Bab al-Aziziyahh was a mixture of barracks, regime headquarters and holiday village
By Donald Macintyre
Wednesday, 24 August 2011
"To understand the symbolism of Libyan rebels running triumphantly through Muammar Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziyahh compound yesterday, it's worth recalling what a totem of anti-Nato, anti-insurrection defiance it had been over the past six months, let alone over the previous decades.
Back in March, taken by regime minders to see the hundreds of Libyans who had gathered as "human shields" in the heavily fortified six square kilometre complex, we watched them sing, swaying, to a catchy African rhythm, words borrowed from the dictator's chilling 22 February speech. The one in which he promised to hunt down his enemies "Zenga zenga" – alleyway by alleyway; inch by inch; street by street, house by house...
Now, instead of being hunted down, the "rats" as Gaddafi called them, were at the compound last night; instead of the fanatical young supporters who had chanted and sang about their loyalty to the Brother Leader, it was now his opponents who clambered on top of the Libyan regime's most iconic pieces of agitprop sculpture, the huge golden fist crushing an enemy war plane, commemorating Gaddafi's survival in the face of the 1986 air strikes of Tripoli ordered by Ronald Reagan after the deadly bombing of a Berlin night club used by US servicemen. It is far from certain that all those who swore to "protect" the Libyan dictator were there voluntarily. Exiled dissidents would later say they recognised from the television pictures some of their own comrades among the crowds, men brought out of jail and forced to swell the pro-Gaddafi ranks. It will be some time before we know whether any of these were able to exact a sweet revenge by running through the compound yesterday with a now wholly unfeigned enthusiasm....."