By Against the Empire
Ever since the rebel opposition forces in Libya have taken control of the cities, there have been reports that have surfaced regarding torture, racial violence and repression. Coming across some recent articles regarding Benghazi, the last rebel stronghold in Libya, I can’t say that I’m amazed at the police state that they have designed and who is in power in Benghazi. It was no doubt a complete error on the part of so-called “progressives” to take the side of these rebel forces (never mind those who hailed them as “revolutionaries”).
“The young gunmen at the roadblock took no chances. They put a knife to the throat of the driver before hauling the three men and one woman from the car, dragging them through the street into a nearby mosque for a rough round of interrogation….
Libya’s young opposition movement is rounding up suspected opponents and delivering its own brutal form of justice in a city living in fear that they have been penetrated by a fifth column of government loyalists.
Rebel leaders admit that dozens of Gaddafi supporters have been arrested or killed.
Every night, gangs of vigilantes assemble at makeshift roadblocks – made from piles of rubble, oil drums or piping – to control entry and exit from their neighbourhoods.
Many residents are now too frightened to drive through the dark streets at night, fearing a shakedown or worse at the proliferating checkpoints.
“If they don’t know who you are, and are in their part of town, and you have a nice car, then they are going to think you are a car thief or they say you are with Gaddafi,” said one driver who now stays close to home after dark.” 2
“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.
For a month, gangs of young gunmen have roamed the city, rousting Libyan blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa from their homes and holding them for interrogation as suspected mercenaries or government spies.
Over the last several days, the opposition has begun rounding up men accused of fighting as mercenaries for Kadafi’s militias as government forces pushed toward Benghazi. It has launched nightly manhunts for about 8,000 people named as government operatives in secret police files seized after internal security operatives fled in the face of the rebellion that ended Kadafi’s control of eastern Libya last month.
“We know who they are,” said Abdelhafed Ghoga, the chief opposition spokesman. He called them “people with bloodstained hands” and “enemies of the revolution.”
One young man from Ghana bolted from the prisoners queue. He shouted in English at an American reporter: “I’m not a soldier! I work for a construction company in Benghazi! They took me from my house … “
A guard shoved the prisoner back toward the cells.
“Go back inside!” he ordered.
The guard turned to the reporter and said: “He lies. He’s a mercenary.”
The Ghanaian was one of 25 detainees from Chad, Niger, Sudan, Mali and Ghana described by opposition officials as mercenaries, though several of them insisted they were laborers. The officials declined to say what would become of them.
One of the accused shown to journalists was Alfusainey Kambi, 53, a disheveled Gambian wearing a bloodstained sport shirt and military fatigue trousers. He said he had been dragged from his home and beaten by three armed men who he said also raped his wife. A dirty bandage covered a wound on his forehead.
Khaled Ben Ali, a volunteer with the opposition council, berated Kambi and accused him of lying. Ali said Kambi hit his head on a wall while trying to escape.
He commanded the prisoner to comment on his treatment in the detention center.
Kambi paused and considered his answer. Finally, he glanced warily up at Ali and spoke.
“Nobody beat me here,” he said in a faint, weary tone. “I have no problems here.”
These reports can be directly corroborated by this video from Al-Jazeera talking about how Black immigrants in Libya lived under complete fear of the rebels. Their businesses were burned to the ground, they were tortured, they were killed on the spot for being alleged “mercenaries”, etc.
Black Agenda Report expounded on this topic earlier this month when it was revealed that:
“What has become apparent from reports filtering out of the country is that many of the 1.5 million black African migrant workers trapped in Libya feel themselves under racial siege, hunted by what Black Americans would immediately recognize as lynch mobs – “pogrom” is another word that springs to mind – especially in the rebel-held areas.
The testimony of black African victims is most disturbing. “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,” 60-year-old Julius Kiluu, an African building supervisor, told Reuters. Even in Tripoli, where the regime is not in full control of neighborhoods, Somalis told journalists they were “being hunted on suspicion of being mercenaries” and “feel trapped and frightened to go out.” Ethiopians told of being “dragged from their apartments, beaten up and showed to the world as mercenaries.” Ethiopian News and Opinions reported that “Muammar Gadhafi haters are taking revenge on black Africans for money Gadhafi threw for many African dictators. The mob attacked and killed many Africans including Ethiopians for being only black.”
The article then goes on to explain many other accounts of racial violence by the so-called “revolutionaries” and “freedom fighters. From a class standpoint, the opposition is not revolutionary. If we are to look again at the first article linked in this article, from Telegraph, we will see a striking passage there.
“The rebel’s interim government is made up of professionals academics, businessmen and lawyers often educated in the UK or US who make all the right noises about democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”
So here we have a leadership comprised of members of the privileged sectors of Libyan society but that’s not all. Just yesterday, it was reported that the new financial minister of the Libyan opposition is a senior lecturer in the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington. To quote the spokeswoman for the Libyan Provisional Transitional National Council, Iman Bugaighis;
“Tarhouni understands the Western mentality.”
I think that says it all, really, but there are some of us who haven’t been duped. Unfortunately, many of the “progressives” and “leftists” in this country still condemn Gaddafi as the first order of business. Until it is recognized that the Libyan opposition is not to be cheered, romanticized or admired, the anti-imperialist movement of this country can not demand an end to bombs being dropped in Libya, an end to the armed conflict there or the right of the Libyan people to determine the course of their countries future. No, we will, instead, stand by idly as an insignificant minority in the heart of world imperialism.
On a world scale, it seems to be Venezuela and Cuba leading the way for the demonization of Western imperialism for their atrocities they have been committing in Libya for the past week or so as well as their support for the opposition rebels. Today, Venezuela proving itself (like it always does) to be a real, tangible progressive force in this world, announced that they would not recognize the Libyan opposition.
What comes next will surely be crucial in understanding Libya’s fate. If the police state in Benghazi continues the way it is now, this could be a precursor for the kind of society that the Western-bred intellectuals and other affluent individuals in power could’ve only dreamed of previously. A society where neo-liberalism is rampant and the oil reserves are milked like cattle for the pockets and investments of a few oil tycoons. A society where every piece of land, mineral and resource is plundered while Libya falls from the highest in Human Development in Africa to much lower. Needless to say, the potential for a progressive, egalitarian society which fits the needs of the majority of Libyans will be rolled back on a scale never before seen since 1969.