Fear follows fleeing Libyans abroad

Wed Mar 30, 2011 10:09am EDT
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By Marie-Louise Gumuchian

TUNIS (Reuters) - Sitting in a Tunis hotel lobby, a Libyan businessman just arrived from Tripoli repeatedly refuses interview requests from TV journalists to talk about events back home.

"They are asking me but I refuse. I don't want to be recognized," the businessmen said. "I still have family in Libya, if I talk, they will burn them, do you understand? Burn them."

The businessman said his wife and children were still in Libya and while he was willing to provide details about life in Tripoli, he would only do so if he was not named.

"What they are doing there is just horrific but I can't say it publicly. They will hunt down those close to me."

Even once they have fled their country, many Libyans refuse to speak openly about the revolt against Muammar Gaddafi for fear of what could happen to relatives at home.

Gaddafi's opponents say fear has been a very effective tool for the leader, who has survived coup attempts and assassination plots during 41 years in power. That fear has followed many Libyans abroad.

"Of course people are scared, the situation is uncertain," another Libyan, who arrived last week in Tunis, said.

"Gaddafi has always treated his people like ants, so they are scared until they know he is no longer there." Hundreds of Libyans protested outside their embassy in Tunis last week, calling for Gaddafi to step down. But when they were approached by camera crews for interviews, many refused and those who agreed to speak covered their faces.   Continued...

<p>Foreign evacuees, who fled the unrest in Libya, play soccer at a refugee camp near the Libyan and Tunisian border crossing of Ras Jdir March 29, 2011. REUTERS/Anis Mili</p>