Poor Tripoli

Dariela Aquique

Historic map of Tripoli by Piri Reis, wikipedia.org

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.

3 thoughts on “Poor Tripoli

  • To me this suggests that if Santiago (predominantly black) continues in its “Fidelista” beliefs, the consequences will be similar to those suffered by the black “Gadhafistas” in Libya.

    Let’s go to the logical fallacy of “Argumentum ad Baculum” (appeal to force) – appealing to consequences rather than to the belief itself.

    I would have hoped the writer to have taken on the truth-value of that belief; otherwise this seems a rather crude argument / threat on her part.

  • It is wrong to treat people of color like this even before when Qaddafi’s brutal regime of 42 years was in power and certainly now.

    Revenge for the past is hell and some people harbor feelings for the payed Qaddafi mercenaries form Chad, Niger and Algeria also.

    Racism is wrong either way…the civil war between the different factions will play itself out and then hopefully humanity will come to the fore.


  • very sad but often what happens when the cork is popped off the bottle and the tensions of an entire nation are exploded onto the scene. the same happened in iraq. i am of the opinion that as bad and chaotic as libya is at the moment, the alternative (leaving qadaffi in power) would have been much worse, as the pressure would have had many more yrs to build before being unleashed. same situation in iraq, when saddam finally was toppled decades of divide and rule exploded into a downward spiral of violence and terror, and is only now begining to cool off. still, much better to upend the status quo of iron fist rulers and let whatever happens, happen, and the slow process of ‘healing’ can eventually begin.

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