Keeping Up with the Qaddafi's
The family that fights together, stays together. But was Libya's ruling clan always this crazy?
As the world watches the first days of military intervention in Libya, Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi now has few allies on the international stage. But sometimes, it's family that counts -- and Qaddafi's close-knit family has stood him in good stead during these days of civil war and aerial assault. In fact, in a bizarre twist on normal family dynamics, the Qaddafi clan's hard times over the last month seem to have only pulled them closer around their erratic patriarch. Qaddafi has eight biological children, seven of them sons, many of them embracing, in one way or another, the Western values that their father hated (and has railed against). But with his regime under fire, the Qaddafi children have been among their father's most ardent supporters, in many ways rejecting their past inclinations toward reform and partnership with the West. Here, Qaddafi poses with his second wife, Safia, and some of his children in November 1986 near the Bab Aziza palace in Libya, destroyed in a U.S. air raid. According to Muammar, another raid that year killed his adopted daughter.
Muammar al-Qaddafi was born in the Libyan desert near the city of Sirte in 1942. He graduated with honors from the University of Libya before, like many of his children after him, pursuing a European education and doing some army training in Britain, where he first began plotting to overthrow the Libyan government. In 1969, he organized a coup that removed King Idris I. After taking power, Qaddafi launched a cultural upheaval and eventually a "people's revolution," creating a unique government system known as the "Jamahiriya"-state of the masses. Though he wields absolute power over the Libyan government, Qaddafi technically holds no formal office. He defended the system in New York on March 2006, saying, "There is no state with a democracy except Libya on the whole planet."
Here, Qaddafi makes one of his infamously long and rambling speeches to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sept. 23, 2009.
Here, Qaddafi poses with some of his sons in November 1986. Earlier this month, Khamis al-Qaddafi, 27, was expelled from Madrid's IE business school,where he was enrolled in a $81,320-per-year international MBA program. According to a spokesperson for the school, Khamis was expelled due to "his links to the attacks against the Libyan population." Khamis was supposed to have been in the United States doing an internship when the Libyan uprising began in February, but returned home to command his own elite special forces unit. The unit, aptly named the Khamis Brigade, was rumored to have been in charge of suppressing protests in Benghazi, was spotted fighting in Zawiya near the capital of Tripoli, and may have counted teenage mercenary fighters from Chad among its numbers.
Saif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, the second-born Qaddafi, has long been the West's favorite, but even before that, he was his father's chosen son, rumored to be next in line for Libyan leadership. Here, he salutes from a Russian-made tank on Sept. 7, 1999, during a military parade in Tripoli marking the 30th anniversary of the revolution that brought his father to power.
A lot of the adjectives used for Saif -- cosmopolitan, charismatic, Western-friendly, moderate -- correspond directly with the reputation he developed at the London School of Economics, from which he received a (now-disputed, thanks to charges of thesis plagiarism) Ph.D. in 2008. As Doug Flahut, one of his erstwhile classmates, reflected recently, Saif as an LSE student was reserved and thoughtful:
Although Saif's English was good, he spoke slowly, as if summoning all his mental powers to come up with the correct word. When I'd first met him I'd thought he might not be all that smart. His deliberate, measured speech combined with his obstinately practical interests struck me as pedestrian. Looking back, however, I see Saif differently. He spoke slowly because he wasn't confident in English, and he was practical because he was next in line to rule a country of six million people. You could say we had different interests.
Saif also built up his Davos-man credibility through his philanthropic endeavors: His Qaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation sent hundreds of tons of aid to Haiti after its devastating January 2010 earthquake. Saif has also spoken boldly about constitutional reform, climate change, and economic liberalization. He was lauded for convincing his father to publically renounce weapons of mass destruction in 2003.
Then, there's Saif's other side. In 2009 he reportedly paid Mariah Carey $1 million to sing four songs at a party on St. Barts. While Saif denied the report and worked to quell his partyboy lifestyle, recently released WikiLeaks cables show a growing rift among him and his brothers over succession. Apparently, he fumed about his father's increasingly close relationship with his brother Muatassim, who serves as Qaddafi pre's security advisor. According to onecable, "Saif reportedly bridled at the fact that Muatassim accompanied Muammar al-Qadhafi on the latter's visit to Moscow, Minsk and Kiev last year ... and played a key role in negotiating potential weapons contracts."
Saadi Qaddafi, believed to be the third-oldest son, is a former soccer player who once had a brief career with Italy's Perugia club. He now runs the Libyan Football Federation and dabbled in Hollywood, serving as the main investor of a film production company. Saadi gave $100 million to the production company Natural Selection, which has recently released a number of films including The Experiment, starring Forrest Whitaker and Adrian Brody. Natural Selection has since apologized for taking Qaddafi money.