Black Libyans Endangered, Refugees in Limbo

Black Libyans Endangered, Refugees in Limbo

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It took the New York Times weeks to publish stories about the danger Black Africans faced in Libya. Thanks to early reports in the Black Star News and other publications, readers have been regularly informed of the "ethnic cleansing" in the country, mainly by the rebels.

Several accounts have claimed the Black Africans were mercenaries fighting alongside the loyalists and thereby were viewed as enemies. However, only those who were actually killed in combat with weapons supplied by the loyalists can be considered "enemy combatants."

In recent weeks, if the Times reporters have been less than attentive to the issue or have been muffled by their editors, the deaths of Black Africans have at least been getting some coverage in their op-ed pages.
Last week's lead story in the "Sunday Review" section featured a harrowing story called "After Liberation-Nowhere to Run." As early as the spring, the article relates, Black Africans have been forced out of Libya on crowded, unseaworthy boats to nearby islands in the Mediterranean.

Many of these refugees never made it to the Italian island of Lampedusa. If their boats didn't capsize, as many of them did, the passengers died of hunger and thirst.

While Col. Muammar al-Gaddafi may have employed mercenaries, their fates have been interlocked with the millions of guest workers. Neither side of the battle, loyalists or rebels, seemed to have cared about discerning one from the other.

According to the story, there are hundreds, if not thousands of Black Africans hiding in Libya, afraid to venture outside. Given the dangers of the turbulent waters, there is an equal fear of taking boats to a safe harbor.

The flow of Black Africans to Europe is nothing new in Libya. But apparently, thousands of them were dispatched by Gaddafi to Italy specifically to punish the Italians for siding with NATO forces during the conflict.

Now, Italy and other European nations are turning the refugees back, claiming that they have already reached their limits. Over the years following Gaddafi's successful revolution in the late '60s, millions of Black Africans flocked to Libya hoping to take advantage of jobs in the oil-rich nation. And now the rush is on to see what country will capitalize on the flow of oil-European nations appear to be in the catbird seat, far ahead of the United States.

If the Black Africans are not in hiding, they are confined to camps where they receive meager meals, clothing and some shelter.

It is terribly ironic that NATO justified its attacks on Libya as safeguarding the country's endangered citizens but have now turned their backs on the sick and homeless.

Though the Obama administration claims to have led from behind, American warplanes and munitions played a brutal role in toppling Gaddafi and are responsible for the large number of displaced people in the war-torn country.

Some of the refugees should be taken in by the United States, which took in more than 50,000 refugees from around the world last year.

Mercenaries, guest workers, refugees and slaves are roles Black Africans have endured for centuries in Africa, and Libya has been no exception.

Several months ago, when Minister Louis Farrakhan spoke in Harlem, he told the crowd that Gaddafi had apologized for the role of the Arabs in the Atlantic slave trade. That was well and good, but Gaddafi's apology would have been more meaningful if he had apologized for the Arabs' role in the slave trade conducted in the Indian Ocean.

There is nothing new about racism among Arab people, but when it takes on a brutal, fatal outcome as it has in Libya, it's a grave concern, and those of goodwill should do all they can to expose and eliminate it.
In the coming weeks, we will see what is done by the new National Transitional Council on this matter and a number of other troubling issues as the new government evolves with the hope that it lives up its promise of more justice, democracy and equality for all of its citizens-Arabs and Black Africans.