At the young age of 27, Moammar Gadhafi gained power of Libya. During his four-decade reign, Gadhafi supported terrorism, established a socialist system, and ordered violence against his own people. Yet, recently his regime has begun to crumble. Libyan protesters want respect; freedom; and, most importantly, the end of Gadhafi’s rule. However, change is not coming easily. In fact, in the past five days, the death toll has climbed to over 400. Lines of communication have been shut down and Gadhafi’s backlash against the demonstrations is brutal. Yet, through it all, the protests in Libya wage on.
Moammar Gadhafi has a notorious history. His role in terrorist attacks marked him as a despotic ruler. One notable terrorist attack was the one on of Pan Am flight 103. It is said that the bombing of this flight, taken down over Lockerbie, Scotland, “killed 270 people, including 189 Americans.” This act led the U.S. to impose sanctions on Libya. In 2009, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the person held responsible for the bombing, was allowed to go back to Libya. While Gadhafi had paid “more than $1 billion in damages to the victims’ families,” he was criticized for welcoming the Lockerbie bomber back as a hero.
Another infamous act of violence under Gadhafi’s rule is the massacre at the Abu Salom prison in Tripoli. According to Human Rights Watch, the event began, in 2006, when prisoners escaped their cells. What then ensued was a bloodbath and around 1,200 dead. At times, the Libyan government denied the killings took place. It is said that grenades and guns were used to kill the prisoners. As a result of this massacre and lack of information about the prisoners’ deaths, many have formed protest groups. These groups want more information about the incident. In addition, family members would like the remains of the victims so they can bury the deceased. The Abu Salom massacre remains a sore spot for Libyans and many human rights organizations.
Indeed, violence is one of the ways Gadhafi has remained in power. It is reported that in the 1980s, Gadhafi took care of challengers by hanging them in public. Furthermore, the executions were shown on television. It is this brutal attack on opposition that many find troublesome. With his relentless killings of protesters this week, Gadhafi continues to be a brutal leader. However, this time people are not backing down. They have seen despotic rulers being overthrown in Egypt and Tunsia. So far, it seems that overthrowing Gadhafi will be a very difficult task.
Ben Forer Who Is Moammar Gadhafi? abcnews.go.com
Angelique Chrisafis Libya protests: ‘Now we’ve seen the blood our fears have gone’ guardian.co.uk
Human Rights Watch Libya: June 1996 Killings at Abu Salim Prison hrw.org
The Marginalized Families of Abu Salim Prison themarginalized.com
Miguel Marquez and Ammu Kannamipilly Convicted Lockerbie Bomber Returns Home to Libya, a Hero abcnews.go.com
Moammar Gadhafi: from revolutionary to despot ctv.ca