'Tripoli people baffled by NATO strikes'
Fri Jul 1, 2011 8:6AM
Interview with Viv Ellis, journalist and peace activist, London
NATO, which has been mandated by the United Nations, to protect civilians who rose up against 41-year rule of the Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi continues pounding targets in Libya for months.
The Western military alliance has recently admitted responsibility for the death of some Libyan civilians who were killed in an airstrike on a residential area in the capital Tripoli.
The Libyan regime has described NATO operations in the crisis-hit North African country as an act of colonial aggression designed to steal oil.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Viv Ellis, a journalist and peace activist in London, after her visit to Tripoli. Following is a transcript of the interview.
Press TV: Who could forget the horrific images shown around the world a few days ago when a NATO bombing went horribly wrong. 24 hours later NATO blundered again as Tripoli officials claimed fifteen people including three more children had died in the home of a senior regime official.
Reports coming out of Libya are confused and conflicting. Viv, How was Tripoli - we've seen the horrible pictures of Libyans being killed in the past few days?
Ellis: Tripoli was a mix - from the point of view that the people are utterly charming and very dignified and very friendly towards us even though we are the people perpetrating these things against them. But they're very confused about - why is NATO doing this to us? What have we done? Why is NATO bombing us? That was horrible. And there were times when, yes, it was very scary out there.
Press TV: Do they not see Colonel Gaddafi as the cause of the NATO bombing?
Ellis: Absolutely not! You couldn't be further from the truth. We were in his (Gaddafi's) half if you like; we were not allowed to go to the eastern part of the country. I didn't hear one word said against him.
If anything, people would say, “Well, if it's time for a change, it's our business. It is a Libyan issue. Go away and leave us alone. Let us sort it out.” But I never heard a word said against Gaddafi. I would estimate from what I saw and from the people that we met from all sorts of parts of the country that he's got 80% support.
Press TV: But of course people are polarized; his enemies say there is a climate of fear and this is why they daren't stand up and say we want rid of him. It could be argued that they would say that wouldn't they? Where is the truth in all of this because we're getting confused reports from the mainstream media as well?
Ellis: I have never been so ashamed to be a journalist in my life as when I switch on the TV and see what Britain...
Press TV:...there's a kind of sarcasm from mainstream journalism based on Tripoli?
Ellis: There is. I mean, even when think back to when Colonel Gaddafi's son Arab al Sharif was killed they said, “Oh well, according the Libyans this has happened, but we haven't checked it out yet.” Well, why would they lie about something like that?
If I were at the BBC now I would be reading as much as I could looking online; looking on YouTube - and things do get taken down off YouTube quite quickly over this issue - and then just questioning even at low level, well, why are we doing this? Why aren't we doing this (something different)?
For example, just last week all the newspapers were reporting that Gaddafi orders his soldiers to rape women. Now, the evidence that we were given over there was that, yes, there is a lot of rape going on, but it was perpetrated by the rebels. Now who knows, maybe it's both sides.
Press TV:The International Criminal Court was very quick to intervene...
Ellis: Yes, but only against one side. I have loads of testimony taken from women who were raped by the rebels - Why is that never reported. It's so one-sided.
Press TV:People watching this will say the population will be polarized, there will be supporters of Gaddafi cheering you on, but there will be people in Benghazi saying she has no idea what she's talking about...
Ellis: I'm not here as a supporter of Gaddafi; I've spent one week in Libya, I'm not living there so I'm not in a position to say what it's like to live there. I went there completely non-partisan. I'm just telling you what we saw and the evidence we gathered.
So, no, I can't say I am a support of Gaddafi, but I am a support of peoples' freedom to determine their own future. Libya is a sovereign country. It is a democracy actually. People don't realize that, they think he's a dictator - he's not.
He gave up being the prime minister years ago. There are 2,000 tribes in Libya and we met a lot of the tribal leaders and they all signed a constitution.
Press TV: Do you think a lot of people (Libyans) may be concerned that this is all about energy resources?
Ellis: The oil? Of course. They're not stupid; they know what it's about - the people on that side of the country are going to end up with the oil and the people over this side won't.