Even the most hardened critic of former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi must have felt a little sorry this week for his daughter Aisha.
After fleeing Libya for Algeria, her new hosts announced the 35-year-old had just given birth to a baby girl, barely a day after crossing the border. All very traumatic. Not least because the birth came barely four months after Aisha claimed a NATO airstrike had killed her other baby girl, four-month-old Mastoura.
Hang on. Two babies in eight months? It’s possible — just about. However, it also might not be the first time the Qaddafi regime has used babies as propaganda. In June, Qaddafi aides took reporters to see a seven-month-old girl who had apparently been injured by NATO strikes. Or so they thought — until a hospital staff member slipped a reporter a note, written in English: “This is a case of road traffic accident. This is the truth.”
It’s an old trick, too. In 1986, Libyan media reported Qaddafi’s adopted (and previously unheard of) daughter Hana had been killed in an US bombing raid. It was plausible — until, 13 years later, a 13-year-old Hana Qaddafi was photographed meeting then-South African president Nelson Mandela, very much alive. Then, earlier this year, journalists found financial statements for a Hana Gaddafi — born Nov. 11, 1985, making her six months old at the time of the 1986 airstrikes — and were told by Libyan officials that she was alive and well, and working as a state doctor.
Finally, last week, reporters scouring Qaddafi’s compound found medical qualifications and a British Council certificate for the same Hana Qaddafi — further proof, it seemed, for Hana’s existence.
Case closed? Perhaps not: The British Council then suggested that this was a second Hana, “adopted after the other Hana’s death and given the same name as a tribute.”
As the Guardian’s Peter Walker has asked (“Gaddafi’s daughter Hana: dead or a practising doctor?” Aug. 26), is Hana Qaddafi “a person who never existed, a dead infant, a 25-year-old doctor or a combination of the latter two?”
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