The Tawerghis Look to Rebuild in Libya

Upon the NATO-backed assassination of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, militias from close port city Misrata took revenge on his believed supporters — in particular the entire town of Tawergha, about 200 kilometres east of the capital Tripoli.

The inhabitants felt the wrath of their revenge — laying siege to the town and pounding it with artillery.

Consequently, 40,000 Tawergha residents were forced to flee leaving most of the town’s population violently displaced, according to Human Rights Watch, which denounced what it called “collective punishment” and a “possible crime against humanity.”

The people were banished, living in grim destitution in basic shelters on a windswept desert plain and for several years, militias blocked people from returning.

New Beginnings in a Battered Home

A 2018 reconciliation deal backed by the United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) saw the people of Tawergha gradually make their way back home almost a decade after being violently displaced.

Only around a third of the population has since returned — not at all an easy feat for many Tawerghis.

Abdel Rahman Shakshak, the Mayor of Tawergha is optimistic, “We are now on the land of Tawergha, and this has been our desired goal for the last seven years. The fact that we are able to be in Tawergha like this, is in itself a goal that has been achieved.”

Now, after militia forces rampaged through the town, torching homes, destroying buildings and leaving farms in ruins, Tawergha’s infrastructure is devastated as buildings are gutted and the streets full of potholes.

Still Pending Unkept Promises

The town was promised compensation by the Tripoli-based GNA after the reconciliation deal but post-Gaddafi political tensions between the rival administrations are delaying the disbursement of compensation to residents to rebuild their lives.

According to Mayor Shakshak, the “absence of a (central) government” is responsible for the delay and he believes that the government should create jobs and rebuild homes instead of being so invested in “conflicts and divisions.”

The mayor added that requests for the construction of 1,500 houses in neighbourhoods destroyed in the fighting “have fallen on deaf ears.”

The Will of the Tawerghis

The visible scars of war in the town are everywhere and many of the people also face emotionally scars from the trauma of the violence. Nevertheless, there are still survivors ready to take their lives back.

Mahmud Abu al-Habel, a proud and impassioned Tawergha resident, is ready to do what needs to be done to revive the town.

“We should be here. Every worthy and honourable Tawerghi should return to Tawergha so we can be able to send our demands to the government.”

Some Tawerghis have found new lives elsewhere while others like 70-year old al-Habel choose to rebuild independent of government inaction for the sake of the town’s surviving future generations.