Hasan Dhaimish, Alsature, The Man Who Fought Gaddafi With Pictures

The 'Cleaver' Who Fought Gaddafi With Pictures

He is called Alsature, which in his native Arabic means ‘The Cleaver’.

“A cleaver, it cuts meat and exposes. When you look at it you see the bone, you see everything there and that’s what I do, I expose corruption, injustice.

“I don’t care who it is, it’s The Cleaver man, coming down on ya!”

Alsature made a career out of lampooning Gaddafi and his 'cronies'

The Cleaver also answers to the name Hasan Dhaimish, a 57-year-old Libyan graphic artist who until recently had spent most of his adult life living in effective exile in Britain.

When the Arab Spring reached Libya in 2011, he headed to Doha, Qatar. He started working for an internet TV channel broadcasting his anti-Gaddafi material, fanning the flames of the revolution.

Alsature was well known in Libya having already made a name for himself working from Britain.

"When I came to Doha and met a lot of Libyans, they told me that they used to look at my art when they felt down," he says.

"People said you have no idea how big the art was. I had no idea that the art had that effect on them. If I did I would have tried to improve it!”

"I used to give him high heeled shoes, the most amazing ones I could find on google"

Dhaimish spent his early childhood in Libya, living a gilded lifestyle in the port-city of Tobruk, on the North-East coast. His father, Mahmoud, was an imam and spiritual adviser to Libya’s first and only monarch, King Idris I.

“We lived a good life, in a big house. We were loyal to the King, he was like a god to us,” he says.

1959 saw the discovery of oil in the impoverished nation and the Imam, foreseeing the implications of the nation’s new found wealth, spoke up.

“My Dad was like me, couldn’t keep his mouth shut on issues,” he says.

“He mentioned during Friday prayers that not everybody was going to benefit from the new found oil wealth.

“He [The King] kicked us out. It was like being kicked out of heaven."

The military coup of 1969 that brought to power Muammar Gaddafi was a further blow not only to Dhaimish, but for Libya as a whole.

"I was told that Gadaffi had a meeting with his cronies about me, he said that this guy Alsuture is dangerous!"

“We knew straight away that a dictatorship was coming on the horizon. We just didn’t like the guy, we didn’t see the point in a military coup. The ideology was crazy,” he says.

“The regime showed its teeth straight away. Students were arrested, some disappeared and others died.

“I participated in many demos against the regime. They didn’t change anything, it just made Gaddafi more determined to crush us.”

Dhaimish was in a delicate position. Military service was mandatory under the Gaddafi regime so he found himself serving the very people that he was protesting about.

“It was difficult. I just refused to go back but I had to face a military court," he says.

“They could put you in the army for good, become a soldier, just brainwashed. Or they could out you in mental hospital. They did it to this kid, a medical student.

“He stood up and criticised the regime and expressed his views on how the regime should be run and Gaddafi just said 'this guy’s nuts', put him in a mental hospital."

Luckily for Dhaimish he managed to obtain a visa through contacts in the government before he could be sentenced. He headed to London.

“I was 19 when I left Libya and left all my family behind, my mum and dad, everybody.” he says.

He has not seen them since.

Dhaimish fled Libya shortly after Gaddafi took power

Coming to London in 1975 from Libya was something of a culture shock for Dhaimish, although one he seems to have taken in his stride.

“It was the 70s, you cant diss the 70s, with the afros and the flares!

"I nearly spent all my money in London, I couldn’t believe how expensive London was, it was pretty wild though!”

Through friends, he ended up living in the small market town of Burnley, Lancashire. He was broke, with no qualifications and an expired visa.

He set about getting English lessons and eventually married a girl named Karen; a marriage that remains to this day.

“She really loved me. I don’t know why cause I was a bum, seriously, I was down and out. I had nothing,” he recalls.

By now the year was 1979 and Dhaimish’s activities with the Libyan opposition had been on the back burner as he settled into life in Britain. All this changed on a trip to the capital.

“I was in London, Earl’s Court and there was a newsstand that sold Arabic magazines. There was this one magazine and something pulled me to it.

“It was just six pages, cheaply printed, but it was opposition, against Gaddafi and I was like, that was what I was looking for! “

He wrote to the magazine and became their official cartoonist.

“I was just doodling, I wasn’t giving them weapons,” he says.

All the members of Gaddafi's regime were fair game

Dhaimish’s, 'doodling’ did not go unnoticed by the Libyan authorities.

“Gaddafi was getting crazy, he was sending death squads. They blew up a house, killed a couple of people.

“He had a lot of informers in British cities and the government tolerated his activities.

“Anyone they suspected of being in the opposition, if they could do him they’d do him.

“They killed two people, one near Regents Park, he was a broadcaster, a nice guy called Mohamed Ramadan. It showed you how Gaddafi was scared of us.

“Things didn’t work out alright with the opposition and different groups formed and they all wanted me to help them,” he says.

Dhaimish had been given a grant to do an A-level in graphics so he decided to utilise his newfound skills and go it alone.

“I started my own magazine called Alsature. I juts did it for my friends, to entertain them,” he says.

“It made a name, people started to hear about it so I started to add a bit of politics into it."

Art became a way of joining the opposition, even from as far away as Britain

In 1999, three years into an art degree, he encountered his most powerful tool yet: the Internet.

“I thought 'this is my chance!' I can start attacking Gaddafi. Not single handedly bring him down but I knew that art has a major role in politics,” he says.

“I degraded him and then people weren’t scared of him, they were laughing at him.”

The overthrowing of Gaddafi’s regime and his subsequent death may have been a milestone in Libya’s history but Dhaimish has yet to return to his home country.

He had hoped to see his father again but Mahmoud Dhaimish died three years ago at the age of 98.

"I feel like I was tricked by God. I was convinced I was going to meet him.

"His study was locked and they are waiting for me to open it."

"Everyone from east to west Libya knows the name Alsature, its amazing, it started as just a joke!"

He could return to Libya next week if he so wished yet he continues to put the journey off. He is cagey about his reasons.

"Something inside me is saying don't go, and people who know me are saying don't go. When you hear about what is happening, it's still dodgy.

“There is no law and order. There is no government in charge.”

Hasan Dhaimish, Alsature

Until he returns, he continues his work for the opposition, mocking those in power through his art.

“I’m just doing the same thing I did before, I attack the new leaders. I’ve shown no respect to them ‘cause I know that some of them were in Gaddafi’s cabinet,” he says.

“I wont go back at the moment. I want perfection. I want democracy.”


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