Libya militias taking law into own hands
Many of the fighters that pushed Muammar Qaddafi from power have refused to stand down. Now, some of Libya militias are allegedly stealing and targeting Qaddafi supporters for revenge.
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Graffiti in the streets of Misurata even opposes the aaidoun or returnees, meaning people from Misurata who fled the city during the siege by Qaddafi’s troops.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Qaddafi's last stand
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“It’s the new propaganda,” says one Libyan human rights activist who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals. “Misurata feels that they’re the heroes of this war and therefore they deserve a bigger piece of the pie. But what Misurata is doing in Tawargha is a time bomb under the future of Libya.”
A lawless new Libya?
The activist and two other men in a dingy Tripoli office have just formed a new human rights organization to document violations in the new Libya.
All three played key roles in the uprising against the rule of Qaddafi. Now they are concerned about the lawlessness.
“Misurata considers every Libyan citizen a Qaddafi supporter until proven otherwise,” says the activist. “If I have a problem with you, all I need to do is call Misurata and you will be kidnapped from your house and taken to Misurata.”
He gives examples: a student who denounced his professor, the president of a sports club who was accused by someone who wanted to take his place. “Every day we get phone calls from people looking for missing relatives.”
He does not hesitate to compare the situation to that of the 1980s, the height of the repression under Qaddafi. “It is the same climate of fear where people are afraid to speak out for fear of being denounced as Qaddafi supporters.”
The human rights group is not planning to go public anytime soon: For now they are discreetly using their own wasta (connections) with the revolutionary
fighters to get people released.
There are signs that time is running out, with both an increasingly uneasy public and rivalries between militias erupting into open conflict.
The Iraq scenario
The misconduct of some of the militias is not just a security issue. It also threatens to upset the delicate relationships between Libya’s various tribes.
Bani Walid, where Qaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam made his last stand, had hoped to avoid a fight.
The western city is the capital of the Warfalla, Libya’s biggest tribe, with 1.2 million members. Many Warfalla were loyal to Qaddafi, but many others – including interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril – joined the rebellion.
After the fall of Tripoli, anti-Qaddafi members of the Warfalla tribe went shopping for a suitable brigade to negotiate the surrender of their town.
Zintan fighters were out of the question because they are occasional rivals, and Misurata was not an option because of the historical bad blood.
Bani Walid decided to take their chances with fighters from Jadu, a town in the western mountains. The Jadu militia gained a good reputation for the way they liberated the south of the country almost without firing a shot.