Tripoli underground: Handbags, dinghies and secret emails

Tripoli street

The Libyan uprising began in February, but it took more than six months for the capital, Tripoli, to be liberated. All this time, there was little sign of organised resistance in the city - but ordinary Libyans have been telling the BBC about their secret activities.

Hot handbags

After volunteering to help the resistance, Aisha Gadoor, a psychologist, was asked to attend a rendezvous with a man at a cafe, to take delivery of a parcel.

Aisha and Naema Aisha (left) and her cousin Naema both smuggled ammunition in their handbags

I travelled the distance from my home on foot, I did not use a car. As I walked by, I saw him and he followed me and we met. I said hello and I received my package.

I received two types of bullets, almost 300 in total. I went home and counted it all and then called a young man called Khaled, who picked the package up two days later.

A few days later my nephew called to say, "There are people in need." This was code. By this time, we also had other ammunition stored at home, and three Kalashnikovs.

We met in a cousin's perfume shop on 1 September Street, that's where I made the drop-off and my nephew packed it in a shoe box and took it away.

It's not that I wasn't scared - I was a little - but I read the Koran and everything, and it went well. I was scared of the possibility that someone saw me - even though they could not see what I was carrying.

I wasn't scared of being stopped and searched because they only searched cars.

The conditions in the country - especially with all the deaths and the violence that Gaddafi's forces used against people who protested peacefully in the beginning - all of that motivates you to help in any way possible and not just sit back and watch.

Dinghies in the night

Dr Abdel Raouf Rahal, the head of a dental surgery and a keen diver, smuggled arms by boat under cover of darkness.

In the beginning it was small amounts, using small boats - solo, random efforts. That's how it was until one day, a friend came to me.

Dr Raouf

He had an agreement with some people in the Janzour area, west of Tripoli, and with three naval officers. The officers supported the revolution but pretended they still supported the regime.

I only knew the first name of one of them, Ayman. That was the deal.

They had organised a large shipment of weapons to be brought in.

That night, we set out to sea as though we were going out diving. We picked up the naval officers, headed out for about 12-to-15km and dropped them on to a large fishing trawler, which carried inflatable dinghies like the one we were in.

The shipment included sub-machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and ammunition.

We took what we could, and the rest was to be dropped off in Janzour.

Start Quote

There was a plan for a mass execution on 1 September and I was on that execution list”

End Quote Dr Abdel Raouf Rahal

We did not know and could not know each other's names or addresses, so that if one of was caught we could not speak of the others even under torture.

I was arrested on 9 July and taken later to Abu Slim Prison.

My torture was minimal. There was an electrical cable folded and tied together using medical plasters - they called it the white Hyundai - I was beaten with that once and another time with a water hose and some other random beatings.

But there were others who were tortured with fire, electrocuted, or kept in a hole where they could only breathe out using a water hose.

We were the last group to leave prison, on 24 August, after Tripoli fell. When I recall that moment once in a while I cry the same way I cried on that day.

Two or three days after I got out of prison, some of the inmates who were with me discovered there was a plan for a mass execution on 1 September - and I was on that execution list.

Tipping off Nato

Naser Rayes, managing director of an IT services company worked with two other men to store arms and pass on intelligence about the location of weapons stores used by the Gaddafi regime.

View through Naser Rayes' wardrobe into his secret room Naser Rayes' secret room was never discovered

In my bedroom I have an ensuite bathroom and a walk-in closet. We covered up the entrance to the bathroom with a large wardrobe and used the back panels of the wardrobe to access the space.

If Gaddafi's people came along and searched the house and then they wouldn't find anything. It was full of clothes, and you couldn't see the back of the wardrobe. I blackened the windows of the bathroom, just in case there were any cracks and the light would come through.

But it was all black, you wouldn't know that behind the wardrobe there was another room where we hid everything: arms, computers, radios, telephones.

The house was never searched, but one of our group was caught. He talked his way out after two days.

We passed on information via a satellite internet connection. We would provide the co-ordinates of Gaddafi arms stores as long as they were not in a civilian area.

It was extremely risky, they were picking up people every day. We would put the internet connection on very quickly, for half an hour, at different times - never at the same time.

The last days for me at least they were the worst days of my life, because I didn't know what to expect.

I assumed there would be a bloodbath in Tripoli, but luckily it fell, and on 22 August everyone could breathe a big sigh of relief.

Interviews by Rana Jawad and Penny Dale. Listen to Knitting in Tripoli on the BBC World Service.

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

Programmes

  • A tankHARDtalk Watch

    The West looks 'really weak' against a 'power drunk' Russia, says a senior Ukrainian diplomat

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.