Mohammed then got to the point of
his call: an apparent -- but ultimately unfinished -- apology to the
Libyan people for his country's deterioration under Qaddafi's rule.
Though the eldest, Mohammed has never been particularly involved in his
country's political leadership. Largely sidelined from the regime --
whether by his own choosing or by his father's is unclear -- Mohammed
greatest height of power was running the Libyan Olympic Committee. But
he was close enough to see that leadership unfold, and he seemed ready
to tell the world of his disapproval and his regret.
the Libyan people know who I am. I've always worked with honesty and
integrity for humanity and for my nation," he said. "I've never been
aggressive to anyone and have always wanted the best for all Libyans. In
the past and also for the future. I've never been a government or a
security official. However I can tell you the absence of wisdom and
foresight is what brought us here today. Our differences could have been
solved very easily."
Just as Mohammed was building toward his
point, loud, rapid gunfire erupted on his side of the call. "I'm being
attacked right now. This is gunfire inside my house. They're inside my
house," he said, remarkably calm. He began praying, and within two or
three seconds the line went dead.
Rebel leadership assured al
Jazeera that Mohammed and his family were safe and would be protected.
Within a couple of hours, the Qaddafi son called back to assure
viewers, "My family and I are safe. I don't know who fired on us."
Rebel leaders reiterated their desire to detain members of the Qaddafi
family but not to harm them. There's a good reason, after all, that
Mohammed seemed ready to believe he was about to be killed -- the
violence of instability of revolutions can veer off in unpredictable,
often bloody, directions.
The episode is just the start of a
delicate and awkward dynamic that could persist for weeks, months, or
even years in post-Qaddafi Libya. The new leadership will have to
delicately balance a popular movement that desperately wants revenge
against the Qaddafi family (and has the arms to carry it out), an
international community pushing for an International Criminal Court
trial at the far-away Hague, and a loyalist movement that react
violently if any harm fell to the Qaddafis.
Of course, this tension is about more than just what happens to a few
members of the ruling family. As with any rapid political transition,
the momentum for reform can at times be lost in backward-looking
retribution, as is happening in Egypt, where the military has diverted
attention away from its own abuses by putting former President Hosni
Mubarak on trial. At the same time, however, Libya's need for truth and
reconciliation, after 42 years of brutal Qaddafi rule, is very real, and
crucial for the country's progress. Finding a middle path that brings
justice to the Qaddafis without letting that justice overtake the
country's revolution would be a daunting task for any government. For
this band of informal and irregular rebel leaders, it will be essential.