Posts Tagged ‘Resistance’

Tweeting Tripoli

In Libya on August 17, 2012 at 18:16

November 2011: Ali Tweel was another brave Tripolitanian who was tweeting undercover during the Libyan Uprising and ensuing civil war.  Tweeting as @TrablesVoice, Ali heroically got the word out of the extent of the anti-Gaddafi sentiment in Tripoli.  He tweeted about the number of protests taking place in Tripoli and told me some terrible stories about relaying information of horrific injuries from his friends on the ground attending protests, to tweeting it to journalists and the international community.  “I tried to be Tripoli’s voice” Ali said to me, modestly.  Sitting in his home, an impressive 3 storied apartment block, with his brother Abdulhakeem Amer Tweel and his family living above him, Ali told me how he and his brother would rush up to the rooftops at night whenever they heard a NATO sortie flying overhead.  They lived in the Bab Ben Ghashier district, close to the infamous Bab Al Aziziyah – Gaddafi’s notorious compound.  They filmed and documented many bombing raids on their rooftops and gathered under the cover of darkness to talk secretly about the extent of the damage and the success of the uprising against Gaddafi.  “We had to be very careful about who we talked to –  and when we came up on the roof to talk and film we had to be very quiet – you never knew who was listening or who would report you around here,” said Abdulhakeem – gesturing to the neighbouring houses.  “This neighbour and that neighbour,” he said pointing at the surrounding residential blocks – “they are all pro-Gaddafi.”  Ali told me – “my neighbour here, he used to have a green flag, but the day after Tripoli fell, suddenly the flag was gone.  But they are still “green.”

Standing on the rooftop of the Tweel family home, Ali showed me his two-way satellite dish that he had modified so he could overcome Gaddafi’s blocking of the internet and tweet to the outside world.  “I was paranoid that Gaddafi’s men would be outside scanning for internet signals and they would find it.”  One night, he tells me that Gaddafi’s men did indeed come to his home.  Quietly in the dead of night, they rang his door bell.  Peeking out from a hiding place, he could see the men standing in the street light, looking up at his fortified home.  He pretended not to be there, and so they mercifully they left.  “In this area”, Ali told me, “because it is generally pro-Gaddafi and close to Bab Al Aziziyah, Gaddafi’s men didn’t want to make a commotion, whereas in other parts like Tajoura or Soug al Juma – they didn’t care they would just shoot you in the street.”

Ali Tweel

Ali also told me about the attack that Gaddafi soldiers carried out on their neighbouring mosque – Albadri Mosque, he recorded it all on video from their rooftops, and he and his brother even came under fire themselves.

Filming Abdulhakeem Tweel on the rooftops. Photo by Ali Tweel.

I was struck by the quiet and unassuming nature of both Ali and his brother Abdulhakeem.  They hated Gaddafi and saw it is as their duty to defy his rule.  They said they had no other choice.  Standing on the rooftop, looking out across a melange of satellite dishes, building blocks and AC units, Abdulhakeem poignantly reflected on the brutal rule of Gaddafi.   As the sun started to set over the minarets & mosques, and the call to prayer drifted in the sultry breeze, he told me “Gaddafi hated us.  He was not a true Libyan.  He knew nothing of us, of Tripoli.  He took everything from us – our property, my father’s land – everything.  He kept us barely alive and took everything for himself.  On the night of August 20, on the liberation of Tripoli, I was reborn.  I became a new man – I feel like I am just a baby now, a free man learning my way in the new Libya.  I am so happy.”  He praised the under-reported contribution of Libyan women too.  “You know not many people know of the brave sacrifice of these Libyan girls, these Libyan women.  Some of them were braver than the men!   Because it’s easier for a Libyan girl to hide something on her person.  Because of the culture, they won’t get searched; some women pretended to be pregnant and hid rifles and guns!”   And then I heard another familiar refrain:  looking around his neighbours’ houses, Abdulhakeem said “so many of Gaddafi’s supporters were poor, uneducated people.   They were brainwashed by State TV.  I would ask them “What did Gaddafi ever do for you?”  And they could never answer it.”

The Tweel rooftop overlooking Bab Al Aziziyah

Sitting back inside the comfort of Ali’s home, came the traditional offering of Libyan sweets, Quality Street chocolates (again!) and curiously for me at least, a glass of Pepsi Cola.  I didn’t have the heart to tell Ali I hated cola of any description, it was a kind gesture – I didn’t want to offend and so I drunk it.  Abdulhakeem joked – “chocolates! Oh Ali never serves us chocolates – I had better take some of these while I can!”  He then told me another joke – “when Benghazi was liberated and they were free, they would call me on my phone and say ‘Abdulhakeem why aren’t you guys protesting in Tripoli, rise up!’ And I would say, ‘wait, wait it’s not so easy for us now here in Tripoli – you know we have the iron hand.’  And the joke was at the time – if you want people to go out on the streets of Tripoli – just cut the chocolate!  Then they will be really angry …!”  Even in the depths of despair, during the dark days of the crackdown, Tripolitanians kept their humour.  But of course they did go out and protest in the streets – in their thousands.  Many died.  And many quietly held their ground and waited for the secret sign: for the cry of “Allahu Akbar” from the mosques around Tripoli – that was the signal that the battle for the liberation of Tripoli would begin.  The loud-speaker cry rang out on the dawn of August 20 – and so the battle for Tripoli began.

Tripoli Mosque

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