True love is a feeling that grows and nourishes on pleasant, happy and joyful events of life. These memories enrich love over time and, for it to last; it must be based on full knowledge of what we love. Libyans, as conservative as they are, they tend to hide their emotions and avoid talking about their feelings of love within their close surroundings, to the point that many older Libyans do not even smile to their wives or kiss their children in the presence of their father. This behaviour turns the father’s image into a grand dictator in their child’s eyes, which is obviously not what any parent would want to do.
Love is the true foundation of Islam. For one to be a Muslim, he/she starts with the love of Allah SWT to the point of worship, the love of The Prophet Mohammad pbuh to the point of mimicking his actions and way of life, and the love of good for all creatures. This love is based on knowledge rather than mere emotions.
Similarly, the love of the Libyans for Libya should come through their understanding of its history and hence, the knowledge of one’s owns roots and the appreciation of the people efforts in creating the Libyan identity over the years. By nature, humans seldom see with appreciation what they have as it is taken for granted; however, man always longs for of what he misses.
Most of the time, we accept events, places and people as they are, just because they are there. We do not question their value, importance and the logic in having them altogether as part of our life. The moment one sits back and starts trying to find a reason for this acceptance, the view may totally change and many of us would look at other different events, places and people and see in them the image of a more civilised life.
Image 1: Algiers square in Tripoli- old view
In this article, I will highlight some of many of the beautiful places in Libya that some young Libyans may have never had the luck to enjoy or see or may have seen long time ago and almost forgot as they are busy with their day to day living. I hope it turns into an enjoyable and informative reading.
This quarter of Tripoli, Image 1, was built by the Italians during their occupation in the nineteen hundred and twenties on a land that was confiscated from Libyans by force. This area had seen the first wave of attack on Tripoli and many civilian citizens were killed in cold blood during the first few days of the invasion. Libyan population at that time was made of predominantly Muslims and a small fraction was Jews. Most of the Jewish minority then were not fully integrated in the society due to various reasons. There were no Christian Libyans. After the occupation, the church was built as a landmark for Christian victory. It was designed to be higher than any Minaret in the city at that time.
At the time of the invasion, in 1911, the Italian forces were far superior to the Libyan resistance. However, in order to gain full control, the Italians declared three days without rule to facilitate total power for the soldiers with no law boundaries. Many Libyans fled out of the city for fear for their daughters and wives. Many members of the Jewish community then took advantage of the situation and started looting from Muslim Libyan’s homes. For the occupying forces, it was not unhelpful. This led to a better relation between this minority and the Italians. It would be very interesting to research Libyan history in order to know what happened and who is who in Libya.
I remember in the early sixties, this quarter was occupied by Italians, Jewish or pro-Italian Muslim families. The best shops, and the best places, cafés and restaurants were run by Italians and Jewish people. It was a great dream come true to see the last Italian leaving Tripoli.
Image 2: A partial view of the green square in Tripoli
In Image 2, you see how the Italians were enforcing their grip on our history by claiming the return to their ancient land and linking Tripoli to Rome and the Romans.
This land beside the castle was the cemetery of Sidi Hmoudah. It was removed and a mosque was built in his name within the building to the right. This square had seen the execution by hanging of some of the Libyan fighters ‘Mujahedeen’ during the invasion. It is called martyrdom square. The Italian colonial era is a dark one in our history. They did not allow Libyans to go to school beyond primary level so as to be used as cheap labour. They created for the first time in history concentration camps for Libyan tribes who were part of the resistance. In these camps two hundred Libyans would die daily from hunger and disease. As a last resort they built walls around the cities to cut them off from the rest of the country, more or less in a similar fashion as the Israelis do now in Gaza.
Image 3: Omar Mukhtar Street in Tripoli
Roma bank to the left in Image 3 was the first arm for the invasion and the last leg to leave. This bank created the atmosphere favouring invasion even among some Libyan families who benefited from its existence in Tripoli. Within two years of the invasion, some Libyans joined the Italian forces and sadly fought against their own people in the battle of Fondog Bin Ghasheer. They were tempted by money and power. Later on, the Italian Governor enforced military service on Libyans and took them to fight for them in the African horn mostly against their will;, and further later on, they were made to fight against the allied forces on the Egyptian front. The same story is repeated in every town and village. Afterwards, Italian families were to live and settle in all agricultural lands. They confiscated lands from their Libyan owners and gave them to Italian settlers. Most of the old houses we see in farms now were originally built for the Italian Farmers. Ironically, while Italians were cultivating the land, Libyans were made to work in roads projects or forestry projects to protect farming lands with no payment.
The Italian church authorities took a number of Libyan children to Italy to train them as priests. Some of them came back as priests and later returned to their families while others retained their new faith and identity and never returned.
Image 4 shows the same symbol of Italian and Christian dominance over the harbour mirrored in the city of Benghazi. It still remains standing as a reminder of the Italian occupation.
Image 4: Benghazi harbour
Even today, the sequelae of the Italian era is still existing all over Libya in the form of mine fields and the poor health and lack of education of the elderly along with a number of disabled people from mines.
Libyan people have not yet demanded proper compensations from Italy.
At last, in recognition of the brave national resistance during the Italian occupation; we, Libyans, should celebrate a national day for the martyrdoms who gave their lives for their country. This can be marked by the anniversary of the execution of Sidi Omar Mokhtar, by hanging, on the sixteenth of September.
The anniversary of the departure of the last Italian from Libyan soil is another major event that we should all celebrate wherever we are.
It is part of our national campaign for the love of Libya to ensure that all efforts and sacrifices that Libyans made for Libyan independence and freedom to come true, are recognized, appreciated, and held close to the hearts by all generations.