By Andrew Gilligan, Tawarga
7:00AM BST 11 Sep 2011
Tawargha, a once bustling town which supported Gadaffi, is now deserted
‘Until last month, the town of Tawarga was home to 10,000 civilians.
But as dusk fell over it last week, the apartment blocks stretched, black and dead, into the distance, and the only things moving were sheep.
This pro-Gaddafi settlement has been emptied of its people, vandalised and partly burned by rebel forces. The Sunday Telegraph was the first to visit the scene of what appears to be the first major reprisal against supporters of the former regime.’
‘Whatever the truth, there appears little room for reconciliation in this corner of the new Libya. For the first time in the country’s revolution, we saw large numbers of houses, and virtually every shop, systematically vandalised, looted or set on fire.’
‘Along the road that leads into Tawargha, the Misurata Brigade has painted a slogan. It is, it says, “the brigade for purging slaves [and] black skin.”
“We have met Tawargas in detention, taken from their homes simply for being Tawargas,” said Diana Eltahawy, a researcher for Amnesty International who is currently in Libya. “They have told us that they have been forced to kneel and beaten with sticks.”
Even fleeing is not, it seems, enough to save you. Tawargas have also been arrested at checkpoints, seized from hospitals and detained on the street. “They are really afraid. They have nowhere to go,” said Ms Eltahawy.
On Aug 29, Amnesty says it saw a Tawarga patient at the Tripoli Central Hospital being taken by three men, one of them armed, for “questioning in Misurata”. Amnesty was also told that at least two other Tawarga men had vanished after being taken for questioning from Tripoli hospitals.
One 45-year-old flight dispatcher and his uncle were arrested by armed rebels while out shopping in the al-Firnaj area of Tripoli on 28 August.
They were taken to the Military Council headquarters at Mitiga Airport just east of the capital. The men told Amnesty they were beaten with the butt of a rifle and received death threats. Both were held for several days in Mitiga and are still detained in Tripoli.’
‘And it is not the first time that pro-Gaddafi civilians have suffered reprisals. In July, as rebels swept through the Nafusa mountains, the village of Qawalish was subjected to a very similar fate. Many of the people there, pensioners and young children, simply could not have been part of any military action for the regime.
Back in ghostly Tawarga, there is little sympathy for the victims’ plight.
Mr Fatateth said: “The military council will decide what will happen to the buildings. But over our dead bodies will the Tawargas return.”
Ibrahim al-Halbous, another local rebel commander, put it even more simply.
“Tawarga no longer exists,” he said. ‘