Thursday, July 7, 2011
Blacks in Libya and the Arab Revolution
I want to report on a topic nobody is interested in: the doubly dramatic situation of blacks in Libya. The greatest victims of the Libyan revolution are without a doubt the black Africans who’ve been residing in Libya for decades. This is what the francophone weekly newsmagazine Jeune Afrique reports.
Blacks from neighboring countries living in Libya form a big group of people. According to Black Agenda Report they represent 1.5 million people of a total population of 6.5 million (representing 23% of the total population). Still, there are no official figures as many black Africans in Libya are illegal.
All blacks in Libya do not have an immigration background though, many of them are also native Lybians from the Sahara. They have been confronted with racism for centuries. During Gaddafi’s ruthless dictatorship this racism wasn’t as strong. Gaddafi had PanAfrican ambitions and considered Libya a part of Africa as a whole. To illustrate this Gaddafi stated In September 1998 that "Africa is a paradise, I would like Libya to become a black country. Hence, I recommend to Libyan men to marry only black women, and to Libyan women to marry black men."
Today blacks’s presence in Libya is linked to Gaddafi’s policy. Therefore they are persecuted by the rebels and victims of civilian aggression. Black people in Libya are suspect and viewed as mercenaries, traitors working for Gaddafi. Black Agenda Report cites the Ethiopian Tedla Afsaw: “Muammar Gaddafi haters are taking revenge on black Africans for money Gaddafi threw for many African dictators. The mob attacked and killed many Africans including Ethiopians for being only black.”
Many mercenaries in Gaddafi’s current army are black Africans. But the black civilians living in rebel controlled Libya have nothing to do with these mercenaries. Still, they became the scapegoat for all troubles Libya is going through. Blacks presence is linked to Gaddafi’s Panafrican policy. Blacks are therefore interpreted as sympathizers of Gaddafi.
Since the start of the Libyan revolution 700,000 people left Libya. The best known refugees are those arriving in Europe, more in particular on the Italian island of Lampadusa. These refugees only represent a small group of 12,900 people though. Most of the 700,000 refugees are blacks who left for the desert to extremely poor and disrupted regions in Tsjaad and Sudan. Many linger in the border area. Below I will give the figures of Libyan refugees as reported by the UN:
43,800 crossed the border to Tsjaad
Only 12,900 (mostly Libyans) went to Europe (Lampadusa)
You can find more information on this topic on following links:
Report from the International Federation for Human Rights
Figures and Map (OCHA-UN)
Black Agenda Report
An early post dating back to February
An elaborated blogpost on the topic with more stories