Sunday, March 06, 2011

Libyan Counter-revolutionary U.S.-backed Rebels Target Darker People for Racist Attacks

No Tahrir in Benghazi: A Racist Pogrom Rages On against Black Africans in Libya

by Glen Ford

American progressives and peace forces have been in a state of joyous delirium in recent weeks as they experienced vicarious, televised popular victories in Tunisia and Egypt. Watching unarmed crowds achieve tentative victories against entrenched, U.S.-backed regimes produced a kind of giddiness on this side of the ocean -- an otherworldly feeling that, somehow, the foreign outposts of the U.S. empire might suddenly disintegrate by popular demand. But now, the U.S. naval war machine lies off the coast of Libya, and it is time for the American anti-war movement -- such as it is -- to remember who is the biggest enemy of peace on planet Earth: U.S. imperialism.

It is certainly not Muamar Khadafi, no matter what you think of him. And the conflict that is raging in Libya seems in important ways very much unlike the events in Tunisia and Egypt. The anti-Khadafi forces were armed from almost the very beginning of the uprising and included elements of the military. Unlike the opponents of Egypt's President Mubarak, we know very little about who these rebel Libyans are -- except that they have been getting lots of material help from the Americans and the French and other Europeans. It is also becoming clearer by the day that a vicious, racist pogrom is raging against the 1.5 million sub-Saharan Black African migrant workers who do the hard jobs in Libya, work that is rejected by the relatively prosperous Libyans. Hundreds of Black migrant workers have already been killed by anti-Khadafi forces -- yet the U.S. corporate media express absolutely no concern for their safety. One Western report noted that large numbers of Black Africans were seized in Benghazi and were assumed to have been hanged. That is a war crime, whether these men were soldiers or migrant workers, but the Western correspondent seemed unconcerned. One suspects there are many atrocities occurring in the rebel-held areas of Libya, especially against people that are not members of the locally dominant tribe. Benghazi is not Tahrir Square in Cairo.

How convenient that most of the Libyan voices we hear on corporate media call for armed western intervention. How in synch with the increasing American and European threats of "no-fly zones" and amphibious naval actions -- all, of course, for humanitarian reasons, rather than having something to do with the fact that Libya is a major producer of some of the world's sweetest crude oil.

American United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, who is at least as warlike as Condoleezza Rice, is visibly eager to invade Libya under humanitarian pretexts. The U.S. is the last country in a moral position to criticize Khadafi for his treatment of Arab civilians. Remember Fallujah, the Iraqi city of a quarter million people that the U.S. leveled after first bombing its hospitals, inflicting many thousands of casualties. If most Americans don't remember Fallujah, the Arab world certainly does.

Many Americans that claim to be anti-war are actually just looking for a U.S. military action that is to their liking. Fortunately, the United National Antiwar Committee, UNAC, understands that U.S. imperialism is the ultimate enemy of peace, and says "no" to the U.S. invasion of Libya.
Glen Ford is Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report. The text above, first published in Black Agenda Report on 2 March 2011, is a transcript of his Black Agenda Radio Commentary on the same day; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes. Cf. "Africans Hunted Down in 'Liberated' Libya" (afrol News, 28 February 2011); Yoshie Furuhashi, "Black Africans Live in Fear in 'Free Libya'" (MRZine, 2 March 2011); and "HRW: No Mercenaries in Eastern Libya" (Radio Netherlands Worldwide, 2 March 2011).

Black Africans Live in Fear in "Free Libya"

by Yoshie Furuhashi

Al Jazeera reports that Black African workers now live in fear in the rebel-held territories in Libya. Some of them have been attacked by mobs, others have been imprisoned, and some of their homes and workshops have been torched. "Many African workers say they felt safer under the Gaddafi regime," says Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, reporting from Benghazi.

Before this video report, there have already been warning signs: "Among the spray-painted graffiti in Beida, some denounce foreign workers and call Mr Qaddafi a Jew," as noted by The Economist a week ago for instance.

"What we are looking at here," says Rowland, "is the ugly face of the revolution." Al Jazeera reports on this "ugly face" as if the channel had nothing to do with its emergence, chalking it up to "racism" that "when law and order break down . . . can rise to the surface." However, it is none other than Al Jazeera (together with Western corporate media) that, by conveying Libyan rebel testimonies without independently verifying their accuracy, has been spreading the very rumors that it now pretends to deplore: "Eastern Libya is rife with rumors about African mercenaries brought in by Gaddafi to put down the uprising."

If Al Jazeera now sees an ugly face in Libya, it is only looking at the face of a monster for whose birth it served as chief midwife, passing off a neoliberal pro-imperialist civic-military coup d'état against a neoliberal pro-imperialist regime -- aka the sorriest of bourgeois faction fights -- as a "revolution"1 and inciting people to join it. That is very clever of the Gulf Arab ruling classes, whose interests now clearly shape what Al Jazeera says and what it doesn't say. There is certainly no better way to disfigure the Arab Revolt that is now threatening them at home.

1 It will probably take some time before the rest of the Left catches on to the counterfeit nature of the product sold to the world.

* * *

This just in from Radio Netherlands Worldwide -- "HRW: No Mercenaries in Eastern Libya" (2 March 2011):

In an interview with Radio Netherlands Worldwide in Libya, Peter Bouckaert from Human Rights Watch said he had conducted research and found no proof of mercenaries being used. Investigator Bouckaert, who has been in the region for two weeks, told RNW that he had been to Al Bayda after receiving reports that 156 mercenaries had been arrested there. The town is to the east of the city Benghazi and is also in the hands of the anti-Gaddafi protesters. The rights investigator said that what he found there were, in fact, 156 soldiers from the south of Libya and not from another African country. After talking to them he found out that they were all black Libyans of African descent. . . . According to Bouckaert, the support of the black southern Libyans for the Gaddafi regime is explicable as Gaddafi fought to counter discrimination against this group in Libyan society. . . . HRW has so far only conducted research in the east of the country which is under the control of the protesters, but it says it could well be the case that reports of mercenaries being used in the areas still under government control in the west are also inaccurate.

The Libyan rebel propaganda is being exposed for what it is, slowly but surely. . . .
Yoshie Furuhashi is Editor of MRZine. Cf. "Africans Hunted Down in 'Liberated' Libya" (afrol News, 28 February 2011).

Africans hunted down in "liberated" Libya

afrol News, 28 February - As defected army units and civilians in "liberated" eastern Libya are eager to demonstrate unity, "African mercenaries" are increasingly singled out as the enemy. Africans are systematically hunted down.

"Mercenaries" is the most used word among anti-Ghaddafi Libyans these days. It is increasingly used to describe everybody loyal to the Ghaddafi regime, while it for most people refers to "Black Africans" allegedly in the regime's service.

As one city after the other gets "liberated", mostly following the defection of Libyan army and police units, civilians and Libyan troops agree to stop mentioning the recent fights between Libyan nationals. The "mercenaries" were and are the enemy.

Sidsel Wold, an experienced journalist from Norway's 'NRK' broadcaster currently in Al-Bayda, experienced the rhetoric first-handedly. She was told that the large battle about this east Libyan city had been fought around an army barrack, which everybody referred to as being defended by "mercenaries".

Let to film the captured "mercenaries", most turned out to have an Arab appearance. The few persons of sub-Saharan African appearance were all in civilian clothes. It became clear that several of these African "mercenaries" had been captured after the fighting.

Ms Wold also witnessed and filmed the interrogation of a captured Chadian citizen by a defected army officer. The Chadian, with civilian clothes, insisted he was a normal "civilian; a worker." Asked why he and four other Africans had been observed fleeing, he said he had been "scared by the shooting."

The defected Libyan army officer clearly stated he did "not believe" him. The attempt by a group of five sub-Saharan Africans to escape the city was "suspicious" in itself. The group was kept in detention - however in seemingly humane conditions - suspected of being "mercenaries".

In Al-Bayda, the hunt-down and arbitrary arrest of sub-Saharan Africans goes on. Ms Wold also spoke to a group of Libyan youths, monitoring the streets in accordance with the city's interim authorities - made up of civilians and defected army officers. The youths openly told her they were out, trying "to catch mercenaries to hand them over to authorities."

Reports from other "liberated" Libyan cities are similar. In Benghazi last week, citizens attacked and destroyed a building housing 36 citizens from Chad, Niger and Sudan. The Africans were accused of being "mercenaries" and subsequently arrested, local residents told Western journalists.

The brave anti-Ghaddafi Libyans reporting about their fight against the regime through social media in the internet or by telephone are sending out the same message. The "Libyan Youth Movement", standing in constant phone contact with Libyans in the war zone and sending updates and videos via social media, generally refers to those still resisting the popular revolution as "mercenaries".

These sources frequently talk about interim authorities in "liberated cities" arming local youths to go after "mercenaries". There are frequent messages in a victorious tone about "mercenaries running away from protesters" and youths "catching mercenaries."

Equally disturbing, the most appalling scenes - including the butchering of Libyan children and women - are always attributed "mercenaries", seemingly in the belief that a Libyan would never do such barbaric acts. No documentation of the perpetrator is ever presented.

As the public hatred against the "black African mercenaries" is increasing, not all Africans arbitrarily captured are treated as humanely as by Al-Bayda interim authorities. There is a growing number of reports about sub-Saharan Africans being killed by lynching mobs in "liberated Libya".

For example, last week a 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."

A Sierra Leonean worker in Tripoli reported to his friend: "All black Africans are becoming targets. I write to inform you how deteriorating the condition in Tripoli is getting by the hour, especially for us black Africans who have been threatened by violence accused of siding with the regime."

"Somalis in Tripoli say they are being hunted on suspicion of being mercenaries," spokesperson Melissa Fleming of the UN's refugee agency UNHCR recently reported, adding the agency was "increasingly concerned."

'Time' journalist Abigail Hauslohner, currently in Benghazi, talked to volunteers Hayan Salaama and Idris Shebany saying they were "afraid people will attack the Africans." Workers were attacked while making their escape, they added. A Ghanaian worker added: "The Libyans, when they see the blacks, they will kill them."

Several thousands of Africans are fleeing Libya towards Niger. Those already arriving Agadéz told the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) about "the thousands of sub-Saharan Africans holed up inside their homes without any assistance at various places including Moursouk, Sabah, Misrata, Tripoli and Benghazi, desperately searching for vehicles to escape the targeted violence they feel is coming their way."

The number of sub-Saharan Africans residing in Libya is unclear, but civil society sources speak of "several hundreds of thousands" legally registered Africans. In addition, a very large number of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers are in the country.

It is widely believed that there indeed are mercenary troops in Libya, event though the proof presented is poor. Several sources speak of a secrete recruitment of mercenaries among several rebel groups the Ghaddafi regime has supported through its history; especially from the ongoing Darfur conflict.

No reliable sources are found documenting this, however. The Libyan League of Human Rights today claimed that there were around 6,000 mercenaries in Libya, "of which 3,000 are in Tripoli." But it presents no documentation.

Several videos and photos, allegedly documenting groups of mercenaries in Libya, circulate in the internet. Most tell little about the origin of these pro-Ghaddafi forces, which also could be Libyan. A few however show dark-skinned individuals - plain-clothed or uniformed - seemingly of African origin.

The few Africans caught with weapons and speaking to Western journalists claimed not to be mercenaries, but were looking for work in Libya. They claimed to have been picked up by officials and promised work in Tripoli. In the capital, they were sent to army barracks; given arms and a large sum of money and ordered to shoot at protesters.

But most sub-Saharan Africans arbitrarily detained in "liberated Libya" deny ever to have taken part in the fighting, saying they are workers or looking for work.

Stronger and stronger doubts about the existence of African mercenaries are emerging. Today, scared Ghanaians finally left to flee to Egypt said they were forced "to pose as mercenaries" by Libyans, who later posted their pictures on social media such as YouTube and Facebook.

No African government, not even the African Union (AU) - has reacted to the claims of African mercenaries in Libya, except Chad. "Chadians are not sent or recruited in Chad to serve as mercenaries in Libya," government said in a recent statement, adding that reports about Chadian mercenaries were "likely to cause serious physical and material harm to Chadians residing in Libya."

By staff writers

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