Oct 18 2011
Black Libyans tell of beatings and expulsions at gunpoint at the hands of the rebels.
REUTERS After weeks on the run, thousands of black Libyans driven from their homes during the revolt against Muammar Gaddafi have resurfaced across the country, finding refuge in a squalid camp they hope is only temporary.
Once residents of Gaddafi’s stronghold of Tawergha, the families now wander a dusty compound ringed with garbage. The group’s eastward flight began last summer, when anti-Gaddafi forces overran Tawergha and vengeance-seeking crowds ransacked it, leaving a ghost town behind.
“They chased us with guns and knives,” said Ibrahim Med Khaled, a 24-year-old taxi driver recently arrived at the former construction site after spending weeks dodging hostile crowds across the country’s west before being captured by armed men.
“They brought me to a house and beat me with electrical cable to make me confess I worked for Gaddafi, even though I told them I never carried a gun,” he said, lifting his shirt to reveal shoulders criss-crossed with fresh wounds from flogging.
Throughout the uprising against Gaddafi’s 42-year rule, his opponents have accused him of hiring fighters from neighboring African countries which led to reports of mistreatment of blacks, including Libyans.
The camp has grown since opening from 400 to nearly 3,000 people in just two weeks, despite disrepair and lack of sufficient sanitation and electricity evidenced by raw sewage pooling behind some of the housing blocks. One little girl could be seen eating spilled food off the ground.
However dire the conditions may be, the camp’s residents say they are torn between desire to return, and fear of reprisals from heavily armed locals still bitter from one of the bloodiest episodes in Libya’s civil war.
Many accuse men from Tawergha of committing atrocities in the siege of the city of Misrata, and tales of raping sprees by sub-Saharan African mercenaries – fueled in one version by Viagra doled out by Gaddafi – abound in Libya, leaving dark-skinned people suspect to some of their countrymen.
A former Tawergha resident, a 38-year-old mother of four named Rabha Mouftah, said there was no doubt as to the intentions of the mob that stormed into her town last summer.
“They came to kill black people,” she said in a room with no lighting she now shares with her family off an alley strewn with debris. “We were scared to go outside, so we hid in different houses for seven weeks, then came here.”