Being black in Libya

Being black in Libya is pretty shit. The video currently doing the rounds shows black Africans tied up and forced to eat Gaddafi’s flag. This isn’t new news, though; it’s been a constant undercurrnent of the war in Libya. During the war there were continual reports of rape, beatings and killing. Here’s one eyewitness account:

We left behind our friends from Chad. We left behind their bodies. We had 70 or 80 people from Chad working for our company. They cut them dead with pruning shears and axes, attacking them, saying you’re providing troops for Gadhafi. The Sudanese, the Chadians were massacred.

Before the war, black Africans formed one fifth of Libya’s population. Some were mercenaries fighting for Gaddafi — the common excuse for later attacks on them. Many weren’t. They were migrant workers, encouraged by Gaddafi in his persona as Africa’s benevolant ‘king of kings’. Or they had tried to reach Europe, were stopped in the Mediterranean, and sent to Libya under a cooperation agreement between Gaddafi and the EU. Now, the bulk are doing whatever they can to get out of Libya:

While a few Nigerians look relieved to return home and laugh with comrades, the majority are in despair. After a costly and arduous car trip with smugglers over the desert into Libya, they have spent most days searching for piecemeal day labour, and living in perpetual fear of being harassed, robbed and detained by the Libyan militias policing the streets. They will now return to families – often indebted to smugglers – empty-handed.

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