October 20, 2011 / 6:56 PM / in 6 years

Arabs see Gaddafi's death as message to rulers

CAIRO (Reuters) - The bloodied corpse of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi will send a clear message to other Arab leaders who are battling to stay in power against the will of their people, some Arabs said on Thursday.

“This is the fate of a leader who destroyed the lives of his people for decades and opened fire on them before his demise,” said Mohamed Beltagy, senior member of Egypt’s influential Muslim Brotherhood.

“Gaddafi’s fate should be a lesson for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and Yemen’s (Ali Abdullah) Saleh,” he said, referring to two Arab heads of state who have sought to quash unrest with their armies.

The presidents of Tunisia and then Egypt were the first to be ousted in the ‘Arab Spring” that has brought ordinary people onto the streets to demand political change where many kings and presidents have ruled for decades.

But Tunisia’s Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak were driven out by protests with relatively little violence.

Gaddafi, whose bloodied body was shown in footage carried by Arabic television channels, was ousted after months of fighting during which he turned the full might of his army against rebels, firing missiles, artillery and other heavy weapons at them.

“Hell awaits Gaddafi. I hate to rejoice in anyone’s death, but what he did to his people was atrocious,” said Nancy El Kassab, an Egyptian television executive producer.

“Gaddafi’s death will scare Arab dictators like Assad and Saleh, and make other Arab leaders more careful with their people after they recover from the shock of the news,” said Alia Askalany, 27, an Egyptian marketing manager.

In Libya, many could hardly contain their joy.

“Thank God ... With the rebels will this was achieved and we thank everyone who helped us and we are so happy,” said Khaled Al-Asoud, a 35-year-old Libyan fighter.

In Jordan, Abdullah al-Khatib, former UN special envoy to Libya and one-time Jordanian foreign minister, said:

“Other somehow similar systems in the region should draw their conclusions and listen to the voice of the people and should create the conditions whereby people of the region can freely and openly determine their future and destiny.”

Activists in Syria’s central city of Homs told Avaaz, a campaigning rights organization, that people celebrated Gaddafi’s death in the streets. Some held placards saying: “The rat of Libya has been caught, next is the germ of Syria.”

DOMINO EFFECT?

But some questioned how much of a domino effect Gaddafi’s demise might have elsewhere in a region, including Yemen where President Saleh has clung on to power in a nation riven by tribal conflicts even after he was wounded in an attack that prompted him to seek treatment in neighboring Saudi Arabia.

“(Gaddafi) deserves it, he killed a lot of people. I don’t believe this will happen in Yemen because there are a lot of divisions there,” said Omran Ahmed, a Yemeni living in Egypt.

Saleh already has backed down three times from signing a Gulf initiative for a transfer of power, saying he would only hand over power to “safe hands.”

Lebanon’s former prime minister, Saad al-Hariri, said in a statement that Gaddafi’s death should be a lesson to leaders who “have adopted oppression as a method to dominate their people.”

“Any Arab citizen, watching the course of events in Libya, cannot but think of the popular revolutionary movement that is taking place in Syria,” he said.

The balance of power shifted dramatically against Gaddafi in March after his troops swept across rebel-held territory and threatened to launch a devastating attack on the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi. A U.N. resolution was passed at the time that prompted NATO to launch air strikes.

Emad Gad from Egypt’s Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies said Gaddafi’s death could encourage the international community to be more proactive in other places.

“It will lead to more pressure by the international community to resolve the conflicts in Syria and Yemen,” he said, adding: “It shows that resisting reform will lead to escalating demands from reforms to overthrowing the regime.”

Ahmed Montasser, a construction worker watching the news of Gaddafi’s death at a café in downtown Cairo, echoed those sentiments. His former president, Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for 30 years, is now on trial over the killing of protesters.

“This is the end of every tyrant. The message is that ruling people isn’t through force ... It would have been better if he was prosecuted but it was out of the rebels’ hands as he was shot dead,” Montasser said.

Additional reporting by Tamim Elyan in Cairo, Yasmine Saleh in Tripoli, Mariam Karouny in Beirut and Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman; Writing by Edmund Blair

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