Czech-Libyan community euphoric over end of Gadhafi rule

Libyan diplomats raise the flag of the National Transitional Council in Prague, photo: CTK

The end of 40 years of the iron-fisted rule by Colonel Moammar Gadhafi in Libya has been euphorically welcomed by many within the Libyan community in the Czech Republic. As rebel troops took over much of the capital Tripoli in the North African country on Monday, in Prague Libyan officials and others raised the National Transitional Council flag to mark the end of the former regime.

Libyan diplomats raise the flag of the National Transitional Council in Prague, photo: CTK
Earlier I spoke to Dia Addin Felfel, the chairman of the Association for Libyans living in the Czech Republic, and asked how he and others in the community felt about the changes underway.

“To express our feelings, well, I am over 40 years old and I have to say I have never felt this way. I’ve never felt this way before and it is very difficult to express. It’s amazing: all of sudden we can breathe and there is no Gadhafi in the air. I can’t express it more. I asked my family, my brother and my friends and their responses were similar. It’s all new to us, something we never knew, euphoria. It’s unusual to breathe the air and Gadhafi is gone.”

You mentioned your brother in Tripoli: what is the situation there now?

“One of the most important things that we are trying to explain to the rest of the world is that there has been far less bloodshed than expected. A quarter of the population lives in Libya and in the events I think there were 200 or 220 people killed, most of them from Gadhafi forces, but Gadhafi himself warned that there would be many more, that there would be tribal strife and civil war. It hasn’t happened. The Libyan nation is one family, and we are a peaceful nation. The proof of that is the low number of casualties.”

Libyan rebel fighters in Tripoli, photo: CTK
The whereabouts of the former leader remain unknown: how important is it that he is caught?

“At this point I think that it is only symbolic. Of course psychologically many people will be uncomfortable that he is still alive and still somewhere, but I don’t think he can ever come back. Many of course will want to see him in jail. He’s finished. He isn’t recognised by anyone and his capture is symbolic.”

Libyan diplomats raised the flag of the National Transitional Council in Prague on Monday but also expressed regret that Prague has not recognised the rebel government. Do you think that Prague should now do so?

“First of all it wasn’t just some officials but an act by the Libyan community. The ambassador is with us and he belongs to the Libyan nation although we do not know at this time who the ambassador will be. He expressed our sentiments and we drafted a letter that we sent the Czech government and Parliament expressing sorrow the Czech Republic has not recognised the transitional government even though many others have already done so. The Czech foreign minister of course visited Benghazi earlier and made a statement but we needed was a bit more.”

Photo: CTK
Now that 40 years of Gadhafi rule are at an end, what kind of country do you hope the new Libya will be?

“Well, we believe, we don’t ‘hope’ – that would be something uncertain. We believe in all cases that it will be a much better place. There is no worse devil than Gadhafi anywhere on Earth and with him gone it will be better. We have the finances and the quality of educated people who can build the country again.”