Kawthar’s last caress, Murzuq IDPs hope the new Libyan government will not let the truth die

By Vanessa Tomassini.

“Kawthar was four years old and her brother Osama, only six. We were in the house when a rocket hit us. Little Osama died instantly. Kawthar, in hospital, after a six-hour emergency operation. It also took hours to reach a hospital to avoid snipers and checkpoints of unscrupulous gangs.” Her father, Mohamed Juma Al-Senoussi Jadram, the protagonist of the most beautiful caress that a father can receive from her daughter, tells us. A love gesture that shows all the purity of children. That damned day, Kawthar didn’t know it would be her last. She did not imagine that in Libya, she could also die in her nest with mum Zinab, dad Mohamed, and Osama. “She wanted a doll that her daddy would give her on Eid day. She dreamed of a bag to go to kindergarten, pencils and pastel colors like children her age”. Her family says today. They hadn’t told her that the war monster would take away her dreams, her future, the birdsong, the smiles of mum and dad. Her last gesture was wipe away her father’s tears, who, together with the mother and doctors, remained beside her as excruciating pain besieged her in that hospital bed in southern Libya.

Her family now lives in Ubari, they had to leave everything. More than 40,500 people have fled Murzuq. After the danger of war has passed, no one talks about the southern municipality anymore. No government has dealt with it except in words, and even the LNA seems to no longer care that those citizens – who have previously welcomed it – can return home safely. It is a horror of politics. In Murzuq they also held municipal elections, even if most of the inhabitants could not vote as they were far from their city. The refugee file is one of the priorities for the new Libyan executive. Today, when the watchword is reconciliation, can the past be forgotten without justice? Is it possible to forgive without ascertaining the truth? Or is it also dead in Libya? In Murzuq hundreds of people have been killed, displaced people say that at least 25 elderly people have been captured by the Tebu, who in turn are asking for their prisoners to be released. But the doubt is terrible: “perhaps they were killed by Haftar’s troops”. It is a crisis as difficult to tell about, as it is to resolve. The new executive should set up a committee to ascertain the facts and mend the social fabric torn by the prolonged conflict. But forgetting is impossible.

Since the beginning of 2019, tensions within the Libyan city of Murzuq have become progressively more severe, leading to numerous outbreaks of violence. The conflict escalated to unprecedented levels since August 4, 2019, when a series of airstrikes by Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) sparked heavy urban fighting and mass displacement. The displaced families we met say that “when the LNA entered Murzuq, it was welcomed by a mass in celebration. The army stayed in the city for about fifteen days and then retreated. Maybe the Tebus thought we were the ones who hit them”. The conflict eased slightly only in late August 2019, when more than 60% of Murzuq’s population fled to cities across Libya, leaving only a few residents in some areas of the southern city. Some humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations have described the incidents in the small southern center as a tribal issue, however residents say that some Tebu families also fled the city among the violence, frightened by the rebel gangs from Chad who arrived as waves of barbarians. Murzuq IDPs accuse these armed militias of murder, kidnapping, and severe abuse, including theft, robbery, beatings, ethnic discrimination, and restricted access to food and shelter. The displaced say that today it is impossible to return home because fear, lack of trust, and security conditions do not allow that.

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