"This is a bad time to be a black man in Libya," reports Alex Thomson in this worrying segment:
There is frightening evidence of racist killings taking place across Libya as elements in the opposition-cum-regime now act on the unfounded rumours that "African" mercenaries acted as Qadhafi's fifth column. As Kim Septunga reports:
Around 30 men lay decomposing in the heat. Many of them had their hands tied behind their back, either with plastic handcuffs or ropes. One had a scarf stuffed into his mouth. Almost all of the victims were black men. Their bodies had been dumped near the scene of two of the fierce battles between rebel and regime forces in Tripoli.
"Come and see. These are blacks, Africans, hired by Gaddafi, mercenaries," shouted Ahmed Bin Sabri, lifting the tent flap to show the body of one dead patient, his grey T-shirt stained dark red with blood, the saline pipe running into his arm black with flies. Why had an injured man receiving treatment been executed? Mr Sabri, more a camp follower than a fighter, shrugged. It was seemingly incomprehensible to him that anything wrong had been done.
There have been lynchings, mass arrests and beatings previously. A painted slogan of the rebels in Misrata read, "the brigade for purging slaves, black skin". But this, taking place as it does in the aftermath of triumph, is a qualitatively distinct phase, and it is a disgrace to the original emancipatory upsurge. I argued previously that the more conservative, bourgeois elements in the opposition had every reason to promote racist scapegoating. Since they had no interest in revolutionising Libyan society, it made perfect sense for them to say that the problem is just Qadhafi and some imported mercenaries, that all of Libya was united against the dictator and would throw him off were it not for the fifth columnists. By mobilising the elements of racism that had thrived under Qadhafi, it displaces social antagonisms that are internal to Libya, reflecting class and other divisions, onto a nationalist plane. No one need think of expropriating the wealth of the capitalist dissident if they're busy usurping the life of the black worker. I also argued that this was one area in which the rebels could even do worse than Qadhafi. If racism was never the dominant motive in the rebellion, it was nonetheless a motive of those dominant in the rebellion. The prisons of Benghazi and elsewhere would not have filled with black and immigrant workers without the approval of the rebel leadership. The coming days will tell whether this barbarism is to last. I suspect the pressure from the new regime's international sponsors will be to come down hard on it, as racist lynch mobs tend to make a fool of anyone calling them - I don't know - "human rights dissidents". But the new regime does have a promise to keep with the EU, viz. upholding the blockade on immigration from Africa to Europe, which will tend to institutionalise racist practises.