Social networks have become a medium for Tunisian supporters of Muammar Gaddafi to launch campaigns in celebration and memory of the former Libyan leader and denounce his detractors.
“Muammar Gaddafi Loyalists in Southern Tunisia” and “The Network of Gaddafi Lovers in Tunisia” are two Facebook pages that have garnered 1533 and 283 fans respectively. The former states that it ¨repudiates war in Libya, protects Colonel Muammar Gaddafi until death and supports Islam.¨ Another English-speaking Facebook page “Support for Muammar Gaddafi from the People of Tunisia” draws 1187 fans and was set up “to support Libya and its leader, the martyr Muammar Gaddafi, in his fight against the US and Western-backed forces, particularly the rats,” according to the site’s auto-description.
The pages’ constant use of the term “rats” is indicative of their influence by Gaddafi’s first 50-minute speech in Tripoli in late February 2011. In this famous diatribe, Gaddafi threatened to quash the revolt with “millions invading Libya to cleanse it from the rats.”
These Facebook pages use the green color as a background, glorify Gaddafi and his family, and lambast NATO’s war on Libya as “imperialistic and anti-Arab nationalism.”
Many of these online supporters of Gaddafi claim to be Arab nationalists, who also show an affinity for Syrian President Bashar Al Assad in “his war against the forces of Imperialism.” One active Tunisian Facebook Gaddafi supporter, who goes by the name of “Sakhra Samma” (in English “Deaf Stone”), admires former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Jamal Abdel Nasser, former Egyptian president and proponent of Arab Nationalism, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
The southeastern Tunisian town of Ben Guerdane, is often considered as the southeastern gateway to Libya. A small village south of Ben Guerdane, Zukra, has been rife with smuggled products from Libya for a long time. There is even a market that trades in smuggled products from Libya, which many Tunisian clients visit. Prices are much cheaper than in Al Magharebia market in downtown Ben Guerdane.
Libyan authorities during the Gaddafi era turned a blind eye to the smuggling activities in Ben Guerdane. During the Libyan uprisings, some locals in the village hoisted green flags above their homes to show their support for the Gaddafi regime. Mohamed Zorraga, a primary school teacher from Ben Guerdane, told Tunisia Live that Gaddafi loyalists in Ben Guerdane have been keeping a low profile since the death of Gaddafi. “In the beginning of the Libyan Revolution, they used green flags or expressed support to Gaddafi just to provoke Libyans.”
Whether on social networks or in real life, Tunisian Gaddafi supporters continue to show their support to the late Libyan strongman using him as symbol of resistance to the West. Many criticize via Facebook certain Arab countries, such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, for their active role in the “colonization of Libya by the West” and continue to show their support for any “Arab leader who resists Western intervention¨ in the course of the Arab revolutions.