Learn the background surrounding the deadly bombing of a refugee detention centre as part of the war in Libya and why the UN and human rights groups are demanding an inquiry.
Readers will remember the famous “Arab Spring” that started in late 2010. It involved a series of popular uprisings in countries across North Africa and the Middle East. This pro-democracy movement mainly involved young people. They organized using social media.
Protesters used a range of tactics. Mainly, it involved non-violence. It started in Tunisia, and the revolution there was a qualified success. There was violence and armed struggle. Even so, today Tunisia has a democratic constitution. The country holds free elections. The tyrannical Ben Al is no longer president.
Tunisia was the lone Arab Spring country whose revolutions improved peoples’ lives. Elsewhere, most of the uprisings led to brutal civil wars, during a time the people now call the Arab Winter. Governments used all means necessary to cling to power and prevent revolutions like the one in Tunisia.
anti-government protesters CONTROLLED BENGHAZI
We could cover what happened in twenty countries in the region, but because of recent events, we will focus on the war in Libya in this post. The Arab Spring erupted there in February 2011. At the time, Libya’s ruler was the infamous Muammar Qaddafi. It began in Benghazi, where anti-government protesters gained control of the city in a matter of days. The uprising spread to the Libyan capital, Tripoli and rebels actually formed an alternate government for a short time.
Before long, Qaddafi quelled the first uprising. The UN Security Council was concerned about civilian casualties and set up a no fly zone to contain the war in Libya. Allied forces supported the rebels on the ground with air strikes Ousting Qaddafi after 32 years of rule didn’t end the turmoil.. Qaddafi died in the process, but the war in Libya is still ongoing.
So far, nothing resembling stability has filled he power vacuum of Qaddafi’s death. . Today, a UN backed government called the Government of National Accord (GNA for short) runs Libya. Self-appointed warlord, Khalifa Haftar is fighting to overthrow the government. Haftar calls his forces the Libyan National Army. That’s a misnomer. They are illegitimate rebel fighters determine to prolong the war in Libya.
War left more than 18,000 Libyans homeless
The war in Libya has left more than 18,000 Libyans homeless. As one would expect, the majority of these displaced people want to leave the country. Their best choice is to cross the Mediterranean and start over in Italy, or in nearby countries in Europe.
The Italian government opposes this. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has refused to allow ships carrying Libyan refugees to dock in his country. Europeans differ about how to help Libyan refugees. The EU is not willing to take the blame for the number of refugees in Libya. The fact remains that the war in Libya has trapped thousands of migrants there and Europe won’t let them in.
Events took an disastrous turn this week. The Government of National Accord has been forcing the refugees into detention centres in the greater Tripoli area. GNA leaders use these helpless civilians as human shields. Libyan National Army commanders know the camps are there. Yet, as part of their war on Libya, they continue to order what they call “strong and decisive air strikes” against targets in Tripoli.
airstrike on Tarjoura killed 44 helpless civilians
Now, tragedy has struck. Anyone could have predicted it. On Wednesday, an airstrike on Tarjoura, on the outskirts of Tripoli, killed 44 helpless civilians. They had no way out of one of these detention centres. Was this deliberate? Nobody knows. The so-called Libyan National Army denies it. Anyway, that’s not the point.
Why is the GNA using innocent people as human shields? This camp is located next to a military supply depot. Why is the Libyan National Army aiming missiles at targets near refugee camps? The UN had called for the movement of these people away from the war on Libya long before any of this took place.
If you think that these are good questions, so do the UN, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. They are all demanding an inquiry. Based on what we know so far, this is a war crime. As Ghassan Salamé, the UN Special Envoy for Libya put it, “The absurdity of this ongoing war today has led this odious bloody carnage to its most hideous and most tragic consequences.”
70 million displaced worldwide, 37,000 a day
We now have 70 million displaced people in the world. Conflict and persecution force 37,000 people a day flee their homes. Wars forcibly displace someone every 2 seconds. Half of the world’s refugees are under 18. We are facing the highest level of civilian displacement ever recorded.
You can help. The official name of the UN refugee agency is the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees or UNHCR. (The UN loves acronyms.). They accept donations from private citizens. You can also donate to NGO’s like Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch. This war in Libya needs to stop, and we need to find out who is responsible.
We always have more to learn if we dare to know.