If you walk inthe streets of the Libyan capital Tripoli these days, you will probably feelthat this city hasn’t been under the siege of a brutal dictator for nearly sixmonths of the Libyan revolution. The presence of Gaddafi is being erased notonly from the walls and billboards of the capital where they used to stand, butalso from the memory of many Libyans.

Living all yourlife under a cult dictatorship and then coming to the realisation that thetyrant isn’t sharing the air that you breath anymore, isn’t easy to reach. As aLibyan you were faced everyday with a reminder that Gaddafi isn’t just theleader of your nation, but also that his presence will haunt you as long as youadmit your identity as a Libyan.

In 1984 I wasliving with my family in London, when Gaddafi henchmen at the Libyan embassyopened fire on a group of Libyan protesting his rule outside the embassybuilding killing PC Yvonne Fletcher and injuring a number of protesters, I waseight years old, getting to realise at that age that the actions of one man candetermine the perception of yourself and a whole nation according to his madbehaviour.

Gaddafi’ssurvival over the years was based mainly on his success, if we can call thatway, to develop a sense of fear and invincibility in the hearts and minds ofLibyans, that it was the destiny and faith of Libyans to be ruled by him, andthat whatever they did to destroy him they will fail, and he will end upbrutally hanging his opponents in public squares, broadcasted on statetelevision to be seen by Libyan families sitting to eat their dinner.

Over the yearshe managed to embolden that sense of invincibility in the minds of Libyans, ashe survived the 1986 American bombardment, and the many attempts by oppositionfactions to assassinate him, and surviving the several years of internationalsanctions on his regime after being accused of killing 270 people on PanAmflight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland in 1988. Watching Gaddafi rubbing shoulderswith world leaders in European capitals, and watching him meeting the formerBritish Prime Minister Tony Blair at his tent in 2004, and then becoming an allyto America’s international war on terror, all emboldened the image of hisinvincibility, and mythical indestructibility.

Hisinvincibility became part of the Libyan mind through fear, that failure tooverthrow him leads to grave consequences. You can observe that kind of fear inLibyan popular culture, in political satire and jokes. One of those jokes goeslike this ‘While visiting a newly developed tall building in Tripoli, Gaddafiand two of his associates decided to stand on top of the building to view thewhole city beneath them. While Gaddafi was standing on the edge of the rooftop,one of the associates seeing an opportunity to kill Gaddafi by pushing him offthe building whispers to his colleague telling him to push Gaddafi to his deathand get rid of the tyrant, the other associate replied in horror “And whyshould I do that, he might have the ability to fly”

Seeing theimages of bloodied dead Gaddafi, shattered that delusion of invincibility andmythical ability for him to survive against all odds inside two generations ofLibyans, those who were indoctrinated in his personality cult, and began tobelieve out of helplessness and desperation, that he is here to stay, andwithout him life will be a strange and surreal reality.

Gaddafi wasobsessed about his legacy that he will leave behind when he dies from old age,as he wished it to be, his arrogance and delusional defiance against worldpowers that tried many times to isolate or kill him, convinced him that hesecured his place in Libya’s history as the “father of the nation” as he used topreach, and a romantic revolutionary challenging imperialist colonialist superpowers,all this ended when young Libyans went on the streets burning and trampling onhis pictures, mocking his frizzy hair and calling him “Bushafshufa”, erasinghis legacy from their memories, before washing his presence from the streetsand cities of the Libya.

Libyans beganthe process of erasing Gaddafi since the first day of the uprising back inFebruary; the memory of his existence became distant and fade away during thelast several months, reaching the climax by his physical death yesterday, leavinga legacy full of tears, pain and death, which was apparent on his face in thelast moments of his life. The long process to heal from this dark period of ourlives as Libyans has begun, while the fearful child inside me refuses to acceptthe reality of his death, anticipating that he will find a way to come backfrom the dead, for most Libyans that suffered under his regime, his deathbrings a sense of resolve and closure to their suffering, and puts Libya o
ntrack towards achieving the hard task of healing, rebuilding and a betterfuture for all Libyans.