Despite promises of political agreements, the town of Tawergha remains abandoned, its residents forced to remain in refugee camps.
Among the many stories of displacement in Libya, none is more exemplary of the country’s byzantine, factional and deeply polarised political state than the case of Tawergha. Virtually a ghost town since 2011, what is keeping the residents of Tawergha from returning to their homes is not the looming threat of ISIS or widespread destruction, but the Misrata-based militias who continue to hold a grudge towards the residents of the town.
The roots of the grudge go back to the Libyan Revolution in 2011 and the subsequent conflict between the Libyan Rebels and the loyalists of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. As one of the first cities to rebel, Misrata was hit particularly hard by the loyalist forces. The Misratans allege that many Tawerghans were among the loyalist forces that put Misrata under a three-month siege, perpetrating numerous atrocities in the process. When Gaddafi fell, the Misratans attacked Tawergha in what they viewed payback for the events of the siege. The Tawerghans were subsequently displaced and prevented from returning to their hometown.
Since then, the Government of National Accord (GNA) and the United Nations (UN) have made numerous attempts to foster reconciliation between the Tawerghan and Misratan communities. Many promises of resolution was made but none have materialised. The most recent disappointment took place about a month and a half ago, when the Tawerghan and Misratan committees finally agreed on letting the Tawerghans return to their homes. These hopes were dashed when Misratan militias blocked the path to Tawergha, ignoring the agreement.
Through it all, the Tawerghans have lived in the Ahli camp for displaced people where conditions deteriorated steadily. The camp offers little shelter from the elements, particularly the harsh desert winds and the storms that buffer the whole region. Supplies such as food, medicine and sanitary items have also been low, with many concerned that they have received no assistance since February, only promises. The people here have been living in the camp so long that many of their children have little to no memories of Tawergha itself.
And thus, amidst the many disagreements that left Libya’s political system deadlocked, the suffering of one particular community continues seven years on.