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The Libyans and Racism


By: Yousef Al-Azzabi*

Are Libyans racist? What are the types of their racism on the ground? Are there types of racism other than religious, sexual and sectarian? What about regional racism, could we call it

Yousef Al-Azzabi
Yousef Al-Azzabi

political racism? Where does Libyan reality stand from it?

I found a brief definition to racism online that says “racism is in all human beings; apparent and covered.

Racism is a tangible reality that can be observed by the naked eye”. It named 4 types of racism; sectarian, religious, sexual and for races.

It described sectarian racism of being the one of the most dangerous types; it emerges in societies that contain more than one sectarian with common factors like language, customs and traditions. Sectarian racism could cause the spread of strife inside nations, which could also lead to civil wars. It also leads to wasting minorities’ rights, disintegrating groups depending on recalling old historic stories and disputes over land and right to claim economic resources amongst regions and tribes, in addition to easily created reasons that create hostility.

What made me right this article in such an open way are 2 news stories I read this week on the internet. One accuses Mr Ibrahim Dabbashi of racism and strangeness as it said he stopped money transference to the new central bank in Albaida, not caring about Dabbashi public supportive stance to the House of Representatives, HoR, the army and the operation of dignity. The other news story accused Zuwara city of shutting down Mellita gas complex, we aren’t sure if it did or the reason behind it, such accusation will affect the city’s economy and the citizen’s life. It also skipped pointing at different actors that closed oil fields and ports in East and West, out of fairness, such actors are continuing their doings on everybody’s watch and incapability of commenting or taking action.

Both examples are only an introduction, examples on racism of individuals and officials are plenty. Since Cyrenaica was a state, Libya became a kingdom, then United Kingdom, it contained political racism that exceeds the upper definition to include racist partnership for a region over the other inside one nation I all life aspects and levels concerning individuals’ and regions’ best.

All Libyan regions hold racism to the others, if Fezzan area doesn’t do so due to their kindness, as I believe, but dealings among Fezzan people show clear racist signs. I will try to find proofs from our modern history.

The Libyan state that started with Cyrenaica’s independence practiced clear racism continued in different forms for Cyrenaica’s good. The Libyans and the whole world know that the Libyan resistance to the Italian colonialism took place only in Cyrenaica and by Alsenussi’s and Omar al-Mokhtar besides West and South. The state and its authorities portrayed Omar Al-Mokhtar only and his resistance, it even named main streets in Benghazi and Tripoli after him, history books mention him, millions were spent on shrines for his memory and a movie produced to document his life. While remains of Soliman Albarony’s body stayed in India, and Bashir Al-sadawy’s in Najd till the past regime restored them to be buried in Libya.  Concerning street names; where are the credits to Al-Swihly, AL-Marayed, Belkhair and Ke’bar and others, only small streets were named after them.

In history, the nascent poor country was continuously blackmailed by Eastern tribes to gain any possible privileges in salaries and housing. Sheikhs complained to the king who started to get irritated of demands and obstacle and decided to unite the country and end states in 1963. But what really happened? Did the country get rid of these demands? Never, merging the administration promoted most Cyrenaica employees, gave Tripoli employees high jobs, houses, furniture and cars with drivers and turned a blind eye on their commitment to administrational and financial laws; an Eastern employee got all unlawful aids from an Eastern supervisor. If another objects, let’s say a Western he will get none but order to care his own business.

Another example, when oil emerged in Libya, international advisors started to plan development in Libya, but things didn’t go according to the plans but according to “tit for tat” a hospital in Tripoli should be replied to by another in Benghazi.  Benghazi hosted the National Oil Corporation, the Libyan aviation and university. Constitution drafters were told to make Benghazi an equivalent capital to Tripoli. The nascent poor country then had 2 capitals because of regional intolerance.

Such feelings still stand today, it became fiercer and clearer. Oil is for Cyrenaica and it should have an additional share, capital must be Benghazi, in addition to the parliament, the government and their chiefs, and embassies. Days ago, news reported that a number of Eastern cities’ mayors convened and sent Benghazi’s mayor to the constitution drafting committed to demand Benghazi to be the capital otherwise federalism, the red valley and division would prevail.

The UN envoy’s plan failed because it didn’t satisfy eastern parties concerning having Eastern deputy to the Prime Minister in the presidential council.

In East, like in West and South, old sensitivities between regions, tribes and persons are categorized as racism. Since collage days, we knew that Benghazi is the contrary to Derna, Al-braasa is contrary to Al-Abaidat, and the Westerners have other rules. But we must record that Easterners have always been supportive to each other in the time of need and abroad.

I recall that I was in Tripoli at a dear friend’s probably from the East, suddenly the doorbell rang, and there was a man who introduced himself as being from Benghazi, adding that he inquired from residents of the area if there was an Eastern who lives here because he needs help he couldn’t ask from Western resident he met, he then had his inquiry met and shared launch with us.

In West and South of Libya, there is no this persistence to take everything possible. Such racist look isn’t present in people from Tripoli and Fezzan as they accept and respect whatever the country imposes. Of course there is much racist sensitivity amongst Tripoli inhabitants, Arab and Tamazight, Algebaliah, ther are actually natural accepted lines, and every part says what he wants about the other without hostility. Of course, this analysis is in terms of origin, because past history entered the ethnic conflict in a sectarian civil war. What happened in the past year almost led to the same end except for interventions of the wise? But the same vision stands; Tamazight actions are doubted and amplified like what happened lately when they elected a council. Others live day and night on the tone of Arabism; the Tripoli Arabic radio, Arab Maghreb, the Arab League, even an Arab coffee, but nearly no one criticizes it, what has been written in the books of history curricula is also similar.

Back when I was a student in Gherian school, we were good friends from variable cities, we had good times and jokes, a student from Zintan, Salem Jweely, used to call me “grandpa’s enemy” and I feel him the same. Even after we graduated we kept meeting in Tripoli and remember those days and jokes that no one doubted the other’s intention for them.

Let every Libyan search inside himself for racism, its type, degree, as he definitely has some. In sometimes and small amounts it mayn’t be harmful, but the worse of it is what spread across the nation and is controlled by selfishness which is what our country suffers now. Someone commented on the attack on the foreign ministry in ALbaida saying that “our regions and tribalism especially the racist of it can’t be used to build sovereign authorities on”. How many times were those authorities attacked for individual interests? Egypt has 2 embassies that each serves a tribe not the state.

Latest events in Tripoli serve as a best example deepening tribal racism; an armed disagreement between armed organizations fed dispute between Almisrati and Alkikly, some citizens were arrested only for being from Misrata. Examples in recent years are many.

The Libyans are racist, it intensifies and fades but it is there, and if it isn’t gotten rid of the Libyan nation won’t be on the right path, and all risks will surround it from every side. Let all be only Libyans so that we can build our modern state.

*A Libyan Writer

Translated By LIBYAPROSPECT: Source