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Tawergha (Berber: ⵜⴰⵡⴻⵔⵖⴰ, Arabic: تاورغاء), also transliterated Tawarga, Tauorga, Taworgha, Tawurgha or Torghae, is, as of August 2012, a ghost town in Libya that is under administrative jurisdiction of the city of Misrata, which is 38 kilometers away. It was the site of intense fighting during the Libyan civil war before its capture and ethnic cleansing by anti-Gaddafi forces in August 2011.
By the end of the war in October 2011, the town was largely cleared of its population by NTC militias. During Libya's political transition period, members of the General National Congress reportedly indicated they would like to see Tawerghan refugees restored to their homes, but expressed concern over their safety. There have been numerous reports of militias acting outside the authority of the Tripoli-based government threatening Tawerghans who have attempted to return to Tawergha.
Tawergha means "the green island" in the Berber language.
This city was famous for its palm trees which at one point were considered the true wealth in the city. The city also produced significant amount of date fruits, including the Bersiel date, which is used as a component in ropes and other commodities. In pre-colonial times, the work on the plantation was done by tens of thousands of black-skinned slaves, making Tawerga the only town in coastal Libya with a black majority. One aspect of the city that stood out was its husbandry of cattle and chickens, producing beef, dairy products and in particular eggs.
During the Roman times, Tawergha gained a lot of attention due to its position and the connection that it had to the sand route that connected the city of Sirte along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea to Egypt. Control of Tawergha helped the Romans coordinate control of Libya.
Libyan civil war
Tawergha lies on the road from Sirte (Muammar Gaddafi's hometown) to the city of Misrata. As a result, during the Libyan civil war, Tawergha was used as a centre of military operations against Misrata, which rose up against Gaddafi in February 2011. During this time, Misratans accuse Tawerghans of leading the two-month siege of Misrata, as well as raping their women and cutting off the penises of their captured men.
When the Libyan army weakened, Tawergha became the first target for NTC Misratan brigades, although individuals suspected of being pro-Gaddafi had been the objective of revenge killings since February 2011. According to Amnesty International, Gaddafi's forces did not allow the population of Tawerga to flee. On 12 August, anti-Gaddafi forces claimed to have captured Tawergha.
British journalist Andrew Gilligan visited Tawergha in September 2011 and found it virtually emptied of its inhabitants, who numbered around 30,000 before the war. He reported that the Misrata Brigade, a semi-autonomous unit of the anti-Gaddafi National Liberation Army, had engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing in response to the town's alleged support of Gaddafi during the siege on their city. Many slogans he saw painted in and around Tawergha, as well as the accounts of anti-Gaddafi fighters and commanders whom he quoted, made reference to the dark pigmentation of many Tawergha citizens, with one sign referring to the Misrata Brigade as "the brigade for purging slaves [and] black skin". His report, published by The Sunday Telegraph on 11 September, quoted Ibrahim al-Halbous a brigade commander as saying, "Tawergha no longer exists, only Misrata" and another as asserting that the town's former residents will only return "over our dead bodies". In February 2012, Amnesty reported that Tawerga was empty and guarded against any returnees, with Misrata militiamen systematically destroying and burning down homes and infrastructure to avoid the return of Tawergha inhabitants. Militias from Misrata continue to hunt down and terrorize the displaced inhabitants of Tawergha across Libya. Hundreds have been illegally arrested and tortured by militiamen in Misrata. In May 2012, the UN Human Rights Council's Commission of Inquiry published a report about the violations conducted by Misratan militias against Tawerghans across Libya including killings, arbitrarily arrests and torture, calling it a war crime.
The nonprofit group Human Rights Watch reported in November 2013 that Tawerghans remain unable to return to their homes due to intimidation and violence by militias, most of which are based in Misrata, it said. The report claimed refugee camps for Tawerghans are often left without security and have been assaulted by small groups of armed men on multiple occasions, including at least twice in November 2013.
- Amraja M. el Khajkhaj, "Noumou al Mudon as Sagheera fi Libia", Dar as Saqia, Benghazi-2008, P.119.
- Murray, Rebecca: "One Year Later, Still Suffering for Loyalty to Gaddafi". Inter Press Service Retrieved 24 August 2012.
- Gilligan, Andrew (11 September 2011). "Gaddafi's ghost town after the loyalists retreat". The Telegraph. Retrieved 12 September 2011.
- Zaroug, Nihal (4 December 2012). "Tawerghans make desperate appeal to Libyan leaders as more families evicted". Retrieved 7 December 2012.
- http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21579853-people-two-rival-towns-seem-determined-hate-each-other-ever-when Libya’s ghost town: When bygones aren’t
- http://www.amnesty.org.uk/uploads/documents/doc_22353.doc page 28
- Stephen, Chris (12 August 2011). "Libyan Rebels Lay Claim to Most of Tawarga After Penetrating Qaddafi Lines". Bloomberg. Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- "Tawergha no longer exists, only Misrata". 13 August 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2011.
- http://www.amnesty.org.uk/uploads/documents/doc_22353.doc page 26-28
- "Libya: Displaced Camp Residents Need Immediate Protection". Human Rights Watch. 19 November 2013. Retrieved 18 November 2013.