The New Statesman's Laurie Penny has gotten into Saif Gadaffi's multi-million-pound mansion in London's
tony Mayfair Hampstead, which has been squatted by Libyan exiles. She reports on life inside the reclaimed house:
We drink stewed tea from Saif's best china and eat cheese sandwiches using his silver cutlery, while the young man, Abdulla, tells me about how his uncle was "disappeared" by Saif's father. "In Libya, people disappear all the time. There was a prison massacre where 1,200 people died. They poured cement over the bodies." Abdulla nervously adjusts his glasses. "It's important that people know we're not creating a civil war for no reason.
Nearly every room of this enormous house boasts a large, flat-screen television. The occupiers have tuned each one to al-Jazeera, for rolling coverage of the people's revolutions that are sweeping the Arab world. Televised gunfire echoes in the marble hallway as Jay, 25, explains how activists from the London squatting movement took over the Gaddafi family mansion, moving in secretly and putting up notices declaring their intention to hold the empty house under English common law. "We wanted to show our solidarity the best way we know how," he says.
"It's a symbolic and practical reclamation of private property that belongs to the Libyan people. It's about their struggle, which is why the place has been handed over to the Libyans as a place to organise and a safe space for refugees," he says. "People have been arriving in support from all over the UK…"
"Last night, at about four in the morning, someone came to the door," says Jay. According to Abdulla, "It was a well-dressed Arab person, [wearing] nice clothes and gold. When I asked him what he was doing here so late, he said, 'I want to make you an offer.' He told us: 'I have £40,000 in cash. You can have it if you leave immediately.' No amount of money could make us leave this house. It's not a financial issue."
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