The danger of being black in a formerly green country: new Libya, old racism

“Hey Abid, why are you here? Do not take anything, okay? I know what your people do.” Aimed towards the ears of a black man whom had just entered, the hoarse voice of Lamin echoed throughout the mosque. The black worshiper left. I turned towards Lamin, an elderly Libyan migrant from Misrata whom I had met recently. I asked if he knew the man whom just left. He replied “no, I do not know him, but I know his people.” I was confused why he called him ‘Abid’. To my natural question of how he knew the man’s name, he replied “all of us in Misrata call blacks Abid. They are fake Libyans, since we are white Arabs. All these Abid are criminals: they steal everything, our jobs, our homes and even lands because Gaddafi likes them”. Abid was a nickname charged with a painful reference to the dark history of slavery, so common in the history of Mediterranean countries. In Libya, the slave trade continued at least until the 1930s, although some cases can still be documented today. Indeed Abid means slave. Continue reading

Repeating the same mistakes? The Libyan revolution, tribes and the risk of Afghanistization

A tiger cannot change its stripes, nor a leopard its spots, so too have the US, UK, France and Italy appeared to have not learnt very much from previous disastrous interventions within Muslim societies and nations. The revolution in Libya is more complex than a majority of mass media reports, both in the US and Europe, suggest. After an attentive survey of newspaper articles and online news, I can affirm that the public may not be fully informed of the reality in Libya and the dark side of one of the most complex ‘Arab Spring’ revolts.  Continue reading

From anthropology to politics: the myth of the fundamentalist Arab Muslim mind

Many would have noticed that western leaders and countries seem to shift from one position to another about the wave of revolts in the Middle East and Arab world. One prime example: Tony Blair, who incidentally is the official envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, shifted from praising Mubarak on Wednesday 2 February 2011, to praising the protests for democracy on 13 February. At the same time, in those interviews, he first presented the Muslim Brotherhood as a dangerous para-terrorist organization and then ending in declaring that politicians should “not be hysterical about them, they are not terrorists or extremists”. Although we need to acknowledge that each revolt finds its raison d’être in local contexts and issues, we have also to recognize that Arab youth in the region want a change: they wish to end the long post-colonial period of time marked by dictators at the service of western economic and geopolitical interests. Continue reading

The Libyan massacre: or rather protesters killed for Italian and European interests?

Libyan protesters are facing one of the most violent repressions that the wave of Arab revolts have witnessed to date. Yesterday reports of Libyan aircraft and Apache helicopters bombing and shooting the protesters started to circulate. This was just after Gaddafi’s son proclaimed to the world that Libya was not witnessing a revolt against one of the most oppressive and inhuman regimes in North Africa and the Middle East, but rather a civil war. In reality this is a regime that has declared, as many other times before, war on its own population. The question that we may ask, however, is why Gaddafi has preferred the bloodbath to an easy, and wealthy, exit. Many were the options open to him before he started the massacre. Now, of course, few are left. Is Gaddafi just defending his own interests? Is there something more than just a struggle to maintain power? Continue reading