The BBC recently reported the following:
“The 30,000 people living in a town in northern Libya have been driven out of their homes, in what appears to have been an act of revenge for their role in the three-month siege of the city of Misrata.
For three months between early March and the middle of May, the forces of Muammar Gaddafi laid siege to Misrata. These forces were partly based in Tawergha, and the people of the town are accused of being complicit in the attempt to put down the uprising in the city.
The fighters of Misrata eventually prevailed, breaking out of their battered city, and Misratan brigades made up part of the force that overran the capital Tripoli in August.
In the middle of August, between the end of the siege and the killing of Gaddafi, Misratan forces drove out everyone living in Tawergha, a town of 30,000 people. Human rights groups have described this as an act of revenge…collective punishment possibly amounting to [ethnic cleansing &] a crime against humanity.
The BBC report continued:
Tawerghans are mostly descendants of black slaves, generally poor, were patronised by the Gaddafi regime and were broadly supporters of his regime.
What happened in Misrata and Tawergha…can also be seen as an example of the victors in the war that overthrew Gaddafi imposing summary and brutal justice on some of the communities that sided with the former regime and were vanquished.
As you enter Tawergha from the main road, the name is erased from the road sign. It is now eerily silent but for the incongruously beautiful bird song. There were a few cats skulking about, and one skeletal, limping dog.
Building after building is burnt and ransacked. The possessions of the people who lived here are scattered about, suggesting desperate flight.
Buildings show the scars of heavy bombardment, some are burnt out shells, some are just abandoned. The town is empty of humans, apart from a small number of Misratan militiamen preventing the return of the town’s residents.
Those that escaped the town are now scattered across the country. As many as 15,000 people are in Hun, in central Libya. Some are in Sabha and Benghazi, and more than 1,000 are in a refugee camp in Tripoli.
…it does not appear that anyone is being held to account for the events in Tawergha.
British journalist Andrew Gilligan visited Tawergha after the cleansing of its residents and found many slogans painted in and around the city (consistent with the accounts of anti-Gaddafi fighters and commanders whom he quoted) which made reference to the dark pigmentation of many Tawergha denizens.
One sign referred to the Misrata Brigade as “the brigade for purging slaves [and] black skin“…
Human rights groups have documented some of the many atrocities committed by Misratans against Tawerghans.
They include beating to death a mentally ill man, torturing prisoners into false confessions and abusing prisoners held in detention.
“Abuse included the use of electric shock and beatings, including beatings on the soles of the feet (falaga).”
One Tawerghan detainee described his ordeal, saying:
“They beat me on my feet every night for 15 minutes, and some people hit my backside and my back. For four days I couldn’t sit. They poured cold water on top of me, then took an electric stick and put it on my shoulders, back, and arms each night for ten minutes. It shook me. I can’t describe it… They used an engine belt, a plastic hose, a wooden stick, a horse whip…. I had blood in my urine for four or five days.”
Witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch described the following:
“[We] saw guards whip one dark-skinned Tawerghan detainee while forcing him to run around a courtyard and then telling him to climb a pole while shouting, ‘Monkey needs a banana.’”
I searched for a condemnation, of even a mention, of the ethnic cleansing of Tawergha at the site of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and found nothing.
Upon searching the Guardian’s site, I found only one report which focused on what happened in Tawargha.
The story all but ignored the crimes committed there despite the fact that other news media outlets, and human rights organizations, had been reporting about and documenting the forced expulsion and violence against the residents of Tawargha since mid August.
(Indeed, reports of racism, lynchings and explicit calls by Libyan rebel leaders to ethnically cleans Libyan blacks, such as the residents of Tawergha, were reported in July.)
The lone Guardian story (Tawargha: fires blaze and blood lingers in Libyan ghost town) by Chris Stephen on Sept. 13, suggested that the residents of Tawergha fled the town voluntarily!
Ugly racism and ethnic cleansing of a black minority by Arab Muslims: a disturbing omen for the future of the ‘Arab Spring’ the Guardian will certainly never report.