Speaking in quick nervous sentences, Mr Bahr tries to convince a suspicious local militia leader in charge of the police station in the Faraj district of Tripoli, that he is a building worker who has been arrested simply because of his colour. “I liked Gaddafi, but I never fought for him,” Mr Bahr says, adding that he had worked in Libya for three years laying tiles.
But the Libyan rebels are hostile to black Africans in general. One of the militiamen, who have been in control of the police station since the police fled, said simply: “Libyan people don’t like people with dark skins, though some of them may be innocent.”
Black African immigrants in the past benefited from Gaddafi’s aspiration to be a pan-African leader. The position of illegal immigrants was always uncertain, but they were essential to the economy. With the fall of Gaddafi, those who have not already fled face persecution or even murder. Last weekend 30 bodies of mostly black men, several of them handcuffed and others already wounded, were found after an apparent mass execution at a roundabout near Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya headquarters.