Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Omar Mukhtar and the legacy of colonialism

Web statistics constantly remind me that my Omar Mukhtar and Italian occupation posts remain the main reasons for which people come to my blog.

But just in case I had forgotten, a text message sent by Al Madar company on the eve of this anniversary endeavoured to remind us about this date in history while my youngest brother brought it also to my attention when we were chatting last night... both these instances did not seem like a coincidence especially that I've been trying to ignore recent events related to that painful era...

Omar Mukhtar represents to me and to others Libyans of various generations all what heroism is about. Libyans have not forgotten their martyrs we celebrate each name in our way because their are too many to list. Our heroes are well and alive in the memories of their grandchildren and Omar Mukhtar no longer is famous for himself only but he has come to symbolise the Libyan unsung heroes of the colonial era whom foreigners may not know and for whom a list of names and tribal identities mean nothing. That is why Omar Mukhtar is doubly special.

In 2004 I mentioned the main components of Libya's demands for compensation from Italy, which I am copying again here for easier reference:

a-Italy should acknowledge its historical crimes against the people of Libya
b-Furnish all details about the thousands of Libyans forcibly exiled onto some Italian islands
c-Furnish maps showing where thousands of Italian landmines were laid in Libya
d-Pay full compensation to the families of all victims of Italian terrorism
e-Return all historical treasures and artifacts stolen from Libya

Let's look at what happened to these demands in light of the recent world developments last month.

a-Italy did acknowledge its historical crimes against the people of Libya with some saying that Berlusconi kissed the hands of Omar Mukhtar's son !

b- If someone has read anything about this let me know.

c- The news mention that mine clearing was brought on the table, but I was hoping for some more concrete hard fact like, equipment, expertise, maps and cash. It is worth noting that "according to reports compiled by the Libyan police, 11,845 landmine casualties were recorded between 1940 and 1995, including 6,749 people killed and 5,096 injured" that is a high number for Libya. Bearing in mind the alleged mines planted during the border war with Egypt and Chad (in 1977 and sometime in 80s) it is the WWII legacy which is inflicting the damage and even with maps it is difficult to locate those mines because of the shifting sands.

d- The compensation consists of a total of 5 billion US$ to be paid in investment deals over a period of 25 years. My only comment would be to check here.

e- From all the treasures stolen from Libya one sole statue has finally been returned.

Omar Mukhtar and our grandparents sacrifices have not been in vain, but the farcical compensation is not fooling anyone. A British acquaintance the other day was laughing and saying this is colonialism from a different door - I guess he knew what he was saying after all aren't the Brits the masters in the art of colonialism? The gentleman may not have been far from the truth because "in return for its gesture, Italy expects to reap great rewards, in the form of multi-billion dollar contracts, and tighter security controls over flows of illegal immigrants", but also COMPENSATION for the descendants of the Italian colonialists who have been expelled from Libya!

But I have not written about Sheikh Omar for a while so why now? because by association with Italy's occupation I came across this great article on Hafed's blog from which I have already quote above, whereby one specific paragraph epitomises all what ails the Middle East and North Africa region - better known as the Arab world :P

"A major reason for the mess and mediocrity that define so many Arab-Asian-African countries is their unnatural birth at the hands of retreating European colonial midwives। Because they were manufactured by fleeing European occupiers, many countries in our region have enjoyed neither the logic of a sensible balance among natural and human resources, nor the compensatory vitality that comes from self-determinant and truly sovereign states."

This is a powerful statement! Look at us in Libya we are still affected by colonialism decades after Omar's death, imagine the compounded effect in the other countries ? It does not mean we should take that as an excuse not to do anything for our betterment but it does mean we should acknowledge this fact when discussing our inadequacies . We should remember that even though many of us are aware of our appalling shortcomings we still need to go through a natural birthing process then things will fall into place. Patches and induced labour can be not only painful but lethal sometimes.


Maya M said...

I am a cynic and would be quite surprised if Berlusconi wasn't pursuing selfish interests with the deal. He has made his mistress Darina Pavlova, widow of an assassinated Bulgarian mafia boss. I think this tells all anyone needs to know about him. I don't think he stands for any principles or values.

Highlander said...

Maya I agree this deal is not altruistic, I'd like to see the text of the whole agreement because havin bits and piece being sprung up at me everyday is not really making me feel safe.

Not sure what those 5 billions will cover now as there is too much tied into that already.

Vile said...

Omar Mukhtar represents heroism to a lot of people other than Libyans, he is a symbol of fighting tyranny.
all those who experience injustice idealize him.
Though you should be skeptical of anything handed over to you from italy(or anybody else for that matter),if it wasn't the result of a well earned fight, that's what Omar Mukhtar taught us.

Maya M said...

"Many countries in our region have enjoyed neither the logic of a sensible balance among natural and human resources, nor the compensatory vitality that comes from self-determinant and truly sovereign states."
I think, however, that very few countries have enjoyed these things and most have been formed in a brutal and injust way by the whims of whoever has been powerful over time.
To my opinion, a colonial power is different from an ordinary stronger enemy only by its claims of supremacy, so it will do more harm than an ordinary enemy only if these claims are internalized.

Anonymous said...

فى خلال الثلاثين عاما الماضية تعرضت مصر الى حملة منظمة لنشر ثقافة الهزيمة - The Culture of Defeat - بين المصريين, فظهرت أمراض اجتماعية خطيرة عانى ومازال يعانى منها خمسة وتسعون بالمئة من هذا الشعب الكادح . فلقد تحولت مصر تدريجيا الى مجتمع الخمسة بالمئه وعدنا بخطى ثابته الى عصر ماقبل الثورة .. بل أسوء بكثير من مرحلة الاقطاع.
هذه دراسة لمشاكل مصرالرئيسية قد أعددتها وتتناول كل مشاكلنا العامة والمستقاة من الواقع وطبقا للمعلومات المتاحة فى الداخل والخارج وسأنشرها تباعا وهى كالتالى:

1- الانفجار السكانى .. وكيف أنها خدعة فيقولون أننا نتكاثر ولايوجد حل وأنها مشكلة مستعصية عن الحل.
2- مشكلة الدخل القومى .. وكيف يسرقونه ويدعون أن هناك عجزا ولاأمل من خروجنا من مشكلة الديون .
3- مشكلة تعمير مصر والتى يعيش سكانها على 4% من مساحتها.
4 - العدالة الاجتماعية .. وأطفال الشوارع والذين يملكون كل شىء .
5 - ضرورة الاتحاد مع السودان لتوفير الغذاء وحماية الأمن القومى المصرى.
6 - رئيس مصر القادم .. شروطه ومواصفاته حتى ترجع مصر الى عهدها السابق كدولة لها وزن اقليمى عربيا وافريقيا.
ارجو من كل من يقراء هذا ان يزور ( مقالات ثقافة الهزيمة) فى هذا الرابط: