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Moment that mattered: Muammar Gaddafi is killed Aiman Maguz, co-founder, Tribute FM

Two revolutionary fighters celebrate the capture of Sirte, Libya, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011. Officials in Libya's transitional government said Moammar Gadhafi was captured and possibly killed Thursday when revolutionary forces overwhelmed his hometown, Sirte, the last major bastion of resistance two months after the regime fell. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)

I was in Sirte when Gaddafi died: a lot of us Tribute FM members had hit the frontline. We wanted to help in any way we could – we helped out with fighting, with communication, we did anything to be of service. When the news broke everyone around me was jubilant and celebrating, but I remember being really upset with myself as I had a really bad migraine. Everyone was going crazy and I had to shut myself in a quiet room trying to keep away from the noise.

Mohammad and I started the radio station almost by accident. We knew of each other when living in the UK, but we only met during the uprising in Tripoli. Later he rang me up and said there was a lot of help needed in Benghazi, they particularly needed people who could speak English to help communicate with aid workers and to tell the media what was going on. So that’s where we headed.

It became clear that our voice wasn’t being heard enough and that the media attention wasn’t as strong as we hoped due to other events pushing us off the agenda. So we decided we wanted to air our voice. That’s how the station started.

We’ve always been a legal station. The red tape is constantly changing and we want to do everything by the book. What made it all the sweeter is that we were transmitting in English – the language Gaddafi had forbidden his people to hear or to speak. It had been illegal to teach or learn English since the 80s. We were opposing him with a language he didn’t want anyone to hear.

“To speak out against the regime equalled death. We’d rather die as free men than live in fear”

We had a huge debate about what would be the first song we played at the launch – everyone had their favourite. In the end we opted for Tracy Chapman’s ‘Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution’. Since then we have had a number of broadcasts I’m really proud of. We had a particularly emotional programme in which a little girl spoke about her experience during the siege of Tripoli. She talked about how they were threatening children and how people were in danger. She ended up saying she wanted the regime out, she wanted Gaddafi out – which was an incredibly brave thing to do when he was still in power.

We also managed to speak to an activist in Tripoli, who gave us the first insight into how the uprising was unfolding. It was the first news from there after weeks of silence. Of course people reacted. They attacked the station, they threw a bomb next to the building, they attempted to kill one of the DJs, there was a shooting while I was there late at night. It was a target because they realised that we had a massive impact – particularly outside of Libya. People were listening, people were tweeting, people were Facebooking and I think it took them by surprise that a station based in Benghazi with a minimal amount of resources could generate that type of reaction.

We had a heated discussion on air in May about whether we would be better off with Gaddafi dead or being put on trial. At the time I argued strongly in favour of him going on trial, but the truth is that his death took the fight out of his supporters and that has meant that the bloodshed stopped. That can only be a good thing. Putting him on trial would have jeopardised Libyan security. I think there would be people still fighting for his cause, people ensuring civilians weren’t safe and that Libya would not move on.

Do I think that the fact he was killed, having been captured alive, took away from the legitimacy of the uprising? Well the uprising didn’t have any legitimacy to begin with. It wasn’t a plan for people to arm themselves. It was people who took to the streets to demonstrate and found themselves fighting for their lives and that’s how it came about.  We took to the streets wanting our rights and we knew what the outcome could be. To speak out against the regime equalled death. We’d rather die as free men than live in fear.

After watching the celebrations I’m very positive about Libya’s future, but this period now is the hardest process – the rebuilding of a country. Trying to get rid of the debris. Not just the physical debris, but people’s attitudes, government officials, management, red tape. For the radio station we are trying to sort out the paperwork to begin broadcasting from Tripoli, and hope to go national by the summer.

Changing is the difficult part, but there’s a sense of patriotism in the air which wasn’t there before. Before the uprising you were always associated with Gaddafi. No matter who you were or what you believed, you were associated with this madman. We didn’t feel any sense of belonging to the country. Now we feel this country belongs to us.

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