1911 Tripoli massacre

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The 1911 Tripoli massacre was a series of massacres committed by the Italian army against Libyan civilians in the Tripoli region, in reprisal for the preceding massacre of captured Italian troops at Sciara Sciat.[1]

Background[edit]

Italy invaded Ottoman Tripolitania (Ottoman Libya) in 1911 with the purpose of annexing the territory as an Italian colony; the Ottomans resisted the Italian invasion and the result was the Italo-Turkish War. Some Arabs collaborated with the Italians, mainly in the city of Tripoli, but those in the interior of Libya largely supported the Turks due to their shared religion. During the war Italian troops many times used indiscriminate violence to subdue the native civilians.

Sciara Sciat massacre[edit]

On 23 October 1911, Italian troops were attacked by a 10,000-strong Turkish-Arab force while marching through the Mechiya oasis, at a place called Sciara Sciat (Arabic: Shar al-Shatt), and over 500 Bersaglieri were killed, with some accounts stating that Turkish forces captured two companies in a nearby cemetery, and massacred 250 Italian captives.[2] Italian corpses were allegedly nailed to trees and their eyes and genitals mutilated, apparently in retaliation for sexual offenses against local women.[3]

Mechiya oasis massacre[edit]

The next day the Italians responded by attacking the population of the neighboring Mechiya oasis, killing thousands of people including women and children over the course of three days. Though the Italians allegedly took measures to prevent news of this action from reaching the outside world, foreign press correspondents covered the event in detail.[1][4] This negative coverage factored into the British Parliament's decision later that month to take a more pro-Turkish course, rejecting a proposed Anglo-Italian Mediterranean agreement.[5]

Contemporary accounts[edit]

Following the events, contemporary accounts supporting and opposing the Italian actions took opposing views of the incident:

For three days the oasis was given over to massacre in wholesale and detail. Some 4,000 men, women and children perished in the course of it – the vast bulk of whom were certainly innocent of any participation whatever in the Italian defeat. They were murdered in the streets, in their houses, farms, gardens, and according to a peculiarly horrible narrative by a British officer serving with the Turkish forces, in a mosque, where several hundred women and children had taken refuge. ... All the newspaper correspondents were in agreement as to the main facts.[6]

Opposing arguments decried the foreign press reporting as overblown:

The wildest accusations launched against the Italian troops by half a dozen hysterial - and to put it mildly - inaccurate journalists, most of whom spoke not a word of Italian or Arabic, found ready credence, and the cry of "Italian atrocities" was raised with great effect. ... It must of course be remembered that many of the people who in England were shrieking against Italy, people who had no notion of the meaning of evidence, were the same who, during the Boer war, had shrieked against England, and talked about British "methods of barbarism"...[7]

After-effects[edit]

One of the opponents of the Italian intervention in the conquest of Ottoman Libya, a socialist activist named Benito Mussolini, started to change his opinion after news of this[which?] massacre reached Italy. Later in the late 1920s, Mussolini cited the Sciara Sciatt massacre when he imposed his Pacification of Libya.

Commemoration[edit]

A monument to the Bersaglieri killed at Sciara Sciat, sculpted by Publio Morbiducci, was erected at the Piazzale di Porta Pia in 1932.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Geoff Simons (2003). Libya and the West: From Independence to Lockerbie. I.B.Tauris. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-86064-988-2. 
  2. ^ John Gooch (19 June 2014). The Italian Army and the First World War. Cambridge University Press. pp. 44–. ISBN 978-0-521-19307-8. 
  3. ^ Christopher Duggan (2008). The Force of Destiny: A History of Italy Since 1796. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 382–. ISBN 0-618-35367-4. 
  4. ^ Timothy Winston Childs (1990). Italo-Turkish Diplomacy and the War Over Libya: 1911-1912. BRILL. ISBN 90-04-09025-8. 
  5. ^ Andrea Ungari (24 July 2014). The Libyan War 1911-1912. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 138–. ISBN 978-1-4438-6492-3. 
  6. ^ Edmund Dene Morel (1920). The Black Man's Burden. National Labour Press, Limited. pp. 99–. 
  7. ^ The Fortnightly. Chapman and Hall. 1913. pp. 940–. 
  8. ^ Vittorio Sgarbi (2011-11-30). Le meraviglie di Roma: Dal Rinascimento ai giorni nostri. Bompiani. pp. 386–. ISBN 978-88-587-0607-7.