Berenice Stories

Short Stories by John Oakes

Archive for November 2012

MISURATANS AND THE BLACK TRIBE OF TAWERGHA. (A fourth in the Libyan Tribes series).UPDATE 30th January 2015

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In Libya today Tawergha is a ghost town 38 kilometres from Misurata on the road to Sirte. In August of 2011, Misuratan militias broke out of the brutal siege of their city by Colonel Gaddafi’s forces and attacked their neighbours in Tawergha on whom the late dictator had once lavished money and favour. Accused of crimes against Misuratan civilians during the siege, all 35,000 or so residents of Tawergha fled and their town was systematically looted and destroyed by vengeful Misuratans. (Gadaffi’s forces had laagered in Tawergha whilst conducting the siege of Misurata and some of the young men of the town joined them in the fighting. Accusations of rape have been levied at them, though not yet substantiated.)

Tawergha was mostly populated with black Libyans, a legacy of its 19th-century origins as a transit town in the trans-Saharan slave trade. Now, on the gates of many their deserted and vandalized homes Misuratans have scrawled the words “slaves” and “negroes.” (John Wright in his book, The Trans Saharan Slave Trade, suggests that Misurata may have survived as a quiet, unmolested, slaving centre until the very end of the 19th century, though how the descendents of slaves came to form a community 38 kilometers southeast of Misurata and survive as a clan or tribe for so many years is a mystery.)

There are disturbing allegations circulating in the media. For example, Sam Dagher of the Wall Street Journal reported on 18th September 2011 that Mahmoud Jibril, the Libyan National Transitional Council Prime Minister, made this statement at a public meeting at the Misurata town hall: “Regarding Tawergha, my own viewpoint is that nobody has the right to interfere in this matter except the people of Misurata.”…..“This matter can’t be tackled through theories and textbook examples of national reconciliation like those in South Africa, Ireland and Eastern Europe.” Sam Dagher himself witnessed the burning of more than a dozen homes in the town.

Temporary sites for displaced Tawergha have grown up and still remain in Libya. The UNHCR reports that some 20,000 of them have been registered in sites in Tripoli, Benghazi, Tarhouna and other smaller towns across the country. Another 7,000 or so were discovered in the south, near the town of Sebha. There must be some who remain unaccounted for – either staying with relatives or friends or hiding in the desert, afraid to emerge.
According to a report in the Libya Herald dated 8th November 2012 about eleven thousand displaced Tawergha people are currently in seven unsatisfactory camps in Benghazi where the unsanitary conditions are aggravated by rain and cold. Concern is growing that Tawergha children are the victims of discrimination as schools and universities are refusing to accept them.

The Libyan Herald report also states that Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the former president of the National Transitional council, and interim Prime Minister Abdurrahim Al-Kib told the Tawerghans that it is still not the right time for them to return to their town since the authorities are not yet in a position to guarantee their safety. Their future is bleak. Today the vandalised town of Tawergha is surrounded by armed militiamen from Misurata. They are tasked to ensure that no one returns. For them Tawergha no longer exists.

John Oakes

For books by John Oakes see… (USA): http://www.amazon.com/John-Oakes/e/B001K86D3O/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 ….. (UK): http://www.amazon.co.uk/John-Oakes/e/B001K86D3O/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

Update 28th January 2013
It seems that Misurata is still largely in the hands of militias.
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/01/28/misrata-clamps-down-weapons-ban/

Update 20th March 2013
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH EXPRESSES CONCERN ABOUT TAWERGHANS AND ADDS: “Foreign governments that intervened militarily in Libya under a UN Security Council resolution to protect civilians forcefully condemned violations by the Gaddafi government but have failed to challenge effectively the ongoing abuses against Tawerghans and others”.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/03/20/hwr-calls-on-libya-to-stop-revenge-crimes-against-tawerghans-wants-un-sanctions-against-those-involved%e2%80%a8/

Update 18th May 2013
A mass grave has been discovered in Tawergha.
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/05/17/vigil-in-misrata-after-discovery-of-mass-grave/

Update 21st June 2013

Libyan PM tells Tawerghans not to take unilateral action and return to their home town until issues are settled concerning their perceived support for Gaddafi when Misurata was under siege. It is world refugee week!:

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/06/20/dont-go-back-to-tawergha-yet-zeidan-tells-its-people/

Update 24th June 2013

Tawergans agree to postpone their return to their home town:
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/06/24/crisis-difused-as-tawergha-return-delayed/

Update 2nd October 2013

This – about Tawerghans today is definitely worth your attention:

http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/aljazeeraworld/2013/10/road-tawergha-201310191859343221.html

Update 30th January 2015

This out today and hopeful

An UNSMIL statement reads as follows:
“In line with the positive environment that prevailed at the meeting [in Geneva], the UN facilitated an agreement between the municipalities of Misrata and Tawergha on the following points:

Establishment of a committee from the local council of Tawergha and whoever they call upon to help in visiting the prisons in the City of Misrata and to receive assurances about their conditions, and to review with the responsible authorities the charges against them and their legal status.
The right of the people of Tawergha to return to their land through the establishment of a committee to discuss the mechanism to achieve that on the ground and to remove all obstacles and prepare all the appropriate conditions.

There was agreement that UNSMIL will follow up this process in cooperation with the two sides.”

LIBYA – THE OBEIDAT (A third post about Libyan tribes) UPDATED 12th March 2017.

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The 17th February 2011 revolt against Muammar Gaddafi hinged, to some extent, on tribal loyalties. Following his fall from power tribal loyalties are reasserting themselves. Whilst a great deal of attention has been focussed on the armed militias which are hijacking the Libyan democratic process the importance of tribal allegiance tends to be overlooked. This ‘post’ sets out to examine the role of the Obeidat tribe in the rebellion and its aftermath. Firstly, members of the Obeidat tribe identify themselves by adding al Obeidi to their name. There is a spelling problem. Obeidat is the current form but Obaydat, Abaydat,Abaidat or ‘Ubaydat are also correct and appear occasionally.

(The man who murdered 22 people and injured 59 others in Manchester on Monday 22nd May 2017 has been named as Salman Ramadan Abedi, a Mancunian of Libyan descent. It is very likley that Abedi is a corruption Abeid, a sub section of the Obeidat tribe originating from Derna.)

A young law student, Iman al-Obeidi, entered the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli on 26th March 2011 and found some members of the international press corps in the restaurant. She told them that she had been gang raped by Gaddafi’s soldiers who had arrested her on the Tripoli to Tajura road. Her story found its way on to international TV and the furore that ensued drew attention to the plight of rape victims in Libya and the brutality of Gaddafi’s loyalist. Iman was born in Tobruk, the port in Eastern Libya, where the late King Idris preferred to live quietly amongst the amongst loyal Obeidat tribesmen.

Also in February 2011 Maj. Gen. Suleiman Mahmud al-Obeidi, commander of the Tobruk military region, defected to the anti Gadaffi rebels along with the Tobruk military garrison. More significantly Staff Maj. Gen. Abdel Fattah Younis al-Obeidi, Gadaffi’s old friend and interior minister, announced his defection to the rebels on Al Arabiya television on 23rd February 2011. He became the front line commander of the rebel army but was murdered under strange circumstances on 29th July 2011.
The Obeidat tribe had opted to join the 17th February anti-Gaddafi rebel confederation based in Benghazi. Whilst acknowledging the role of personal ambition, I argue that both of these senior officers are very likely to have been under pressure from their tribe when they made their decisions. Both officers had clearly received assurances from their tribe that their actions on behalf of the Gaddafi regime would be forgotten; a not inconsiderable factor, especially in the case of a minister of the interior. As a result of their defection rifts occurred amongst the senior officers loyal to Gaddafi and his power began to crumble. Their defection also gave weight to the rebel claim for assistance from the NATO powers.
Maj. Gen. Suleiman Mahmud al-Obeidi’s defection secured for the rebels the port of Tobruk and the Marsa El Hariga oil terminal. Crude oil from Sarir field is pumped through a 400 km pipeline to the terminal which has three berths with a loading capacity of 8,000 tons/hour for tankers of up to 120,000 metric tons deadweight. (There was a loaded tanker in the port at the time of the major general’s defection and the oil it carried was sold with the aid of Qatar to help fund the rebellion.)
Al Obeidat is the largest tribe in East Libya and its homeland, its watan, is extensive, varied and often difficult. It stretches from the strategically important border with Egypt in the east to the highlands above Derna in the west and includes the key port of Tobruk. This was known as the Marmarica region of Eastern Libya.
During the 18th century it pushed the Awlad ‘Ali tribe out of Libya into Egypt’s western desert but cordial relations still exist between the two tribes though the Egyptian border has become unruly and arms and drug smuggling has increased alarmingly.
The Obeitat is a ‘Saadi’ tribe which traces its ancestry to the founding mother of the nine aristocratic tribes of Eastern Libya. In theory all the true members of the tribe own their territory by right and are, therefore, Hurr or free. Infact there are fifteen sub-tribes which have their own homelands and also their own sheiks. These sub-tribes tend to act independently and there are often disputes amongst them. When there is a major threat to the tribe as a whole they tend to act in unison but not always. This is the case for most of the Libyan tribes and that is one of the reasons it is difficult to govern the country. Other tribes that use the Obeidat territory do so as tenants. They are known as Marabtin or client tribes. There are a number of these client tribes, for example the Qat’an, the Taraki and the Huta, which use the Obiedat homeland on territory for which they have long ceased to pay a fee.

Another such is the Minifa tribe to which the Libyan hero Omar Mukhtar belonged.
Omar Mukhtar was a sheik of the Sufi Senussi order which was led by King Idris al Senussi. It formed a theocracy which knitted the tribes of Eastern Libya together. King Idris gave prominence to the Eastern tribes and the Obeidat was loyal to the Senussi order. Gaddafi destroyed the Senussi order along with the power of the nine Saadi tribes. These tribes will be looking to redress the balance of power in their favour, a factor for the new government to address soon.

John Oakes – 6th November 2012
For books by John Oakes see… (USA): http://www.amazon.com/John-Oakes/e/B001K86D3O/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 ….. (UK): http://www.amazon.co.uk/John-Oakes/e/B001K86D3O/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

Update 10th November 2012

A very interesting development in the trial of those accused of murdering  Staff Maj. Gen. Abdel Fattah Younis al-Obeidi. See this:-

http://www.libyaherald.com/2012/11/10/younis-murder-judge-orders-jalil-to-appear-in-benghazi-court/

Update 8th January 2013

The trial of a member of the Obeidat has just commenced in Tripoli and will be worth following:
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/01/07/court-cases-adjourned/

Update 9th January 2013
Some details of the killing of Gen. Abdel Fattah Younis al-Obeidi
http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2013/01/02/feature-02

Update 25th January 2013

The Benghazi ‘hit list’ has become world news. One senior officer assassinated in that city in September 2012 was a member of the Obeidat. Air Force Colonel Badr Khamis Al-Obedi was assassinated by unknown gunmen as he left the city’s Saida Aisha mosque after prayers.

Update 30th July 2013

The new Libya Chief of Staff has just been announced. He is Colonel Abdulsalam Jad Allah Al-Salheen Al-Obaidi.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/07/30/new-chief-of-staff-appointed/

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/07/31/new-chief-of-staff-promoted-then-sworn-in/

Update 30th October 2013

Another twist to the mystery surrounding the killing of Gen. Abdel Fattah Younis al-Obeidi:
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/10/29/two-killed-five-critically-injured-in-shooting-at-benghazi-protest/#axzz2jCRu70X3