Racial differences are being felt in Libya. Today bitterness and inequalities between ethnic groups and districts are realities experienced by this people following the demise of Gadhafi. Displaced black groups now wander about the streets of Tripoli.
The nation’s capital is becoming a refuge for numbers of groups coming from the Tarik Matar quarter on the outskirts of the city. They are black, and discrimination against them is now surfacing, though its genesis lies in the past.
As I mentioned in a post a few months ago, dictatorial regimes are apt at using Machiavelli’s maxim: “Divide and conquer.” That was the case for more than four decades, as the Libyan people remained divided and harboring resentments and differences beneath the surface.
Obviously now this is re-emerging in these times of uncertainty and confusion. It is part of the difficult aftermath of the overthrow of a tyrant and the social inequality that results in any society after an abrupt change.
It turns out that the vast majority of these black men and women come from the Tawergha region, a locality that during the war was a Gadhafist base for the terrible siege unleashed against Misurata, a city located 120 miles to the east of Tripoli and which was the main stage of the insurrection.
When faced with opposition demonstrations, Gaddafi formed an armed called “The Blacks” (referring to their skin color), which consisted almost entirely of men from Tawergha.
When the insurgents came to occupy most of Libya, the town of Tawergha was in a vulnerable position, therefore its inhabitants fled to take refuge on the outskirts of Tripoli, living in makeshift shantytowns.
Now these displaced people are suffering reprisals from the Misurata guerrillas (the opposition), who are experiencing feverish emotions, contradictions and confusion, but who principally fester raw bitterness.
Rape, abductions and lynchings take place daily in Tripoli. Contempt and animosity have set in between people of the same nation. Even with the passage of time, some localities may never overcome having been victims of the most dramatic and horrifying chapters of the Libyan Civil War. They are the western town of Sirte (the birthplace and stronghold of the slain Gadhafi) and the opposition city of Misurata.
But Tawergha is now a ghost town. Its former residents have headed off for anywhere with the sole hope of staying alive. Some agencies report that 27,000 former Tawergha residents are scattered across the country, mainly between Tripoli and the eastern Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city.
The Tawerghans are called Gadafists, but they are also spurned and despised for being black. The Misurata accuse all of them, with no distinction whatsoever, of having committed the most horrible crimes committed in their town.
Under the ironic slogan “Raise your head, you are a free Libyan,” those who rose up in February against the regime of Muammar Gadhafi are taking revenge against everyone who supported the former president and fought against the insurrection.
This is the sad picture of a divided country after the overthrow of a totalitarian regime that took advantage of differences to hold onto power. Poor Tripoli.