Anti-Gaddafi song, cheerleader give rebels rare comic relief

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 15, 2011 12:05 PM
Anti-Gaddafi song, cheerleader give rebels rare comic relief

By Michael Georgy

AJDABIYAH, Libya (Reuters) - Hours after their comrades were ambushed by Muammar Gaddafi's forces, Libyan rebels fighting an increasingly tough battle to retain control of the country's east broke out in raucous laughter as a song mocking the leader blared from a car stereo.

"Hey Gaddafi with the messy hair, your end will come one day soon," said the song, prompting one insurgent to start dancing.

It's been a rough couple of days for Libya's ragtag rebel army as Gaddafi's forces have recaptured several towns in the east, and comic relief is hard to come by in the vast desert where government forces hide behind sand dunes.

Rebels have a tenuous hold on the strategic town of Ajdabiyah in the east, gateway to their capital Benghazi which is a two-hour drive away.

With no signs that their desperate requests for heavy weapons from Western powers will be met anytime soon, the rebels try to keep their spirits up however they can.

The song that got the rebels laughing appears to be response to a pro-Gaddafi anthem played in his stronghold Tripoli. It has the same rhythm and involves a play on the words Gaddafi used in a threatening speech after the uprising erupted on February 17.

In that speech, he vows to wipe out rebels street by street, alley by alley. "Street by street, alley by alley, you will be strangled," said the song.

"This makes us happy. We need to relax," said rebel Younis Khalil, as he turned up the volume and stacked ammunition.

Another rebel, wearing a black beret and grey sneakers, said songs provided one of the few escapes they had from the harsh realities of the war designed to end Gaddafi's 41-year rule.

"It gives us some peace and it feels good to listen to it," said Muhammad Abdul Latif, 21, as he twirled a switchblade and manned a rebel-held checkpoint on the edge of Ajdabiyah.

"We may not have the weapons to beat Gaddafi now. But at least we can poke fun at him."

SPIRITUAL GUIDE

Gaddafi forces have hit the rebels hard recently.

Thursday, the insurgents had prepared for an assault on Gaddafi forces in the strategic oil town of Brega. But an advance party of vehicles was attacked about 40 kms (25 miles) away, with one rebel shot in the chest and seriously wounded.

Friday, Gaddafi loyalists staged another ambush on the outskirts of Ajdabiyah.

For rebels who need more than a song to cheer them up, there's Muhammad al Tajouri, a caterer-turned self-proclaimed cheerleader and spiritual guide for Gaddafi's opponents.

Day in and day out, he walks around the checkpoint, clutching a megaphone. One minute, he yells the Islamic rallying cry "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greatest); the next, he warns the rebels that yelling at each other will only hurt their cause.

Tajouri, 53, carries a pistol, just in case Gaddafi's forces suddenly appear, and a blue rope because he says it's the color of the United Nations, which imposed a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians from government forces.

When it was time for Friday prayers, Tajouri led a few dozen men through the ritual before delivering a lecture on the meaning of martyrdom. As he spoke, several rebels standing on top of their vehicles peered through binoculars, scouring the desert for Gaddafi forces.

"These young men are not an army. They have no commanders. I felt it was my duty to come here and help them. I need to calm them," said Tajouri, holding up an umbrella to protect him from the blistering sun and swatting at a swarm of flies.

Tajouri's efforts have not been in vain.

"Our families don't understand what's happening to us out here. He is like a father in the battle zone," said rebel Jalal Wahid, 22.

(Editing by Miral Fahmy)