Libyan Tawerghans delay return as Gaddafi-era tensions remain
The Tawergha local council on Sunday (June 23rd) postponed residents' return to their embattled town outside Misrata after an appeal by Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan, Libya Herald reported. Residents had planned to return home June 25th.
Citing unhealed wounds from the revolution, Zidan told reporters on World Refugee Day that Tawerghans should delay their homecoming.
He said that under normal circumstances, Libyan citizens would have the right to live wherever they want in Libya.
"This is a principle enshrined under the old constitution and will be enshrined under the next constitution. This is one of their rights," Zidan said at his June 20th press conference.
"The people of Tawergha have the right to return, but the people of Misrata have the right to stand, as the wound hasn't yet healed," the prime minister clarified.
Misrata residents blame Tawergha for supporting Gaddafi's forces during the bloody two-month long siege of their coastal city. Many in Misrata also accuse Tawerghans of committing atrocities during the war, including mass rape.
Tawerghans fled their town after Misrata’s victory in the Libyan revolution two years ago and have yet to return.
Zidan demanded the people of Tawergha "postpone this issue, stop going to Tawergha, and leave the issue to the government to deal with it away from confrontations that will bring no good".
"What happened to Misrata is a very major issue, and we understand the feelings of the people of Misrata," he added.
He addressed the people of Tawergha, saying, "This is not the right time for this issue. This will go calmly away from tensions so we can achieve reconciliation to solve many of the problems."
He pledged that the government would care for the displaced people of Tawergha and solve their problems, which are related to living conditions, accommodation, and health, among other issues.
Tawergha resident and former Tripoli revolutionary Milad Bahari was once arrested, beaten and tortured by a group from Misrata. He said that the prime minister's statement was "very resentfully received by the people of Tawergha who expected to have justice and understanding of their position".
"They are now in a whirlpool, and their condition is getting worse," he added.
According to Bahari, the people of Tawergha said that "they were under the legitimacy of the General National Congress and government, and that they had no problems, but the government didn't pay any attention to this".
"We've already made concessions, and we're ready for more, but we just need to know what our crime is," he said. "We were affected when Zidan said that the wound hasn't healed yet. They say this is a crime, but we don't know what crime they are talking about, and they haven't given us any lists of criminals."
Former GNC head Mohamed Magarief accused the people of Tawergha of committing many crimes against the people of Misrata, Bahari said.
"We believe that our sons are innocent; the former regime might have been behind it, and this may be sedition," he added. "What are the many crimes we've committed? We want to know them. We haven't so far received any answers from civil society organisations, tribal chiefs and dignitaries whom we contacted."
Othman al-Tawerghi, an employee in Benghazi in educational guidance, said that Zidan's statement "was a disappointment to the people of Tawergha, who had ambitions".
All that the Tawerghans wanted, he said, was "to return to their land".
By Essan Mohamed