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A View Of Gadhafi From One Of His Human Shields


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

Just over two weeks ago, as Western nations launched military strikes against Libya, a young man named Mohammed Majdali made his way to Moammar Gadhafi's compound in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. He was there to act as a human shield.

Dr. MOHAMMED MAJDALI (Dentist): Gadhafi never killed innocent people. Never attacked civilians, only protected our Libyan families from those mobs or gangs. But all these accusations are false.

GREENE: Mohammed Majdali has remained steadfast in his support for the Libyan leader as NATO warplanes have continued their strikes, and as forces loyal to Gadhafi battle antigovernment rebels in the eastern part of the country.

I met Mohammed while I was reporting from Tripoli last month. He's 33 years old, a dentist, an English speaker who was trained abroad. And he's a frequent visitor to the hotel in Tripoli where foreign journalists were housed and closely watched.

Yesterday, I reached Mohammed at that same hotel. He said he had spent the previous night camped out at Gadhafi's compound. And I asked him to describe the scene there.

Dr. MAJDALI: You won't believe how many people coming every night - more and more and more - and many new faces that I can't even remember, thousands of them.

GREENE: Mohammed, there's been some news over the past week or so. I mean, Moammar Gadhafi's foreign minister has left the government and went to the United Kingdom. There's talk of Western governments arming the rebels. How are Gadhafi's supporters, like yourself, keeping hope? I mean, are you becoming a little less confident that Gadhafi will remain in power?

Dr. MAJDALI: Firstly, I would like to comment about you calling me Gadhafi supporters. I never was Gadhafi supporters or anti-Gadhafi. I never cared about politics, and so many other Libyan people were like that.

Now, the situation is different. I am not supporting Gadhafi because I think Gadhafi's nice or because he's strong, or any other quality. I support him because I am supporting myself at - the first time. When you live in Libya and you see all the facilities - free medical aid, free education. I know how Libya is comparing to other countries. And I know what other people in other countries -worries and complains. We don't have such worries.

GREENE: I want to ask you what you've been doing the last few weeks because you know, a lot of people in Tripoli are off-limits to journalist. But you're allowed to speak to us. Are you a part of the propaganda, so to speak? Have you had any contacts with government officials to, you know, in...

Mr. MAJDALI: Not at all. I hate securities. I hate to work in the official things. I am not part of any government-sector parties.

GREENE: I wanted to ask you: One of the things that you and I spoke about, a lot, was who the rebels are in Eastern Libya. And you said that they have been mischaracterized by the Western press. Can you talk about who you think the rebels are in Libya?

Dr. MAJDALI: My personal opinion; that these people who participated and destroy my beautiful country against my Libyan families, my people, are criminals, are not rebels. Whatever the demand they've got, they had many different ways to put it on the table and to discuss it. But to use the weapon, they are not civilians anymore. They are terrorists.

GREENE: I wanted to play you a little tape because I heard a report from my colleague Eric Westervelt - who's been covering Eastern Libya - a couple of days ago. And when I heard his report I thought of you because he had a young man in his report named Anis Abu Bakr(ph), who's 32 years old. He's a rebel fighter. And here's what he had to say.

Mr. ANIS ABU BAKR (Rebel Fighter): Two weeks ago, I was a lecturer at the university. By now, I should be in the U.S. doing my Ph.D. We cannot go back to how it was before. I didn't have any experience in the military, but we have no choice. That's it. We have no choice.

GREENE: And Mohammed, what struck me was, that voice does not sound like the voice of a terrorist. It struck me that here's a guy who's about the same age as you, Mohammed. Isn't it possible that the two of you are both young, well-educated Libyans who just happened to be on two different sides of this conflict in your country?

Dr. MAJDALI: You are right. He's sounds - a very nice gentleman. He sounds good. But what I'm saying when I say these people who carried weapons and destroyed my country, I didn't say it didn't drag innocent people with them. Yes, there were some people were fooled, and they were pushed into this wave by giving them wrong information about Gadhafi, and about - whatever they call it - regime. They convinced them somehow that you are living in hell; you are living in a bad life; you should have more rights; you should have more that, more of this, more of this, more of that; look at the people in the West, look at the people in the East.

I was overseas, and I know how beautiful our life is. They cannot convince people like me, but they managed to convince some youngsters by misleading, which is - I believe this is one of the examples.

GREENE: I want to give you a chance to give me your - sort of expectation. What is your best hope right now?

Dr. MAJDALI: My best hope is that my country goes back to the way it was. Listen, I believe some people are targeting Gadhafi just because they wanted to hunt him somehow, and they wanted to destroy him somehow. So I wish that our life, and our community, to come back to the way it was, and Gadhafi and all the families - coming back to its normal life.

GREENE: Thats the voice of Mohammad Majdali. He's a dentist living in Tripoli, and he joined me from the journalists' hotel in the Libyan capital.

Mohammed, thank you so much.

Dr. MAJDALI: Thank you very much. It was nice talking to you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.