Col. Moammar Kadafi’s portraits hang from the walls of the middle school. All of the walls.
He’s on horseback. He’s in uniform. He’s a young army commander. He’s a fatherly leader of the nation.
His words, spelled out in the collection of occasionally incoherent aphorisms called the Green Book, are woven into weekly lessons. His praises are sung by the students, who chant pro-government slogans for the benefit of a group of visiting journalists, as well as the teachers overseeing the classrooms at Zahra Fatah middle school in central Tripoli.
“We teach them that the power is in the hands of the people,” said Najia Arabi, a political guidance counselor who serves as one of the school’s ideological minders. “Kadafi gave us the freedom, and I feel the freedom.”
But that freedom, apparently, does not mean the freedom to think differently, or even to just be a carefree kid.
The Craziest Guy in the Room:
Platon, who has photographed his share of daunting subjects that include Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Gaddafi was different. “He was vacant. There was no emotion, there was no spirit. It was void of something. When you come face to face with that it’s overwhelming, and that’s what I was trying to get in the picture.”
After the shoot, Platon said, “He put his hand on his heart to say thank you, and I did the same. And then, elegantly, he walked away.”
Platon then caught a glimpse of Gaddafi’s speech. “It was written in red crayon, in giant letters, like a six-year-old kid would write it. And it was written on about twenty pieces of tatty paper torn out of a book, in Arabic. It felt like notes of a madman.”
h/t Joseph Chi Lin
Amnesty International revealed evidence today that Gaddhafi’s forces have been carrying out extrajudicial executions outside of the Eastern city of Ajdabiya. AI researchers report seeing the bodies of the executed men two days ago and have seen another since and received four more credible reports of executions. All these men were found shot in the back with their hands tied behind their backs.
AI’s Middle East and North Africa Director, Malcolm Smart, said that:
Based on what our delegates have seen in eastern Libya over the last six weeks, the circumstances of these killings strongly suggest that they were carried out by the forces loyal to Colonel al-Gaddafi.
The deliberate killing of captured fighters is a war crime. All those responsible for such crimes - those who ordered or sanctioned them as well as those who carried them out - must be left in no doubt that they will be held fully accountable.
Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, has vowed to fight to the end in a speech broadcast live on state television, amid one of the fiercest NATO air strikes on Tripoli.
“We only have one choice: we will stay in our land dead or alive,” he said in the audio address on Tuesday, calling on his supporters to flock to his Bab al-Aziziya compound in the capital.
“We will not kneel! We will not surrender.”
“We are stronger than your missiles, stronger than your planes and the voice of the Libyan people is louder than explosions,” he said.
Gaddafi said he was ready to unleash between 250,000 to 500,000 armed Libyans to swarm across the country to cleanse it from “armed gangs”, a reference to the rebels controlling parts of the North African country.
“Whether we are martyred, killed or commit suicide, we care about our duty towards history,” Gaddafi said, demanding to know why the bombardment was continuing.
Misrata rebels: Stuck in the sand, with sky-high morale
In 1969, 27-year-old Capt. Muammar Gaddafi overthrew the king of Libya in a bloodless coup, promoted himself to Colonel, and declared the country a socialist state. Ever since, he’s remained one of the world’s most controversial leaders, and a man of profound contradictions. He describes Libya as a popular democracy, but his word is law. He has sponsored terrorists and violent revolutionaries, but has frequently acknowledged his actions while avidly courting Western approval.
see more — Gaddafi: The Last Supervillain?
Libya rebels seize Gaddafi compound
Triumphant rebels seized Muammar Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli on Tuesday after a fierce battle with a loyalist rearguard but there was no word on the fate of the Libyan leader who vowed again to fight “to the end.”
Reuters journalists watched rebel fighters stream through the sprawling Bab al-Aziziya headquarters compound, firing in the air in celebration after hours of heavy clashes. But it was unclear whether the “Brother Leader” or his sons were still somewhere in the complex’s maze of buildings and bunkers.
Defensive fire died away and hundreds of jubilant rebels poured in. Some smashed a statue of Gaddafi. Others hunted through dozens of buildings, unchallenged, seizing weaponry and vehicles. The rebels’ envoy to the United Nations said the area was “totally in the hands of the revolutionaries.”
One man shouted: “It’s over. Gaddafi is finished.”
Photo: Libyan rebel fighters celebrate after their entering the Bab al Aziziya compound in Tripoli August 23, 2011. (Zohra Bensemra/Reuters)