National Geographic : 2013 Feb
46 national geographic • february 2013 A Qaddafi-backed Tuareg militia suppressed a rebel uprising in Ghadames. And Tawurgha volunteers joined Qaddafi’s soldiers, marched on misratah, killed their neighbors, and in some cases raped their neighbors’ women. The reports of assaults on women have left the misratans blind with rage. wild exaggerations (was it 50 rapes? 400? 1,080? 8,600?) are countered in turn by Tawurgha sympathizers (no rapes at all occurred, hostility toward Tawurghans is racially motivated). One fact is inarguable: Tawurgha forget. Qaddafi’s supporters remain in their midst. Some are neighbors. In misratah’s case that neighbor is Tawurgha, a working-class town 25 miles away, from which government forces launched a ferocious assault on misratah. central to Qaddafi’s vision for Libya was a bellicose populism designed to undermine the urban centers that threatened his power base. Toward that end, he lavished the Tawurghans— almost exclusively dark-skinned Africans of sub-Saharan descent—with jobs and housing in return for their unswerving loyalty. This divide- and-conquer strategy pitted towns and ethnic and tribal groups against each other all over Libya. The revolution turned those divisions into battle lines. Overnight, towns like Riqdalin and Al Jumayl became bases for loyalist attacks on their bigger neighbor Zuwarah. The city of Az Zintan was suddenly besieged by the neigh- boring tribal mashashiya town of Al Awaniya. UP FOR GRABS At an abandoned military facility near Ajdabiya, heavy munitions—including tank rounds and boxes of mortar shells stacked to the ceiling—are ripe for looting. The taking of unsecured arms “poses a direct threat to civilians,” warns Human Rights Watch.