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The fight between the people of Tawergha and those of Misrata has been been one of the most violent and passionate of the Libyan Revolution and the plight of the people of Tawergha has been one of the most tragic outcomes of the uprising that overthrew the 42 year dictatorship of the Qaddafi regime.

It continues to be one of the most vexing contradictions among the people that must be resolved by the Libyan Revolution.

The tragic fate of the black Libyans of Tawergha has also been the single foremost example used both by Qaddafi supporters and anti-interventionists alike as alone reason enough to condemn the whole revolution.

For all of these reasons I am publishing yet another diary today to bring your attention to a very informative, and I think, very important article that was posted to The Tripoli Post today.

Below the fold, I've included some long excerpts from this piece by Abdullah Elmaazi, but I want to begin where he ends:

It is incumbent on those who claim to have Libya’s interest at heart to give priority to solving this problem with justice and humanity and in a manner that both addresses the suffering and aspirations of all of the inhabitants of Libya whether they be of the elk of Dadda Salma or of Mariam.

Until that happens the suffering will continue and the pain will endure.

also see my
Racism in Libya

for related material and more background.

From the Tripoli Post today:

Tawergha : Only Through Acknowledging Our True History, Can We Move Forward

11/01/2013 18:55:00
By Abdullah Elmaazi
In 1963 Dadda Salma, at the age of ninety-five, had a toothless smile which was quite infectious. You could not help but smile back. Her eyes were a window to the sadness in this world and told the story of the suffering of her race. She was an emancipated black slave spending her final years in a “poor house" on the outskirts of Tripoli.

Dadda Salma was kidnapped at the age of five by Libyan slave traders from her village in southern Sudan late in the 19th century and sold to a wealthy Libyan officer in the Ottoman army.

Salma was the name given to her by her owners. She doesn’t remember the name her mother gave her. Dadda Salma’s story was not confined to the sad look in her eyes.

Astonishingly even in her advanced years when memory begins to fade, she was still able to narrate the vivid image of her mother and other women in her village screaming as they were carried away in a caravan of horse drawn carriages by their kidnappers. The mothers heaped mud on their heads as a sign of deep grief while they gave chase to the caravan.

The distance between her distraught mother and the caravan grew longer and she sobbed for a long time after losing sight of her mother. Exhaustion eventually set in and Salma and her friends fell asleep.

Within a few days they found themselves in a strange city among strange people living in a strange house which looked nothing like the mud hut where she was born and grew up. The lady of the house was not a surrogate mother but the owner of the most recently acquired slave.

Salma’s life as a slave was extremely miserable. At the age of 12 she became responsible for all the domestic chores in the house. At fourteen she was raped by her master and had to continue satisfying him in addition to doing her other 'chores'.

The lady of the house who, content that her husband had not taken a second rival, nonetheless took out her jealousy on Salma by beating her regularly. Salma was well into her thirties when a fellow slave told her of an escape route.

Salma was to be among the first black slaves to seek emancipation, availing herself of a decree by the Ottoman Sultan offering those slaves who wanted to be free the right to emancipation.

A free woman, but destitute and with no means of support, Salma headed for the poor house outside Tripoli. The majority of other emancipated slaves went to a small village just outside of Misurata, called Tawergha. The fact that this village, which grew into a town as a result of the increasing number of emancipated slaves, was located just outside Misurata was not a coincidence.

Misurata has long been one of Libya’s most entrepreneurial communities with trade, be it in spices from India or slaves from sub Saharan Africa, being the mainstay of the city’s livelihood.

The main task of the newly emancipated was to locate family members from whom they had been separated under slavery. Tawergha was an ideal venue for family reunions. However, Emancipation was not without its challenges. The freed slaves needed to work but the town itself offered no means of survival.

As was the case in the emancipated southern United States, many ex-slaves from Misurata continued to work for their former owners often in agricultural jobs or as domestic help and nannies in the case of many of the women. Soon almost everyone in Tawergha was working in Misurata and Tawergha became a “dormitory” town.

The relationship between the inhabitants of the town and those of the city was in the main cordial but never one of equals. Former slaves wanted to have autonomy within their working lives but the former slave owners were convinced they should remain “in their place".

Even in post-independence Libya, the biggest challenge the people of Tawergha faced was lack of socio-political empowerment. In a country where power resided with major regions and strong tribes and clans they had no way of gaining access to high decision making circles within the country’s hierarchy.
...
race was always an obstacle to social mobility. It is virtually impossible for a black Libyan from Tawergha, the grandson of an emancipated African slave, to marry into a notable Misratan family. Slavery was still a stigma endured by the offspring of the emancipated slaves if hardly ever discussed in either society.

There were no other outward signs of discrimination: both communities seemed to understand that they could mix on any other level except mixing genes.

Genes counted for nothing among school children in 2001. Among teenage children in Misurata, racial affiliation, colour and social background were never a criteria for choosing friends - even "best friends".

This was certainly the case for fourteen-year-old high spirited Mariam, the daughter of a wealthy Misurata businessman. Mariam chose her friends according to her rating of their antics in class. The more outrageous they were the closer they came within her circle of extra mischievous friends.
...
Mid-way through Mariam’s school year the revolution began. The people of the city of Misurata and those of the town of Tawergha were tragically to find themselves on opposite sides.

Encircled by Gaddafi’s forces by land and sea the people of Misurata refused to lay down their arms and Misurata became the Libya revolution’s “Stalingrad.” The city which embraced Gaddafi and helped propel him to power was now the most determined to bring his 42-year rule to an end.

Misurata is the key city to ruling a united Libya, more so it is indispensable for ruling an autonomous western part of Libya. For Gaddafi regaining control of Misurata was a matter of life or death.

Gaddafi unleashed his full wrath on the city and its inhabitants. Tawergha was to be the launching pad of the no holds barred onslaught. He lured the people of Tawergha to his side, with a devilish message appealing to one of humans’ most base instinct, that of revenge, of righting past wrongs
“There will be no city called Misurata - whatever you annex will be yours" Gaddafi told the young men of Tawergha, “this is your chance to avenge centuries of slavery suffered by your ancestors and overcome your social marginalisation".

Tens, some say hundreds, of young men from Tawergha the town that gave refuge to their slave ancestors accepted Gaddafi’s offer to help him regain control of Misurata and cleansing it from the “rats” - the term Gaddafi coined for the revolutionaries.

Three weeks into the revolution, Mariam’s villa was stormed by five young black men from, Tawergha drunk and armed with automatic rifles. Mariam’s brothers together with other men of fighting age, were on the frontline fighting Gaddafi’s forces. Only Mariam’s grandfather was home. The five men took turns raping Mariam, her sister and her mother. They forced Mariam’s grandfather to watch at gun point. Mariam recognised the face of one of her rapists, as that of her best friends’ brothers.
...

Ultimately, Misurata emerged 'victorious' after the revolution. Tawergha was subjected to revenge attacks and largely destroyed. Human Rights Watch documented reports of scores of young men from Tawergha who died under torture in makeshift jails in Misurata. Hundreds more are still missing.

Libyans cannot build a future on a heap of historical grievances. Sometime somewhere somehow the cycle of revenge and counter revenge has to stop. Reconciliation between the people of Misurata and Tawergha can be a precursor for national reconciliation but can it be achieved within our lifetime? More...

10:35 PM PT:
Witness Libya | HBO Documentary | 56 min
Click here for a list of my other Daily Kos dairies on Libya
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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlueMississippi, mookins, kaliope

    Remember history, Clay Claiborne, Director Vietnam: American Holocaust - narrated by Martin Sheen

    by Clay Claiborne on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 07:32:11 PM PST

  •  A year and a half later those (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mickT, Claudius Bombarnac

    who demanded we enable the ethnic cleansing of Libya suddenly want to pretend they've got some great compassion for those they insisted NATO help victimize.

    My only question is - do even they take themselves seriously anymore?

    •  'Enabled'? The people in Libya (0+ / 0-)

      took the decision to rise up against the tyrant with no encouragement from us.  Just like the rest of the Arab Spring.

      But we did enable them to not get slaughtered like the Syrians are, yes we're guilty of that.

      •  You canot deny that NATO also enabled the Misurata (0+ / 0-)

        brigades to terrorize and destroy the people of Tawergha.

        The fight between the people of Tawergha and those of Misrata has been been one of the most violent and passionate of the Libyan Revolution
        The truth of the matter is that the slaughter and dispossession of the people of Tawergha was nothing short of ethnic cleansing. The R2P was selectively applied within Libya for the sole purpose of regime change. Some lives are worth more than others.
        LIBYA: Race, Empire, and the Invention of Humanitarian Emergency from Maximilian Forte on Vimeo.
        •  As usual you distort the facts (0+ / 0-)

          in order to pursue your own agenda. Clay -and people like myself- have regularly stated that the treatment of the inhabitants of Tawergha is a blot on the Libyan revolution: including in our communications with people in Libya.
          There has been serious maltreatment of Tawerghan refugees and and a number of reprehensible killings - but to talk of "slaughter" is hysterical. The town of Tawergha may have been destroyed - but the people certainly have not: they are starting to mount a campaign to be allowed to return (which, regrettably, has not yet received the support in Libya that it should).
          To say that "NATO enabled the Misurata brigades to terrorize and destroy the people of Tawergha." is a bizarre  way of putting it: what NATO did was strike the Gaddafi artillery positions(in Tawergha) that were shelling Misrata city and its inhabitants. Obviously this facilitated the eventual victory of  the rebel forces (and saved many civilian lives) , but I don't see in what meaningful sense it can be said to have "enabled" things that happpened subsequently.

          •  NATO has spearheaded every rebel advance with it's (0+ / 0-)

            air-power and advisers on the ground working directly with the rebel brigades.

            To say that "NATO enabled the Misurata brigades to terrorize and destroy the people of Tawergha." is a bizarre  way of putting it: what NATO did was strike the Gaddafi artillery positions(in Tawergha) that were shelling Misrata city and its inhabitants.
            Watch the following video:
            "highly coordinated operation with NATO"
            "latest taken are packed inside this freight container"

            It was widely reported in western media that Tawergha was taken with small arms. That was a lie.

            •  Your spinning again - (0+ / 0-)

              As you well know, Tawergha was one of the main staging posts for Gaddafi's army attack on Misrata. As the caption to this video explains: "After months of stalemate Libyan opposition fighters in the surrounded city of Misrata have broken through another Gaddafi front line trapping his troops and capturing a town used to stage rocket attacks on civilians." The reference to a "highly coordinated" operation refers to this military advance against Gaddafi forces. (And actually it wasn't that coordinated: there were only 4 NATO strikes against targets in Tawergha over this period)
              I didn't see these "widespread reports in the western media" that Tawergha was captured with smalll arms. This video from Al Jazeera (which your co-thinkers usually accuse of being the most biased of the media sources)  - makes it quite clear that by this stage  the Misrata miliitia had acquired some armour and heavier weapons of their own.
              By the time the Misrata militia took control of Tawergha most of the civilian population had already fled, although some remained, like the woman featured in the video. Many of them were treated badly - either taken into detention or given 30 days to leave the city.

              •  Tawergha was ethnically cleansed (0+ / 0-)

                W/o NATO air power and assistance on the ground, the Libya rebels could not have advanced on Tawergha.

                By the time the Misrata militia took control of Tawergha most of the civilian population had already fled, although some remained, like the woman featured in the video. Many of them were treated badly - either taken into detention or given 30 days to leave the city.
                It was ethnic cleansing. The entire town was emptied of 30,000 civilians. Anyone remaining were forced to leave or be killed - men, women and children. NATO did absolutely nothing to stop this. The majority of these people were black Africans who had lived there for many generations.  They have been prevented from returning by the powerful Misurata militias.

                Where do you get the "30 days to leave" from?

                Ethnic cleansing, genocide and the Tawergha

                Human Rights Investigations has been following the situation of the Tawergha closely and here we draw the information together and find, based on the reports of witnesses, journalists and human rights workers, the situation of the Tawergha is not just one of ethnic cleansing but, according to the legal definition, genocide.
                ...
                The ethnic cleansing of Tawargha

                It is highly likely many black refugees from Misrata fled to the town of Tawergha. Many of them and the original residents may have moved on prior to the actual assault, especially as the Misrata brigades were firing Grad rockets at the town. It also seems likely some of the fighters may have escaped to Sabha, Sirte or Bani Walid, where they are currently making a last stand, sure in the knowledge that they are unlikely to survive capture.

                However, a report by David Enders, reporting from an empty Tawergha, indicates ethnic cleansing occurred after the rebels took full control:

                According to Tawergha residents, rebel soldiers from Misrata forced them from their homes on Aug. 15 when they took control of the town. (Our emphasis)

                This would have been 2 days after the fall of the town and after Orla Guerin and Andrew Simmons had left. The fate of the prisoners loaded into the shipping containers, as well as the population as a whole remains unknown.
                ...

                •  Despite its name (0+ / 0-)

                  "Human Rights Investigations" is not a genuine Human Rights organisation - it is a propaganda outfit for someone or other.  However in this case they have got the core facts of the story pretty much right - and it is exactly the same as the one I provided above.
                  But what they have also done is added considerable propagandistic spin to these facts.
                  Let's take the accusation of "ethnic cleansing" - this is an evocative term that summons up Bosnia or Rwanda - chosen for just that reason by these pro-Gaddafi propagandists. But it doesn't fit the facts: the Tawerghan people were not targetted because they were black but because they had been allied with the regime. It was "political cleansing". There is undoubtedly an undercurrent of anti-African racism in Libyan society, and that came out in the treatment of the Tawerghans (and some other groups as well) but it was not the motive for the  attack on them.
                  HRI then make the typical propagandist's mistake of trying to take their case  too far, adding the even more evocative accusation of "genocide" (more resonances of Bosnia and Rwanda). Utter hysteria.
                  If you want the facts of the Tawergha case without the manipulative propaganda look at a serious source, like the report of  the UN Human Rights Commission - its not a pretty read with detailed accounts of the maltreatment of the Tawerghans in detention and the resettlement camps. There's no question that war crimes were committed by the Misrata militias here. But there was also support shown towards the community by other sections of Libyan society, and they have survived and  are now starting to fight for their rights (they elected a member of the assembly in the July elections). Let's wish them well.

                  •  Tawergha was ethnically cleansed (0+ / 0-)

                    The entire town was emptied of its inhabitants including innocent women and children. They have not been able to return to this date. The town has been destroyed.

                    It was "political cleansing". There is undoubtedly an undercurrent of anti-African racism in Libyan society, and that came out in the treatment of the Tawerghans (and some other groups as well) but it was not the motive for the  attack on them.
                    Was there "political cleansing" in Sirte and Bani Walid?

                    Tell me what the rebel's motive was for emptying the entire town of it's inhabitants, including women, children and old men after the fighting was over and Qaddafi's forces had been routed? Were they were all fighters for Gaddafi's regime?

                    You have a good look at the following videos. The first shows the rebels laughing and joking while they blow up buildings in Tawergha. The fighting was over. It was pure destruction to ensure the inhabitants will have nothing to return to.

                    "political cleansing" - that's fucking bullshit, Tettodoro!

                    Thousands of blacks are still imprisoned in illegal prisons throughout Libya. Tens of thousands of blacks are living in atrocious conditions in camps that require police forces to protect them from killings and abductions. Libyans have taken great pains to cover up these atrocities to this very day.

                    Have you seen the following kind of news coverage by western media to date?

                    Libyan official "I'm not afraid to call it ethnic cleansing. I'm not... If it's ethnic cleansing by international standing then let it be.... But it's not ethnic cleansing like in other parts of the world." He rationalizes just like you do.

  •  Scapegoats for the Crimes of a Few (0+ / 0-)
    http://en.qantara.de/...
    03.01.2013

    The oasis city of Tawerga was completely destroyed in the Libyan civil war. Its dark-skinned inhabitants are still on the run. Former rebels accuse them of war crimes and are carrying out vigilante justice. Markus Symank has the details
    ...
    "We live like animals"

    "We live like animals here. But they still want to kill us," says the little old woman with the firewood, angrily. She is referring to rebel militia from Misrata, located 200 kilometres to the east of Tripoli

    During the bloody revolution, resistance fighters from this port city made a name for themselves as particularly courageous opponents of Gaddafi. But since then, that reputation has been dragged through the mud by reports that they are attacking, kidnapping and torturing refugees from Tawerga.
    ...
    From paradise to ghost town

    Dark-skinned people are the Libyan revolution's biggest losers. In many places, they are made scapegoats for the crimes of African legionnaires who served in Gaddafi's private army and staffed his most feared task forces. Before the onset of political unrest in early 2011, more than a million people from the Sahel states and West Africa made ends meet as day labourers in Libya. That number is now reportedly much less. Many have returned to their home nations.

    This is not an option open to Faradsch Mohammed. His home nation is Libya; he was born here. The student is a member of the Tawerga tribe, descendants of African slaves who settled in the eponymous oasis on the Gulf of Sidra until the civil war. Date palms, fruit plantations, plentiful groundwater reserves: For its inhabitants, Tawerga was a paradise.

    Today, the city is a ghost town. The rebels from Misrata flattened the houses with their tanks and torched the palms. Even the university, opened in the year 2010, was reduced to rubble. The signpost on the nearby road has been crossed out.
    ...
    Of the 42,000 residents of Tawerga, around 1,300 are thought to be missing, says Abdulrahman Schakschak, director of one of the UN refugee camps in Tripoli. He suspects that most of these people are being held and tortured in Misrata prisons. Schakschak says other dark-skinned refugees and migrant workers, many of them from abroad, are being repeatedly targeted by former resistance fighters.

    Government slow to respond

    In August, the new interim government deployed soldiers to guard some of the camps in the capital. But the refugees are still waiting for legal assistance. "We are being collectively punished for the errors of a few," complains Faradsch Mohammed. But despite proposals from tribal elders from Tawerga, the government is showing no interest in any reconciliation process, he says.

    In Misrata too, some accuse the authorities of dragging their feet over the issue. The head of the local intelligence agency claims to have presented the government in Tripoli with a list of 3,000 missing people from Tawerga months ago. He says he is still waiting for a response. And as long as that response from the capital is not forthcoming, the Misrata militias will continue taking the law into their own hands.

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