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In PHOTOS: The other half that sees God in Gaddafi

Last updated on: March 25, 2011 16:07 IST

The other half that sees God in Gaddafi

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Seven days into the bombardment of Libyan military targets, 'Brother Gaddafi' is still a hero to some in the conflict hit North African state.

That a man who boasts he lives in a tent and whom Ronald Reagan once dubbed 'the mad dog of the middle east' still commands devotion four decades into his rule is one of the enduring mysteries of this idiosyncratic country, US media reports from the Libyan capital said.

The Washington Post said it is clear that Gaddafi can count on the fierce loyalties of at least a significant segment of the population in the vast stretches that lie beyond the enclave of rebel-held territory in the east.

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Image: Supporters of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi protest over the air strikes against Libya by a coalition of Western countries outside the French and US embassies in Nicosia, Cyprus
Photographs: Andreas Manolis/Reuters
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The American media report said to enter the world of Gaddafi believers, is to enter in "Alice in Wonderland" realm in which the regime supporters are the real revolutionaries, not the rebels seeking to topple the government, because Libya is in a state of perpetual revolution.

While the urban population may have turned against him, the Post said the powerful tribal structure that forms the backbone of Libyan nationhood has remained behind Gaddafi, despite initial reports that some of the tribes had rebelled.


Image: A supporter of Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi kisses a picture of Gaddafi during a protest in front of the United Nations office in Tripoli
Photographs: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters
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The other half that sees God in Gaddafi

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Unlike Egypt, the Libyan government, media report said had kept average incomes relatively high, while doling out generous social benefits including healthcare and education.

"Even Gaddafi's opponents, who dare murmur their dissent only out of earshot of regime loyalists, concede that the man who has governed Libya for nearly 42 years does command genuine support," Post said.


Image: A Libyan government soldier displays a tattoo of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi at the west gate of town Ajdabiyah
Photographs: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters
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The other half that sees God in Gaddafi

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"Seventy-five per cent of the people are against him," said one dissident, who was in the vanguard of the protest movement that was crushed in Tripoli last month and who agreed to a furtive meeting with journalists in a downtown cafe.

"But there are some people who really do love him. They've known no one else all their lives. They think he's in their blood."


Image: Supporters of Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi salute during a rally in central Tripoli
Photographs: Chris Helgren/Reuters
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The other half that sees God in Gaddafi

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And his supporters, draped in Gaddafi green and clutching pictures of their beloved leader, noisily and passionately assert their presence in near round-the-clock displays of devotion.

Hurtling through the streets in pickups or gathering in Tripoli's central Green Square, they bellow the rhythmic chant that encapsulates the omnipotence of Gaddafi's self-ascribed role: "God, Moammar, Libya: Enough!"


Image: A supporter of Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi shouts during a protest in Tripoli
Photographs: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters
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The other half that sees God in Gaddafi

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Gaddafi can't be toppled because he holds no formal position; he is the brother leader, a guide and a mentor, a patriarch and an uncle who advises the people and doesn't rule them is the common refrain from the people in Tripoli.

But, how deep that support runs in a populous that has been governed by fear for decades is impossible to tell. And only the events unfolding will unravel the mystery.


Image: A supporter of Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi holds a Libyan flag atop floodlights at Green Square in Tripoli
Photographs: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters
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