When truth is not always one-sided | Khaled Alashdar

Khaled Alashdar, who resigned his post as Chief Security Officer at the Libyan Embassy in Malta a few days ago talks about the day he abandoned the embassy and joined the protests, and reveals the presence of Gaddafi’s nephew in Malta, offering to pay €500 to Libyans to come out in favour of the Colonel.

Khaled Alashdar shakes his head in disbelief as he watches Libyan television broadcasting a message from a senior army officer reading so called ‘important national notices’ in between a news bulletin that hour after hour, reports on the ‘drug-fuelled rebels’ in Benghazi.

He is no ordinary Libyan citizen. Until just a few days ago, he was the chief security officer at the Libyan embassy in Malta, and abandoned his post to join the protestors who since the beginning of the uprisings staged a daily siege outside the building calling for the ouster of Col. Gaddafi and the resignation of the ambassador in Malta.

“When everything started, it was a normal day at work for me. I was already worried for what I was hearing through the news on the uprisings and I remember opening the main embassy door for the ambassador, and told him that the ‘flood’ is coming. He turned back to me and replied, ‘yes indeed’,” Khaled explains.

While the ambassador walked up the stairs to his office and sat behind his desk, a number of people started to gather outside the embassy chanting anti-Gaddafi slogans.

“I was already quite edgy because we were watching the news and we were learning what was happening to our people in Libya. I couldn’t take it, when reports suggested that Libyan fighter jets were ordered to bombard protestors.

“So I looked at the ambassador who was now at his desk, and from the doorway to his office I asked him, what are we going to do about this? We cannot just stand here and pretend that nothing is happening to our people!”

But while all this was playing out, Khaled received a phone call. He claims it was Col. Gaddafi’s nephew, who resides in Malta and has a number of men around him for protection.

What was the call about? “He asked me to find as many Libyans as I could and offer them €500 each to demonstrate in favour of Gaddafi. The list was to be passed on to the Libyan consul at the embassy, for it to be immediately faxed over to Tripoli.”

Khaled says he felt offended by the request, and lashed out at the caller: “Who does he think I am?

“We are Libyans, and we have our pride and dignity, and there could be no amount of money that could buy us to stupidly support a man who has been terrorising generations of us. It’s over, and there is no turning back. The time has come for all of us to stand up to Gaddafi and make him go, to free Libya.”

I refer Khaled to a statement made last week by his now former boss, Libyan ambassador Saadun Suayeh, who stressed with local and international “bourgeois media” that the unrest in Libya has been grossly exaggerated.

The ambassador said that foreign observers were welcome in Libya to determine the truth, which would help to further debunk the “lies” about the situation in the country.

But beyond the rhetoric, the ambassador uttered a particular phrase that couldn’t go unnoticed. Ambassador Suayeh said: “truth can never be one-sided.”

So I turn the question to Khaled, and ask him, what is the truth about Libya?

“Always read between the lines. Whenever something is said either from Gaddafi or any very senior Libyan politician or diplomat, just read between the lines of what they say, and you will see where the truth lies.”

Khaled goes on to say how in Gaddafi’s mind and his henchmen, truth is really never ‘one sided’ “because they create the lie, and insist on people believing it, because they make it impossible for their audience to confirm otherwise.”

“In Gaddafi’s Libyan TV message he talks to ‘his’ people by telling them that nothing has happened, and that Al Qaeda has attacked a battalion in Benghazi and so on; Al Jazeera broadcast the same speech and split the screen to show live images from Benghazi, and they were not Al Qaeda – but Libyan people demonstrating and calling for Gaddafi to leave.

“The irony of it all is that Gaddafi and his inner circle always made the country believe only his truth, and if you didn’t like it, then you were in for big trouble.”

I take on Khaled on this statement. Now that he has resigned his post as chief of security at the Libyan embassy, and even refused a request by Gaddafi’s nephew, what does he think is in store for him?

“I am not afraid, and I believe that my name has already been transmitted to Tripoli. I would now be considered as a traitor, but I am a Libyan and proud to be one....”

And what about your family?

“I am concerned about my family as I have been trying to contact them for days since all this has developed. I am phoning them repeatedly but what is strange is that the calling tone stops as though somebody is picking up, and then the line cuts.

“I know that somebody is picking up and doesn’t speak because money is charged to my phone...”

Khaled takes a deep breath and looks down, then looks back up at me, and says: “You know that in our culture, we believe in sacrifice, and if what I am thinking is true, then let that sacrifice my family in Libya may be undergoing because of my decisions, be worthy of my country’s future.”

So you are fearing the worst for your family in Libya?

“Living for almost all my life under the Gaddafi regime makes you understand what could possibly be happening to my family.”

Khaled goes silent, and clenches his fist and brings it down to the table. He almost sheds a tear but I can see that he is eating himself inside to show me that he is as defiant as the rebels fighting to repel the Libyan forces’ offensive. As his attention sways once again to the television that is still tuned in to Libyan State TV, Khaled is dismayed at the way propaganda is broadcast by the newscaster, who says that all is fine in the country.

“Do you see what I mean? He is saying that all is fine in Tripoli, when I have spoken to a friend of mine just an hour ago who lives in my neighbourhood. He told me that Feshlun is burning.”

Feshlun, being the wealthy upmarket suburb of Tripoli has so far been the cradle of the uprising in Gaddafi’s bedrock, and the regime’s reprisal has reportedly been quite harsh.

“My friend told me that helicopters were flying over their houses, while armed men roamed the streets shooting. What happens next is where they kill people and stain the walls with blood, they repaint the walls and clean up quickly to give the impression that nothing ever happened.”

Khaled is clearly distraught, because his own family lives in Feshlun and what is being broadcast on television is just the opposite of what is really happening.

But who is Gaddafi I ask him?

“Gaddafi has been in power for 42 years. For practically two or three generations, nobody else in Libya knows any leader but Gaddafi. So nothing has changed in Libya for 42 whole years, enough time to build an empire and a web of power that is so hard to be broken,” he says.

“This man must be stopped. I appeal to the international community that Gaddafi must be stopped and soon. What is the West waiting for? This man is a gangster,” Khaled says.

He is itching to do his part and join his fellow countrymen in the fight to oust the regime, but he wants to travel to Libya so he could fight with them, and many of his friends in Malta are urging him to stay and contribute to the cause in other ways.

“But I feel I must go there and fight with my brothers,” he said, while adding that there could be no price to value freedom for his homeland.

“You see the name Gaddafi has ruined us all. Wherever you go and say that you are a Libyan, people take a step backwards, they consider you part of a ‘rogue nation’ as someone once called it. Others say, ah, Libya... Gaddafi!

“We are a great nation, rich in resources and so many things, and certainly not the property of Gaddafi and his family!”

Khaled sympathises with the two defecting colonels who flew to Malta with their Mirage jets instead of bombarding civilians in Benghazi. “If it was not for these two brave men, nobody would have ever know the extent of Gaddafi’s brutality on his own people.”

He adds: “Which man who claims to be loved by his people, kills his own people, and in such a manner?”

Khaled is angry and an outburst was clearly avoided as the doorbell rings. Another Libyan turns up, he’s a good friend and another defector from the embassy. He chooses not to identify himself by name or by face.

They greet each other and exchange hugs in full Arab tradition. They were colleagues, and now they are comrades set to fight side to free their country from the hands of a tyrant. Khaled and his friend do not have a job anymore, and can only hope for the best in terms of income and residence.

They have both been in Malta for almost 14 years, they speak perfect Maltese and know the Maltese people well. “Before I worried about money and work, but now I need to focus on how to help my people get rid of Gaddafi and to bring freedom to the country. The rest for now is not important for me.”

“It’s a very difficult time for me and for us all. I am worried about my family, I am worried about my people. But I am not afraid, and I am ready to die for my country if necessary,” Khaled insists.

And the ambassador here? Many Libyans are calling for his resignation....

“Sure, I urged him to resign. He is a gentleman, and I know that he knows that it is the right thing. But there is one person inside the embassy who is not that forgiving with people like me and other colleagues who have abandoned the building and said no to the regime.”

In what way ‘unforgiving’ I ask?

“I won’t mention names, or point any fingers, but he is a diplomat and all he does all day is send names and reports to Tripoli.”

And why would he send names and reports?

“He will let those in authority know about who is loyal and not, and those who aren’t will pay the price, just like me and my friends....”

So when ambassador Suayeh stressed on the need for Libyan unity insisting that “what Libya needs is stability, reconciliation and dialogue”, what was he trying to say. Would reconciliation work for you in this case?

“Believe me no tyrant can ever believe in reconciliation, because it is either his word or nothing else, and this is clear from how the ambassador spoke to the media when he said that “as in all insurgencies, the government has the right to take what action necessary to quell the insurgents.”

Khaled abhors the definition of insurgents. “Us, insurgents? We are Libyans and we will fight Gaddafi until he is gone and Libya is liberated.”

He ends the interview by promising me to be back with better news in the very near future, crossing his fingers and hoping in God for a liberated Libya.