The US Can’t Stand By While Racism Ravages Libya

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Reports abound that black Libyans are being subjected to beatings, torture, rape, killings — and, in several instances, horrific public lynchings

By Rev. Jesse Jackson

Before leaving the G-20 meetings in Cannes, France, President Obama joined with French President Sarkozy to pay tribute to the two countries’ alliance and celebrate the successful intervention in Libya that ended the rule of Moammar Gadhafi.

“Every man and woman in uniform who participated in this effort can know that you have accomplished every objective,” Obama said. “Today, the Libyan people have liberated their country and begun to forge their own future.”

Obama, who launched the Libyan mission amid widespread Republican criticism, had good reasons to greet Gadhafi’s overthrow with relief.

And all hope that democracy can take root. But once the U.S. intervenes in an internal foreign dispute, we bear greater responsibility for the outcome. Before the “war of choice” on Iraq, former Secretary of State Colin Powell warned President Bush about the “Pottery Barn rule: If you break it, you own it.”

That’s why the U.S. and its allies must respond to the credible reports of terrible violence being wreaked on dark-skinned Libyans by the victors. According to Human Rights Watch, “It is a dangerous time to be dark-skinned in Tripoli.” Reports abound that black Libyans are being subjected to beatings, torture, rape, killings — and, in several instances, horrific public lynchings.

Racism in Libya has a long and complex history but has grown fierce since the uprising against Gadhafi began in February. Under Gadhafi, foreign workers accounted for about one quarter of Libya’s 6 million population. Most came from Africa, poor immigrants seeking jobs in Libya’s oil, agriculture or other sectors. They live predominantly in the southern part of the country and many were naturally loyal to Gadhafi.

Now towns like Tawergha in the southern region previously loyal to Gadhafi are reported to be ghost towns, with entire populations having “disappeared.” The revolutionaries claim that many of those arrested or killed were “mercenaries” hired by Gadhafi to defend the regime. While some, no doubt, fought on Gadhafi’s side, independent analysts say the rumors about mercenaries are wildly exaggerated and are used as an excuse for trampling rights.

Libya’s National Transitional Council has denied the allegations, telling the U.N. Human Rights Council: “We do not make any distinction among people on grounds of color.” But independent organizations like Amnesty International confirm the reports that refugees and other dark-skinned Libyans are filling detention centers, with allegations of torture widespread.
The U.S. and its allies intervened in the Libyan conflict on the basis of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1975, which called for the international community to use all necessary means to protect civilians. The abuse and ethnic cleansing of dark-skinned people mock that authority.

It is vital that there be an immediate United Nations investigation of the reports of ethnic cleansing and violence against dark-skinned people in Libya. The allied nations should work with the new authorities in Libya to strengthen the rule of law, stop ethnic violence and end human rights abuses. The Obama administration should independently investigate the atrocities and bring international attention to the situation.

No one knows what comes next in Libya. But the United States and the other NATO allies involved in the intervention are not simply onlookers. They can’t simply celebrate the end of Gadhafi regime. They bear responsibility, in part, for what comes next — and cannot stand silently by as racial division becomes deadly.

Chicago Sun-Times

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A Thirst for Blood

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

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There is a fine line that separates man from mere beast. This week that line was crossed by the armed rebels on the hunt for deposed Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi as they stumbled upon him held up in a storm drain in his hometown of Sirte. The events surrounding his death are as rough as the various video footage of his demise. Each video, shot from different cell phones, tells its own story. Some show Gadhafi being shot in the arm while others show him being beaten. Yet another shows him being dragged across the ground, his clothes in disarray, after he was apparently sodomized.  And the most notable reveals a gunshot wound to his head.

The question is not whether or not Gadhafi deserved to pay for his vast array crimes that stretched clear around the globe for decades. The answer is very clear in that regard, Gadhafi indeed deserved to be punished for his reign of terror. The question that begs to be answered is whether or not armed militia had the right to take matters into their own hands denying one of the world’s worst dictators the very basic of human rights, a trial in a court of law. Now many will argue that Gadhafi was not human in the way that he treated his own people with disdain and disregard for the sanctity of human life. In all respects Gadhafi was the judge, jury and executioner in Libya. However, hasn’t the very premise that made the ‘Arab Spring’ so inspirational to the world been forever tainted in a gushing of crimson blood?

It only got worse as Libyans danced in the streets with joy upon hearing of Gadhafi’s wholesale execution as scores followed his bloodied body to a nearby shopping mall where it was put on display. Men, women and children lined up and waited to catch a glimpse of Gadhafi’s gruesome corpse while taking even more cell phone video footage to share with the rest of the world.

Instead of stooping to Gadhafi’s merciless level, it might have been better to have hauled him off, alive, to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to stand trial for his crimes against humanity. A great number of Gadhafi’s victims would have been given the opportunity to speak out against the dictator who dogged them for years and humiliate him in an international arena. Gadhafi was all about appearances and it would have caused him greater suffering to be publicly disgraced than merely shot in the head. Gadhafi meticulously tortured and enslaved his people without even showing the slightest bit of remorse. How fitting it would have been to see him stripped of all his self-given powers and forced to spend his remaining days confined to a minuscule jail cell. And while Gadhafi’s suffering was over in a mere matter of minutes, the people whose lives he scarred have a long road of healing to undertake.

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Foreign Policy: Why Can’t the Syrian Opposition Get Along?

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kate Seeyle

Kate Seelye is Vice President of the Middle East Institute. Prior to joining MEI, she worked as a radio and television journalist covering the Arab world from her base in Beirut, Lebanon.

The buoyant images of Libya’s rebels, who are currently tearing down the last vestiges of Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, have also underscored the challenges facing the fragmented opposition in another Arab country — Syria. Five months after the start of an uprising against President Bashar Assad that has left more than 2,200 people dead, dissidents are still struggling to forge a united front that could duplicate the role played by Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC).

The TNC was created just 12 days after the start of the Libyan uprising, quickly organizing resistance to Gadhafi within the country and lobbying for support on the international stage. By contrast, the opponents of Assad’s regime have held gatherings in Antalya, Turkey; Brussels; Istanbul; and even Damascus, the Syrian capital, to shape the opposition’s leadership and articulate a road map toward a democratic Syria. But as of yet, Syrian activists in the diaspora have failed to establish an umbrella group that has earned the endorsement of the only body that can confer legitimacy — the protest organizers inside Syria.

Although Assad’s brutal crackdown has undoubtedly made this a difficult task, the absence of a united front has hindered the opposition’s ability to effectively communicate to regime-change skeptics that there is a credible alternative to the Assad government.
The disarray in the anti-Assad camp is recognized all too well in Washington. “I think the [international] pressure requires an organized opposition, and there isn’t one,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, when asked on Aug. 11 why the United States didn’t throw more weight behind the protest movement. “There’s no address for the opposition. There is no place that any of us who wish to assist can go.”
Given the lack of a recognized leadership, different Syrian groups — mainly based in the diaspora — have been jockeying to assert themselves. Most recently, on Aug. 29 young dissidents speaking on behalf of a revolutionary youth group inside Syria named a 94-person council to represent the Syrian opposition. At a news conference in Ankara, Turkey, Syrian dissident Ziyaeddin Dolmus announced that the respected Paris-based academic Burhan Ghalioun would head the so-called Syrian National Council, which would also comprise the crème de la crème of Syria’s traditional opposition.

Dolmus said the council would include many of the traditional opposition figures based in Damascus, such as former parliamentarian Riad Seif, activist Suhair Atassi, and economist Aref Dalila. “Delays [in forming a council] return our people to bloodshed,” he said at the news conference, which was broadcast by Al-Jazeera.
But no sooner had the council been announced than it started to unravel. When contacted by the media, Ghalioun and the others quickly distanced themselves from the announcement, claiming they had no prior knowledge of it, according to reports in the Arabic press. Later, Ghalioun denied any association with the group on his Facebook page.
One Washington-based Syrian activist, Mohammad al-Abdallah — whose father, Ali al-Abdallah was named to the council — dismissed it as a joke.
Others said it was an attempt by young revolutionaries, upset over the lack of progress, to put forward a wish list of opposition members.
U.S.-based Syrian activist Yaser Tabbara, who had helped organize a gathering of anti-government Syrians a week before in Istanbul, called it “an earnest attempt by youth to reach out and demand that we move faster than we have been.”
According to Tabbara, the Istanbul conference that concluded on Aug. 23, was motivated by a similar sense of urgency. “It has been five months since the uprising started, and we don’t yet have a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Assad and his cohorts for their massacres,” said Tabbara. “Part of the reason is that some in the international community, like India, Brazil, and South Africa, do not see a viable alternative to this regime.”
The four-day Istanbul gathering, according to organizers, sought to unite all the efforts of previous opposition efforts under one banner.
Few of the groups or individuals from previous opposition gatherings attended the meeting, however. Members representing a consultative committee that emerged from a June opposition gathering in Antalya withdrew at the last minute, claiming, according to Reuters, that it “did not build on earlier efforts to unite the opposition.”
The conference was further handicapped by what Syrian journalist Tammam al-Barazi called “the perception that it was held under an American umbrella.” Its organizers included members of a grassroots community group based in Illinois, the Syrian American Council.
Although dismaying, the opposition’s divisions and sniping are hardly surprising. Most activists grew up under the Assad family’s authoritarian rule, and their differences reflect the many divisions inside Syrian society, which is split by sect and ethnicity as well as ideology. The opposition includes Arab nationalists and liberals with little trust for the Muslim Brotherhood, whose supporters were accused of dominating the first Istanbul conference organized in July by a leading human rights lawyer, Haitham al-Maleh.