‘Free’ Libya: The rise of NATO’s racist, executing liberators

Libyan “rebels” captured and killed Colonel Gaddafi, black Africa’s “King of Kings

Racism in Libya is nothing new. Anytime there is a class of poor immigrant workers whose ethnicity is not the same as the majority there is a prospect for racial conflict. In October of 2000 BBC reported that “thousands of African immigrants living in Libya have been attacked by local residents. Some have had to take refuge in their respective embassies.”

Even a year before this civil war erupted the UN warned that “Libya must end its practices of racial discrimination against black Africans, particularly its racial persecution of two million black African migrant workers. There is substantial evidence of Libya’s pattern and practice of racial discrimination against migrant workers.”

So when the armed rebellion started in Libya in February of this year it quickly took on a race war element where the black minority were beaten, raped, lynched, murdered and driven from their homes and communities regardless of whether they were Libyan or not.

On February 23, 2011, the UNHCR, said that the UN “has become increasingly concerned” about the many African migrants and asylum seekers in Libya. A couple of days later a journalist for UK’s Daily Mail was in Benghazi covering on the “mercenaries” when he reported:

The Africans I saw ranged from a 20-year-old to one in his late 40s with a grizzled beard. Most were wearing casual clothes. When they realised I spoke English they burst out in protest.

‘We did not do anything,’ one told me, before he was silenced. ‘We are all construction workers from Ghana. We harmed no one.’

Another of the accused, a man in green overalls, pointed at the paint on his sleeves and said: ‘This is my job. I do not know how to shoot a gun.’

Abdul Nasser, a 47-year-old, protested: ‘They are lying about us. We were taken from our house at night when we were sleeping.’ Still complaining, they were led away. It was hard to judge their guilt.

On the same day BBC reported: “One Turkish construction worker told the BBC: ‘We had 70-80 people from Chad working for our company. They were cut dead with pruning shears and axes, attackers saying: ‘You are providing troops for Ghaddafi.’ The Sudanese were also massacred. We saw it for ourselves.’”

While covering the Libyan-Tunisian border journalist Andrew Purvis noted earlier this year that,

The discrimination against blacks in Libya that helped propel much of the current exodus is shocking. In buses, it is not uncommon for Libyans of lighter skin to roll down the windows as an African is boarding to “air” the place out a kind of joke. Sub-Saharan Africans and Libyans of darker complexion are overcharged at stores, I am told. In the street, they are routinely referred to by the Arabic word for “slave,” abid. Gangs continue to roam the streets targeting blacks, stealing what they have, beating any who resist. For proud people who came to Libya to find money to support their families back home, it is a deep humiliation.

Another example to highlight the race factor: There is this video of “rebels” chanting, “We are Arabs!” (at around 2:20)

The International Business Times carried a story on March 2 that said,

According to reports, more than 150 black Africans from at least a dozen different countries escaped Libya by plane and landed at the airport in Nairobi, Kenya with horrific tales of violence.

“We were being attacked by local people who said that we were mercenaries killing people. Let me say that they did not want to see black people,” Julius Kiluu, a 60-year-old building supervisor, told Reuters.

Against this backdrop we can start to understand why blacks represent a large majority in the prisons being run by the rebellion, and why they are in absence in the “revolution.”

The Los Angeles Times ran an article in March titled “Libyan rebels appear to take leaf from Kadafi’s playbook,” in which they said,

Opposition officials in Benghazi, whose wide sweeps to detain alleged Kadafi supporters have drawn criticism, take journalists on a tightly controlled tour of detention centers. Many detainees say they’re immigrant workers and deny fighting for Kadafi.

And in another related article titled, “Journalists visit prisoners held by rebels in Libya,” we learn that, “The whole scene had an unsettling feel, as if these men had already been tried and convicted — and all that was left were their executions. In a strange twist, I learned that internal security officers of the Kadafi regime formerly used the facility to detain, torture and kill political dissidents.”

From what I can gather in the press, Gaddafi’s forces were largely Arab. This means some questions need to be asked. How come is it that when the press visited a rebellion-managed prison the prisoners were predominantly black? In the TNC’s document announcing its “vision for a democratic society” it said they denounced racism. But in light of their silence on the plight of black Africans and the reports of attacks on them (including grisly videos showing two dead black men tied to the hood of a truck like they were hunted deer) and the disproportionate amount of their representation in rebel prisons, how much stock can we put in the claim? Are we to believe it is merely a coincidence, or that blacks have been easier to capture than Arabs?

These questions hold significance. For example, in mid-July, following the massive pro-Gaddafi rally in Tripoli where an estimated 1.7 million turned out to support him, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on rebel abuses and said that, “How the rebels behave in towns that have supported Gaddafi gives an indication of what they may do if they gain control in other areas, especially if they approach Tripoli.”

In an article by Independent journalist Kim Sengupta in late August, titled “Rebels settle scores in Libya”,

The killings were pitiless.

They had taken place at a makeshift hospital, in a tent marked clearly with the symbols of the Islamic Crescent. Some of the dead were on stretchers, attached to intravenous drips. Some were on the back of an ambulance that had been shot at. A few were on the ground, seemingly attempting to crawl to safety when the bullets came.

Around 30 men lay decomposing in the heat. Many of them had their hands tied behind their back, either with plastic handcuffs or ropes. One had a scarf stuffed into his mouth. Almost all of the victims were black men. [emphasis added]

The rebels claimed the blacks were “mercenaries” hired by Gaddafi but Amnesty International’s Donatella Rovera gave this account in an interview in the non-English press:

We examined this issue in depth and found no evidence. The rebels spread these rumors everywhere, which had terrible consequences for African guest workers: there was a systematic hunt for migrants, some were lynched and many arrested. Since then, even the rebels have admitted there were no mercenaries, almost all have been released and have returned to their countries of origin, as the investigations into them revealed nothing.

Even after this we have the High Commissioner for the UNHCR stating, “We have seen at earlier stages in this crisis that such people, Africans especially, can be particularly vulnerable to hostility or acts of vengeance. It is crucial that humanitarian law prevails through these climactic moments and that foreigners – including refugees and migrant workers – are being fully and properly protected from harm.”

Tens of thousands of black Africans have been made into refugees only to suffer more hardships. The lucky ones are those who made it out alive. The unlucky ones are among the 100 who starved to death while fleeing in terror, some of which were on boats stranded in open waters even as NATO warships were nearby and ignoring their distress signals. In fact, Italy called for an investigation into why NATO didn’t respond, where many died and were thrown overboard. Just last week another boat of black refugees was found in similar condition, leaving more than two dozen dead.

In late September the New York Times ran an article titled “As Thousands Leave Libya, and Jobs, Niger Feels Impact” where they dedicated nearly 1,100 words to a catastrophe unfolding in the African country where migrant workers are fleeing what one migrant called, “a rich country.” Which is true. According to the UN, Libya leads the continent in human development and is ranked 53rd in the world, with Mauritus (ranked 72nd) a distant second, and is classified as a “high human development” country.

The economic impact on an already impoverished Niger is real, but the NYT found no space to bring up the fact that the reason black African migrants are forced to leave is because of racist gangsarmed and backed by NATOare terrorizing them. The article mentions a story of how,

Two perished on the truck jammed sky-high with bags and passengers that carried Mr. Hassan and others out of Libya and through the hot sands. “Thirty days of misery,” he said, recounting the thirst, hunger, heat and destitution.

But again, not one mention of the racism and harassment by the NATO-backed “rebels” who have put these people in this predicament and created an economic crisis in Niger.

Two months ago in mid-August we saw the rebels carry out a massive ethnic cleansing campaign in Tawergha where they posted warnings to the black residents for them to leave or suffer the consequences, and once they fled the rebels went in and systematically looted, burnt and defaced the buildings. As the NYT put it: “Race has made this fight especially toxic: Tawergans say Misurata has ignored betrayals by its other neighbors, singling out Tawerga because most of the residents are black. Graffiti on their emptied homes deepens their conviction: “Misurata’s slaves” appears on many walls.”

A recent IPS News article (“LIBYA: Hatred Divides Libya After Gaddafi“) reported on it by noting that, “On Aug. 15, in what human rights groups are calling reprisal attacks, rebel forces going by the name of ‘The Brigade for Purging Slaves, Black Skin’ have reportedly detained and displaced hundreds, while other Tawerghans have disappeared without a trace.”

In the same article we hear from a twenty year old black college student:

“Fearing for their life, my parents who are from Al-Fasher city in Darfur fled to Tripoli in 1998. I had never lived outside Libya before the conflict started. My father worked as a cook and my mother was domestic worker. Before fleeing I was in my third year of university pursuing a degree in the medical field,” 20-year old Eiman told IPS.

“Unfortunately the uprising in Libya took a bloody turn because people no longer respected the law and started raping women, taking hostages and killing people. For two months my family remained trapped in our house.

“They were accusing and killing all black males caught on the street of being mercenaries, which meant that our mother had to try and gather food but there were many days that we starved.”

In a strange piece, the Wall Street Journal attempted to explain the attacks on blacks as revenge.

The hatred of Tawergha stems from witnesses who say loyalist soldiers were accompanied by hundreds of volunteer fighters from Tawergha when they ransacked and burned dozens of properties in an assault against Misrata and surrounding areas on March 16 to 18.

Curiously, reports of blacks being targeted by rebels preceded mid-March, where accounts of massacres and grisly videos of murdered blacks were showing up weeks before.

Any black Africans who supported Gaddafi or who were brave enough to defend themselves were quickly labeled “mercenaries.” An interesting example comes from the New York Times in late March where it was reported that as “protests resumed and grew more violent the the first groups of mercenaries appeared, in yellow construction hats, to fight the protesters. Some were Africans . . .” Considering what was already known about racism in Libya and attacks on African workers one must ask why the New York Times associates “yellow construction hates” with mercenaries and not, say, workers.

Now that Tripoli and Sirte have fallen we are learning about more accounts of executions and torture by the rebels, with one recent coming from Human Rights Watch:

“We found 53 decomposing bodies, apparently Gaddafi supporters, at an abandoned hotel in Sirte, and some had their hands bound behind their backs when they were shot,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, who investigated the killings. “This requires the immediate attention of the Libyan authorities to investigate what happened and hold accountable those responsible.”

A couple of weeks before the executions above the New York Times reported on when the rebels reached the hospital:

Nasser Misrati, a commander, walked down the hall asking patients and their relatives where they were from and what had happened to them.

“Why didn’t you leave?” he asked Mohammed’s father, Omar Ibrahim. “We only came to liberate you . . .

The 53 bodies that HRW found was apparently the answer to Misrati’s question. Along with at least 2,500 others who are being tortured by the rebels, where according to Amnesty International: “In its 24-page report, “Detention Abuses Staining the New Libya”, Amnesty says there is clear evidence of torture in order to extract confessions or as a punishment. At least two guards – in separate detention facilities – admitted to Amnesty that they beat detainees in order to extract “confessions” more quickly.”

The article goes on to report that,

Amnesty’s report shows that sub-Saharan Africans suspected of being mercenaries make up between a third and a half of those detained. Some have been released after no evidence was found to link them to fighting. One man from Niger, initially presented to Amnesty as a “mercenary and killer”, broke down and explained that he’d “confessed” after being beaten nearly continuously for two days. He denied being involved in fighting.

Black Libyans – particularly from the Tawargha region, which was a base for Gaddafi forces in their efforts to regain control of Misratah – are also particularly vulnerable. Dozens of Tawarghans have been taken from their homes, checkpoints, and even hospitals.

Libya trip: Hillary Clinton posed with Libyan soldiers after she paid the embattled country a surprise visit two days ago
Libya trip: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shows her love for imperial “humanitarian” intervention as she posed with NATO’s “rebels” after paying the embattled country a surprise visit five days ago

Another deeply disturbing fact about this war is that a peaceful solution was never even an option. Even before President Obama announced the war it was public knowledge that Secretary of State Clinton and French President Sarkozy were meeting with the rebels to discuss a plan of action. There were even rumors that Clinton told the Arab League (i.e. Saudi Arabia) that we would allow Saudi Arabia to send in forces to put down the popular rebellion in Bahrain if they would call for a no-fly zone for Libya at the UN. And considering how quickly this went from enforcing a no-fly zone to regime change it should be pretty clear that NATO’s intentions all along was war. So it’s no wonder Obama snubbed the African Union’s peace plan and even went so far as to send diplomats around the continent in an effort to undermine their initiative.

But it wasn’t just the African Union who tried to reach a ceasefire. Even UN resolution 1973 said its first demand was,

an immediate ceasefire in Libya . . .

Interestingly enough on the Media Lens website was a lengthy documentation of countless ceasefire offers:

25| Gaddafi’s Son Sees Negotiaton, Ceasefire in Libya
25| Gaddafi’s Son to Negotiate Ceasefire

18| Libya Calls Ceasefire in Response to UN Resolution
18| Pro-Gaddafi Forces to Observe Ceasefire 
18| Libya Ceasefire Analysis 
18| David Cameron Cautious over Libya Ceasefire Offer
18| Gaddafi’s Ceasefire May Split Coalition 
18| Clinton Unimpressed by Libya’s Ceasefire Pledge 
19| Libyan Minister Claims Gaddafi is Powerless and the Ceasefire is Solid 
21| US-led Forces Reject Gaddafi Ceasefire 
27| Turkey Offers to Broker Ceasefire Talks

1| Libyan Rebels Prepared to Accept Ceasefire if Gaddafi Lifts Sieges, Allows Protests 
1| Libyan Rebels Seek Ceasefire as US Vows to Withdraw Jets 
6| Gaddafi Accepts African Roadmap to End Libya Civil War Including Ceasefire
7| Gaddafi Writes to Obama, Urging End to Airstrikes
10| Libyan Rebels Spurn African Union Ceasefire Unless Gaddafi Gives Up Power 
11|Ceasefire ‘Must Meet UN Conditions’ says Hague 
11| Benghazi Rebels Reject African Union Truce Plan 
13| Crucial Libya Talks as Rebels Again Reject Ceasefire 
19| UN Appeals for Libya Ceasefire 
30| Gaddafi Calls for Ceasefire as NATO Strikes Tripoli 
30| Muammar Gaddafi Calls for Ceasefire in Libyan TV Address 
30| Libyan Rebels Reject Gaddafi Offer
30| Libyan Opposition Rejects Gaddafi Truce Offer 
30| Rebels and NATO dismiss Gaddafi Truce Offer 

3| Turks Offer Libya Ceasefire Plan as Western, Arab Officials Meet in Rome
26| Libya Ready for Ceasefire, Demands End to NATO Strikes 
26| Libyan Regime Makes Peace Offer that Sidelines Gaddafi 
26| Libya’s Prime Minister Calls for Ceasefire 
26| White House Says Libya Ceasefire Not Credible 
26| Libya Ceasefire Offer Regarded Coldly by the West
26| Libya Approaches Spain for NATO Ceasefire
27| Comment: Why no mention of a Ceasefire for Libya, Obama? 
27| US Rejects Libya Ceasefire, Vows War will Continue
28| Talks Under Way to End Libya Fighting 
29| South Africa PM to Visit Gaddafi, Push for Ceasefire and Talks
31| Zuma Says Gaddafi Ready for Truce 
31| Gaddafi Wants Truce in Libya, Says Zuma, but Terms Remain Unclear 

2| Comment: NATO’s Strategy in Libya is Working – Talks with Gaddafi Won’t 
10| Libya’s Gaddafi Writes to Congress for Ceasefire
11| Gaddafi Ceasefire Letter to USA
11| Gaddafi’s Letter to Congress Urges Ceasefire 
21| Arab League Chief Calls for Ceasefire and Political Solution 
22| Italy Asks NATO to Consider Ceasefire in Libya
22| Italy Ceasefire Call Exposes NATO Split on Libya 
22| Italy Urges Suspension of Hostilities 
22| Downing Street Rejects Allies’s Call for Libyan Ceasefire 
22| France Rejects Italian Libya Ceasefire Call 
23| Italian Minister Calls for Libyan Ceasefire
23| Italy Breaks Ranks to Call for Ceasefire in Libya so Aid can Get Through 
26| Calls for Ceasefire in Libya Ring Louder 
[Arab League has Second Thoughts About Air-Strike]
26| Gaddafi Vows Not to Put Pressure on AU Peace Talks
27| Comment: Libya is not Ready for a Political Solution 

3| Libya Rebels Welcome African Union’s Gaddafi-Free Talks Offer 
12| Nato Suggests Ramadan Libya Ceasefire 
17| NATO Chief Cautious on Libya Ceasefire 
20| France: Ceasefire Deal Could Include Gaddafi Remaining in Libya 
21| France Says Gadaffi Can Stay in Libya if He Relinquishes Power 
22| UN Peace Envoy Suggests a Ceasefire to be Declared 
22| UN Plan Sees Unity Government in Post-Gaddafi Libya 
26| Comment: Libya’s Stalemate Shows it is Time to Tempt Gaddafi Out, Not Blast Him Out 
28| UN Official: Truce and Transitional Pact Key to Ending Libya Crisis
12| UN Calls for Ceasefire in Libya and Political Talks by Gaddafi and Rebels
15| UN Envoy Seeks Ceasefire to Break Impasse in Libya with Tunisia Meetings 
18| Gaddafi Regime Urges Ceasefire as Libya Rebels Claim Control of Key Refinery
18| Casualties Mount in West Libya as Regime Urges Ceasefire
18| Libya Regime PM Calls for a Ceasefire 
19| Libya Regime Calls for Ceasefire 
24| Gaddafi’s Son Offers to Broker Ceasefire 

1| NATO Keeps War Footing Until Gaddafi Regime is Smashed 
4| The UN was Hijacked on Libya 
28| Venezuela Calls for Libyan Ceasefire

Clearly Gaddafi tried numerous timeseven before the UN’s resolutionto get a ceasefire but NATO and the “rebels” consistently rejected and chose instead to keep on attacking in order to overthrow the government (which is illegal and not a part of the mandate). In fact, in some instances the attackers said they would only adhere to the UN resolution if Gaddafi stepped down, which again is not part of the resolution.

And a closer look at their attacks show them to be in violation of UN resolution 1973 as well since the resolution clearly stated, “Demanding an immediate [...] end to the current attacks against civilians,” as well as it, “Authorizes Member States [...] to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack.”

In the case of Sirte, the “rebels” openly admit that they are shelling civilians, and with NATO carrying out the bombing raids that are targeting these “citizen vounteers,” that the “rebels” say have “chosen to die,” NATO is doing the exact opposite of what the resolution calls for.

But it’s not just limited to Sirte. As covered above, black Africans have been subjected to horrible abuses by the “rebels.” All of this easily found in the press. And the perpetrators are the so-called “liberators.”

Furthermore, the resolution also calls for, “rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian assistance.” Yet, here again, the “rebels” openly admit to blocking it in Sirte in order to punish the civilian population, as was reported in the Wall Street Journal: “We have to make sure that no supplies get in . . .”

The resolution was used as a pretext to wage a war of aggression and regime change that has gone way beyond its stated purpose, while NATO facilitated, and participated with, terrorists and racists to cause a much bigger humanitarian catastrophe than the exaggerated one they claimed to have been moralistically trying to stop.

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