South East Wales

Cardiff surgeon Nizar Mhani's role in Libyan uprising

A surgeon from south Wales has spoken of his role at the forefront of the Libyan uprising.

Nizar Mhani, 30, left Cardiff for the Libyan capital Tripoli in February to "play his part" in overturning Col Gaddafi's 42-year grip on the country.

After running a campaign of civil disobedience, Mr Mhani went underground after being publicly denounced and hunted by security forces.

He told BBC Radio Wales he had "a real urge" to be part of Libya's history.

Mr Mhani spoke as the new interim leaders of Libya urged loyalist troops in their few remaining strongholds to surrender, and speculation spread about Col Gaddafi's whereabouts.

Formerly an oral surgeon and with no experience of such activities, Niz, as he is known online, set up a clandestine operation to communicate the excesses of government behaviour to the outside world.

His efforts have won his worldwide media attention, with the Washington Post describing his work as "vitally important".

"I had a real urge to be part of my country's history and that's why I came back," Mr Mhani told Good Morning Wales from Tripoli.

"I felt much like many of the other Libyans, in Libya and outside Libya. It was a sense of history, a sense of opportunity that may never come round again.

"Finally a generation has matured that is able to stand up and say no and say that we want change."

'Vicious and murderous'

When he arrived in Tripoli the city was in a state of civil unrest and public dissent.

"The crackdown was vicious and murderous but it was successful in silencing the Tripoli majority, at which point we had to go underground and we had to continue our civil disobedience from under the radar," said Mr Mhani.

The campaign consisted of morale-raising exercises such as raising flags, painting graffiti, speaking to media, he explained.

Image caption Libyan rebels are beginning to celebrate in the streets of Tripoli

"All really small gestures, all really small signs of dissent - but just a constant reminder that Tripoli does have an anti-regime sentiment," he said.

Mr Mhani said he saw the programme on state television in Libya which denounced him by name, and encouraged people to catch him.

"I didn't have to do much to be in the bad books of the regime," he said. "You only have to use a satellite phone under Gaddafi's Libya to run the risk of execution."

During his exploits Mr Mhani's family had feared for him, he explained.

"The last six or seven months has been a strain on everyone, on my family particularly. We lost our cousin during Zero Hour [the rebels' assault on Tripoli]. He was shot and killed by security forces. So it's a strain on everyone.

"But the sense of history, the sense of urgency, the sense of need to change things in Libya is overwhelming. And no matter how fearful we are, or we were, no matter how worried we were it was always overpowered by the need for change, by the need for freedom, really."

Mr Mhani said he is optimistic about the coming months.

"The future for Libya, is very, very, very promising," he said. "By no means is it going to be easy. By no means is change going to be quick. We have a lot of problems today, but we had a lot of problems yesterday and the day before that. The difference now is that we have the freedom to change it.

"We're a rich country. We've got a small population. There's every reason to be positive. There's every reason to be hopeful that this country can be prosperous and happy."