Anti-Black Racism Among Libyan Rebels

“the brigade for purging slaves, black skin”slogan seen painted in rebel country Michael McGehee wrote in Victims of a Civil War, Z Magazine, April 5:

Libya, located in northern Africa, has a majority Arab population. It also has a racism problem. In a country of over 6 million people where a third of which are black Africans—the most oppressed group in the country—it would be completely appropriate to ask: Why aren’t they a part of the rebellion? Why is this an “Arab revolt”? It is very astonishing to see the most oppressed group not only uninvolved with a revolution but fleeing it in terror. Another interesting question is: If the rebels need foreign assistance to win, and to protect themselves from a massacre, then why have they not appealed to the black community to join their struggle in solidarity?

No, instead they were sent running “back to Africa.” As Mr. McGehee notes, the non-black pride seems to be a central part of their rejection of the Gaddafi system – “there is a video of the protesters floating around the internet showing them chanting, “We are Arabs!” (at around 2:20) The Afro-centric antithesis of this is explained by a long-time pro-Gaddafi activist Gerald Perreira: Libya, Getting it Right: A Revolutionary Pan-African Perspective. Black Agenda Report. March 2. A fascinating article that explains, in part:

The battle that is being waged in Libya is fundamentally a battle between Pan-African forces on the one hand, who are dedicated to the realization of Qaddafi’s vision of a united Africa, and reactionary racist Libyan Arab forces who reject Qaddafi’s vision of Libya as part of a united Africa and want to ally themselves instead with the EU and look toward Europe and the Arab World for Libya’s future. One of Muammar Qaddafi’s most controversial and difficult moves in the eyes of many Libyans was his championing of Africa and his determined drive to unite Africa with one currency, one army and a shared vision regarding the true independence and liberation of the entire continent. He has contributed large amounts of his time and energy and large sums of money to this project and like Kwame Nkrumah, he has paid a high price. Many of the Libyan people did not approve of this move. They wanted their leader to look towards Europe. Of course, Libya has extensive investments and commercial ties with Europe but the Libyans know that Qaddafi’s heart is in Africa.

A merging, and perhaps mutual dilution of Africa’s native Black peoples and the late-arriving, Muslim Crusader Arabs. It should be noted Gulf states like Saudi Arabia have long frowned on Gaddafi’s agendas, and have promoted in Libya certain notions about Gaddafi. One is that he is secretly Jewish, and as Jews often do is such cosmologies, was trying to smoosh the good Arabs together with black people and blur the races. “Funny cartoons” collected by John Rosenthalat Pajamas Media, reveals much of this line of fear emerging in the graphic work of “pro-democracy protesters.” One is a photo of a wall painting of “the leader”:

[T]he Arabic writing is “a reference to Qaddafi’s self-declared title ‘The King of Kings of Africa.’” In fact, the title was bestowed upon Gaddafi by a meeting of traditional African rulers, which was hosted by the Libyan government in 2008. The meeting happens to have been held in Benghazi. As the AP caption notes further, the writing on the mural replaces the title “King of Kings of Africa” with that of “Monkey of Monkeys of Africa” — a phrase that manages at once to insult Gaddafi and all the African notables that attended. (The fame of the mural, incidentally, is partly due to a recent New Yorker report, which claims that the artist was shot dead in late March immediately after completing his work. As the above photo demonstrates, however, the mural in fact already existed much earlier. The photo is dated February 23.)

Others are more explicit in their primate references. This artist might have a future at the Cartoon Network, but not at the museum of tolerance. Maxmilian Forte: Race, Humanitarianism, and the Media. Monthly Review, April 20.

As billions flowed out in aid [to sub-Saharan Africa], and visa-less migrants flowed in, Libyans feared they were being turned into a minority in their own land. Church attendance soared in this Muslim state. . . . Black-bashing has become a popular afternoon sport for Libya’s unemployed youths. The rumour that a Nigerian had raped a Libyan girl in Zawiya was enough to spark a spree of ethnic cleansing. . . . In their rampage on migrant workers, the Libyan mob spared Arabs, including the 750,000 Egyptians. (The Economist, “Pogrom,” 14 October 2000)

This time, it was “African mercenaries.” The evidence for this seems to be largely Twitter tweets, echoed by al Jazeera and western media. the Monthly Review, April 20

The Independent’s Michael Mumisa observed that “foreign media outlets have had to rely mostly on unverified reports posted on social network websites and on phone calls from Libyans terrified of Gaddafi’s ‘savage African mercenaries who are going door-to-door raping our women and attacking our children’,” and he speaks of “a Twitter user based in Saudi Arabia,” who “wrote how Gaddafi is ‘ordering african mercenaries to break into homes in Benghazi to RAPE Libyan women in order to detract men protesters!'”

It was of course repeatedly widely, varied and elaborated wildly. The effect on human lives was real, and useful, in clearing the cities in rebellion of one known source of pro-regime sentiment (to believe Mr. Pirerra’s analysis, anyway). Thus “the people” of these cities, those remaining both there and alive, who dared step outside, had risen up against Gaddafi. Gaddafi’s “African Mercenaries” – Or Are They Libyans From Fezzan …

“Come see the black working class,” yells Asante Jonny, a Ghanaian migrant worker who has been stuck at the Egypt-Libya border for four days. […] “Life in Benghazi now is very dangerous for blacks,” says Jonny, who fled after Qadhafi’s forces were routed by defectors from a local security brigade and pro-democracy protesters, who took full control of the city. “Walking around town can get you killed. I had to run for my life after my friend from Cameroon was killed because his dreadlocks were seen as suspicious.”

Africans hunted down in “liberated” Libya. Afrol News, February 28.

As one city after the other gets “liberated”, mostly following the defection of Libyan army and police units, civilians and Libyan troops agree to stop mentioning the recent fights between Libyan nationals. The “mercenaries” were and are the enemy. Sidsel Wold, an experienced journalist from Norway’s ‘NRK’ broadcaster currently in Al-Bayda, experienced the rhetoric first-handedly. She was told that the large battle about this east Libyan city had been fought around an army barrack, which everybody referred to as being defended by “mercenaries”. [Allowed] to film the captured “mercenaries”, most turned out to have an Arab appearance. The few persons of sub-Saharan African appearance were all in civilian clothes. It became clear that several of these African “mercenaries” had been captured after the fighting. Ms Wold also witnessed and filmed the interrogation of a captured Chadian citizen by a defected army officer. The Chadian, with civilian clothes, insisted he was a normal “civilian; a worker.” Asked why he and four other Africans had been observed fleeing, he said he had been “scared by the shooting.” The defected Libyan army officer clearly stated he did “not believe” him. The attempt by a group of five sub-Saharan Africans to escape the city was “suspicious” in itself. The group was kept in detention – however in seemingly humane conditions – suspected of being “mercenaries”. […] Reports from other “liberated” Libyan cities are similar. In Benghazi last week, citizens attacked and destroyed a building housing 36 citizens from Chad, Niger and Sudan. The Africans were accused of being “mercenaries” and subsequently arrested, local residents told Western journalists.

Maxmilian Forte: Race, Humanitarianism, and the Media. Monthly Review, April 20.

It is not a simple matter of the Libyan opposition showing signs of xenophobia — if that were true, it would resent the involvement of North Americans and Europeans. Instead, this is a racially selective xenophobia, with a preferential option for Western (i.e., U.S. and European) intervention, and against the presence of “Africans” (code for Sub-Saharan, black Africans). It reminds me of an old racial saying I learned in the Caribbean, truncated here: “If you’re white, you’re alright . . . and if you’re black, go back.”

World And Press Watch As Africans Are Lynched In Libya. Sahara Reporters, March 1.

The whole world is watching, the whole world is watching, the whole world is watching as innocent Africans are being lynched in Libya. The time to act is right now since nobody acted yesterday or day before. It started as a rumor, then it was reported on social network and now we know it is real. The world must act and act quickly. There are men, women and children dying in the hands of Libyan mobs simply because they look Africans and must therefore be mercenaries because they cannot place their hands on Gadhafi.

In Libya, African Migrants Say They Face Hostility.” National Public Radio, February 25. Quoting a Turkish oil field worker:

“We left behind our friends from Chad. We left behind their bodies. We had 70 or 80 people from Chad working for our company. They cut them dead with pruning shears and axes, attacking them, saying you’re providing troops for Gadhafi. The Sudanese, the Chadians were massacred. We saw it ourselves.”

Of those captured who were killed and mutilated by “pro-democracy demonstrators,” and proudly shown on Youtube and Facebook, a clear majority were “mercenaries,” meaning dark Africans. Luis Sinco: “Journalists Visit Prisoners Held by Rebels in Libya.” Los Angeles Times, March 23. 2011)

“I am a worker, not a fighter. They took me from my house and [raped] my wife,” he said, gesturing with his hands. Before he could say much more, a pair of guards told him to shut up and hustled him through the steel doors of a cell block, which quickly slammed behind them. Several reporters protested and the man was eventually brought back out. He spoke in broken, heavily accented English and it was hard to hear and understand him amid the scrum of scribes pushing closer. He said his name was Alfusainey Kambi, and again professed innocence before being confronted by an opposition official, who produced two Gambian passports. One was old and tattered and the other new. And for some reason, the official said the documents were proof positive that Kambi was a Kadafi operative. […] All I know is that the Geneva Convention explicitly prohibits prisoners of war from being paraded and questioned before cameras of any kind. But that’s exactly what happened today. The whole incident just gave me a really bad vibe, and thank God it finally ended . . . . [O]ur interpreter, a Libyan national, asked [LA Times reported David] Zucchino: “So what do you think? Should we just go ahead and kill them?”

Again, considering the near-total lack of evidence of African mercenaries, aside from a few extracted “confessions,” the myth of them took on a life of its own and fueled this ethnic cleansing. Who, besides anonymous Twitter accounts was responsible for spreading these horrible lies? Consider this, shared by Maxmilian Forte:

“They [the mercenaries] are from Africa, and speak French and other languages.” He said their presence had prompted some army troops to switch sides to the opposition. “They are Libyans and they cannot see foreigners killing Libyans so they moved beside the people.” […] “People say [the mercenaries] are black Africans and they don’t speak Arabic. They are doing terrible things, going to houses and killing women and children.”

The answer is:

Ali Abd-al-Aziz al-Isawi who previously served as Secretary of the General People’s Committee of Libya (GPCO) for Economy, Trade, and Investment — now responsible for “foreign affairs” and “international liaison” as the third-ranked member of the TNC [rebel Transitional National Council]. … At the time of the [2000] race riots, the then Minister … al-Isawi — stated about the African presence: “it is a burden”; and then he added this: “They are a burden on health care, they spread disease, crime. They are illegal.”

Some other articles worth checking out: -black-immigrants-while-forces-kidnap-others-20586

Update, June 29

The Wall Street Journal, of all sources, just ran a story dealing with racism among Libyan rebels, especially in the besieged Misrata, against the nearby, mostly-black and government-loyal, town of Tawergha.

Many Misratans are convinced that Tawerghans were responsible for some of the worst atrocities committed during their city’s siege, including allegedly raping women in front of their relatives and helping Gadhafi forces identify and kidnap rebel sympathizers and their families.

Yeah, and don’t forget the snipers that shot at least two little Misrata children in their little chest, says an X-ray image. Mighta been those same folks. A neighborhood of Misrata once dominated by Tawerghans was flushed out early on, some likely making cameos as “captured African mercenaries.” Either way, they aren’t taking it anymore.

Ibrahim al-Halbous, a rebel commander leading the fight near Tawergha, says all remaining residents should leave once if his fighters capture the town. “They should pack up,” Mr. Halbous said. “Tawergha no longer exists, only Misrata.” Some of the hatred of Tawergha has racist overtones that were mostly latent before the current conflict. On the road between Misrata and Tawergha, rebel slogans like “the brigade for purging slaves, black skin” have supplanted pro-Gadhafi scrawl.

Original article (preview only without subscription) Purported full-text re-post, cited here. And remember, these monsters are the “good guys,” the ones the government there is bombed to smithereens for resisting, the ones NATO is trying to hand all of Libya over to. Please, those who are powerless to put a stop to this enormous and amoral machine, just pray for Libya. An atheist like me can’t do it. Update August 5: A noteworthy addition – Fox News of all outfits spoke with a doctor, apparently black, who left Benghazi, his home of 21 years, after having dealt with the rebels.

“They wanted to kill blacks there,” he says. “I’d be killed if I stayed.” “They catch [detain] me with a gun in front of my wife and kids. They arrested me, tied me up and covered my eyes and took me to their camp for questioning about Muammar Qaddafi.” It was only after local hospital officials confirmed his identity that he was freed. He left the city, his home for the past 21 years, and headed for the Egyptian border with his wife, two small boys and just two bags. From Egypt, the family was taken to Tunisia and then to Tripoli and finally to this remote refugee center.


Categories: Imperialism, Imperialist War, International, Libya, Racism

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