[note color=”#ececec”]Transcript: Interview with Niz – Tripoli based activist part of the Free Generation Movement (FGM) in Libya[/note]
Q: How have people been processing what happened since the intense strikes NATO started last week?
It may be difficult for some people to relate to that have not followed events in Libya, but the NATO bombings really raised morale throughout Tripoli.
The people of Tripoli’s responses were intriguing as their reactions were not of resentment or anger, but for some there appeared to be expressions of joy on their faces.
From the first day of the NATO bombing, to this day, morale continues to be high as well as other contributing factors such as gains in the Western Mountains, in Misurata and Zawia.
The mood in Tripoli today is tense and apprehensive, as Gaddafi forces attack Misurata. FGM interprets this as Gaddafi regime’s final, desperate ploy to regain ground.
Preparations are underway in Tripoli, for what may be considered the final faze as conflicts inside and outside Tripoli edge closer and intensify.
Q: What is the psychological thought behind the people of Tripoli’s thinking, when they try to interpret news they hear about Misurata?
The people feel that it is inevitable that the regime will fall and it is unthinkable that, Gaddafi nor his regime will regain any legitimacy.
However, there is an underlying apprehension as to how long the conflict will take and at what further cost. The preparations taking place in Tripoli are ever increasing, but no one knows what they are actually preparing for, we are entering the unknown.
People are struggling with a number of difficulties; first of all being involved in an uprising; then being in a conflict as well as being overwhelmed with the day to day living where inflation has affected the price of food (increasing three-fold) and there is an absence of petrol.
Tripoli is a city where its people are unaccustomed to voicing descent or to criticize the regime. In Ben Ashour for instance, a gathering of a few hundred people, were unsure how to say anti-regime chants. When speakers were placed in Fashloom and Algeria Square playing the original Libyan national anthem, people were unsure of how to react or what to say.
Protests in Tripoli are not organized in nature; they are spontaneous outbursts of anger. For example what occurred on 20th and 25th February in response to what was happening in Benghazi and Zawia and more recently in Souq Al-Juma’a after the funeral of young men shot by security forces. These protests are acute flair ups and are not active realisations as to whether it is safe to protest or not. People are beginning to realise that the security apparatus’ organization and control becomes more chaotic and fragmented, with increased defections occurring.
Q: When you say that it is becoming clearer that the government is becoming more fragmented what do you see specifically that leads you to believe that?
There appears to be no chain of command in a city where its people are supposed to love and be obedient to this regime, which is apparently being invaded by crusaders. People are expected to go out in defiance for their leader, who hasn’t been seen publicly for weeks. There have been radio broadcasts, video footage of Gaddafi shown meeting various foreign delegates such as Zuma, but where is he? Why has Gaddafi not addressed his nation publicly in recent weeks? This also raises the question concerning, what many consider to be his second and third in command, Saif Gaddafi (his son) and Abdulla Senoussi.
When looking at the micro-structure of the city, when people are getting arrested, from arresting to holding to interrogation, there appears to be no structure or organization. There has also been a consensus from those arrested that the interrogators do not know what they are interrogating about or what they are trying to establish. This shows that there is an absence of structure, law and organization within the regime and security apparatus and that it is crumbling.
Before the revolution began the country was void of rules of law and all things that define a state. Four months into the revolution, the country has become more entrenched in chaos.
It appears that Tripoli is currently being run by ‘gang-like’ security forces consisting of the regular police, the Katiba (elite) forces, military police and individuals dressed in civilian clothing carrying Kalashnikovs. There is no clear command structure or hierarchy as to who is in control of the city from a security stand point, as these forces are constantly undermining each other’s authority.
Originally, prior to the revolution it was the police that enforced law in the city. Now that the revolution has happened, the elite forces have stepped in, essentially to take their place and protect the regime. This leaves the police with no power and causes conflict between the forces.
These forces are not only fighting the freedom fighters, but are largely fighting each other.
Q: When operations are conducted by these forces, how do they appear to be controlled?
The operations are run haphazardly. For example, in the Bu Sitta district, a man in civilian clothing carrying a Kalashnikov approached an elite force and fired repeatedly before escaping on foot. The forces reacted by initially falling to the floor, looking at each other wondering what to do. An individual then got up in pursuit of the individual, whilst the others goaded each other to assist. The ‘elite’ forces appeared to be ill-prepared, ill skilled and unprofessional. There were no measures put in place to shut down the district, check-points nor were there any attempts to make radio contact. After the forces decided to do something, they returned five minutes later empty handed and embarrassed. They had failed, one person against a whole ‘elite’ force.
Q: Is this story representative of other events in the city?
This story is representative of what I have seen, heard and experienced. I know first-hand that the Katiba forces avoid certain districts at certain times of the day, namely night time in the Souq Al-Juma’a district, for fear of being engaged.
The Katiba forces are supposed to provide security and protection for the city and should not fear being engaged. This shows how weak and threatened they are and how much stronger the opposition is getting.
Q: What is the mechanism by which the state is trying to show they are maintaining control?
The government forces are very crude and macho. They show strength and power by carrying guns; driving in big trucks making lots of noise; putting in place heavy check-points and by having a very visual presence.
When NATO bomb, people go onto the rooftops in acts of defiance against the regime, in support of NATO and cheer, clap, whistle and say “Allahu akbar!” As NATO continues to bomb, this has been happening more often and has become louder.
To intimidate and discourage people from coming out and any form of descent, security forces have been patrolling the streets of the city and shoot randomly into the air.
Regime law has been enforced by eradicating descent using brutal levels of force and have maintained strength by arresting youth on mass indiscriminately every day to discourage activity of any kind and to encourage distrust between groups that are active.