Last updated: 22 August, 2011

Libyans take over embassies to mark rebel victory

Hundreds of jubilant Libyans converged on their embassies and consulates in Europe and elsewhere today to raise the rebel flag and tear down the symbols of Moamer Kadhafi’s 42-year rule.

Some of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya’s diplomats announced they were defecting to the rebel administration while others deserted their representations.

In one such instance, Libyan consulate staff in Athens allowed demonstrators into the building, offering no resistance as a few dozen sprayed graffiti on the walls and tore Kadhafi portraits.

One was seen pulling out the plaque in front of the building while others were tearing up copies of the Green Book, the 1975 text in which Kadhafi laid out his philosophy and was compulsory reading for all Libyans.

In the embassy in Ankara and consulate in Istanbul, Libyans hauled down the all green flag — the world’s only completely monochrome flag meant by Kadhafi as a reference to Islam and a symbol of the “state of the masses”.

In Istanbul, consul Abdulmecit Ali Said allowed 10 members of a group of around 40 demonstrators to replace it with the red, black and green flag of the National Transitional Council.

At the embassy in Ankara, opposition groups also staged a protest, burning posters of a young Kadhafi giving the salute in his full military attire and trademark sunglasses.

Others were trampling portraits they had yanked out of their gilded frames.

In Malta, the Libyan community took to the streets in the middle of the night to celebrate the decisive rebel push on Tripoli, sounding their horns in front of the embassy and the island’s only mosque.

A group of around 200 protestors set fire to the green flag and hoisted the colours of the Western-backed interim administration, which dozens of states have already recognised as Libya’s legitimate government.

In Prague, it was Libyan diplomats themselves who burned the plain green flag, dramatically declaring their new allegiance to the rebels.

“We continue to represent our homeland in the Czech Republic like all other diplomatic missions across the globe,” the diplomats said in a statement issued in Prague.

Similar scenes were reported in a number of other capitals, including in the Arab world.

In Syria, Libya diplomats announced in a statement they were siding with the transition.

“We, the ambassadors and members of the Libyan embassy in Damascus, announce our total support for the revolution of February 17 and declare our formal adherence to the National Transitional Council,” an embassy statement said.

“What is happening now in Libya is rewriting of history through a revolution led by the sacrifice of young Libyans,” the statement said, adding that “history will not forgive those who will not participate” in this revolution.

Syria itself is torn by a bloody uprising and Britain on Monday compared it with Libya, in a warning that President Bashar al-Assad could soon face the same fate as Kadhafi.

The embassy in Rabat issued an almost identical statement while the ambassador in Tunisia, who was appointed after the uprising began, acknowledged the rebel victory and vowed to assist the return of refugees.