11th June 2009. Libyan Leader el-Qaddafi arrived in Rome Airport for his first visit to Europe in decades. He was greeted by the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlousconi. Pinned to Gaddafi’s uniform was a faded, black-and-white photo of a Libyan who fought against Italy’s colonial rule. In what the New York Times called, “one of the least notable colonial histories in Europe,” Italy ruled Libya from 1911 to 1943. Resistance Leader of Mnifa Tribe, Omar al-Mukhtar, so-called “Lion of the Desert” was arrested, chained (in the historic photo) and hung by the Italian captors in 1931.
“This hanging is like the crucifixion of Christ for Christians,” Colonel Qaddafi said at the news conference. “For us, this image is a bit like the cross that some of you wear.” Omar’s eponymous son (above being helped from the airplane), also accompanied Qaddafi to Italy. The Libyan financed 1981 biopic on Omar, “Lion of the Desert” had long been banned in Italy and only recently been broadcast on Italian television for the first time. (See the Times Report).
Qaddafi’s medal ribbons are interesting because for years after the coup in which he took power, the colonel was only ever seen with a few rows of decoration. Today, there are eight—indicating a score or more of awards. Who has conferred these medals to Qaddafi, and what for? asked Vanity Fair.