the start of the Libyan uprising.
Within the Mhani family there were conflicting arguments.
“One day they would say ‘You are writing our family name in history,’” he said. “The next day they would say ‘It is not serving any purpose.’”
Then, exactly six months after the Tripoli uprising began, the city was liberated. But Nizar’s joy was short-lived, as his cousin Suleiman Zaheer Mhani was shot dead by Gaddafi forces after being one of the first to come out into the streets that day.
“I feel like I can finally sleep, like I haven’t slept for six months,” he said.
“But now is when the work begins. We have so many problems. We had a lot of problems before, but now we have the freedom to fix them, so we have no excuse.”
On Facebook, The Free Generation Movement’s followers praised Nizar’s courageous work.
Clara Sahara wrote: “You’ve done a great, amazing job. All the time we’ve prayed for your safety. May Allah bless your souls.”
Lisa Berg added: “We’ve followed and admired your activities since… early spring. You told us what was REALLY going on in Tripoli, all our support from Tunisia.”
Did you know Nizar Mhani when he lived in Cardiff? Do you know where he worked as an oral surgeon? Get in touch on 029 2024 3639.