Among Libya's homeless

During the revolution the Tawarga people found themselves besieged by forces loyal to Gaddafi, the former Libyan leader who was killed in October at the height of the uprising.


    In a disused naval base on the shores of Tripoli amidst decaying buildings is a curious sight.

    In one of the utilitarian structures, more used to naval men discussing naval things, children sing and dance.

    They are sons and daughters of the Tawarga people. Tawarga is a mid-size town south east of the Libyan capital, Tripoli. 

    The residents came from all over sub-Saharan Africa and settled there generations ago. 

    During the revolution, the Tawarga people found themselves besieged by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, the former Libyan leader who was killed in October at the height of the uprising. Gaddafi forces used the strategic location as a staging post against the rebels.

    One of the Tawarga leaders is Ahmed Mohammed. I ask him what happened during the fighting. 

    "It was August the 12th when heavy shelling hit the town. We knew Gaddafi forces were in, and we as a people were divided," he says. 

    "We were divided in half - [one] half supporting Gaddafi [and the other] half supporting the rebels. We fled from the town all across Libya, and we haven't seen it since, we want to go back. We are Libyan, and the mistakes of the past must be addressed and we must move on."  

    As he talks, the singing and dancing gets louder and  louder.

    The songs are laments, albeit joyful and full of hope, to the town they fled from, the town they so desperately want to go back to.

    But getting back is hard. Some in Libya blame the Tawarga for being pro-Gaddafi.

    In particular, the Tawarga are blamed for atrocities against the citizens of a neighbouring town, Misrata, which saw some of the heaviest fighting of the revolution. 

    In a country where war wounds are still open that's a major problem. 

    The interim Libyan government has promised a reconciliation process that will allow all of Libyan society to forgive and move on.

    But it's hard moving on when you are far from home, and not allowed back as is the case with the Tawarga. 

    The levels of mistrust between the different members of Libyan society are only to be expected - after all this country has emerged from an armed uprising that pitted Libyan against Libyan.

    The Tawarga do not deny that some of them were pro-Gaddafi, but in the heat of revolution they say they were forced to be by the sheer number of Gaddafi forces in the town.

    The Tawarga people want their plight heard. They want to go home. 

    But many in Libya say it's simply too soon for them to go home that they must be go home only after the reconciliation process. 

    Reconciling all of the tribes, all of Libyan society, will be an important step in rebuilding Libya. 

    Getting the Tawarga will go a long way to securing that goal. 

    While that all sounds perfectly reasonable, when you are stuck in a naval compound every day with no idea when you will go home, each day can feel like a lifetime.



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