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The Italian occupation and the Libyan resistance
|In October 1911 the Italian fleet invaded Libya and the Libyans resisted the invaders with whatever little weapons they could get. The Italians first concentrated their attack on the coastal cities, Tripoli, Benghazi, Misurata and Derna. Major battles were fought in Al-Hani near Tripoli (October 23, 1911) , Ar-Rmaila near Misurata, Al-Fwaihat near Benghazi (March 1912) and Wadi Ash-Shwaer near Derna. Other battles took place on the coast and in other cities, villages, mountains and desert. One of the major battles was Al-Gherthabiya near Sirt (April 1915) where the Italians lost thousands of their soldiers.
Although the Italians succeeded in controlling most of Libya after years of resistance and struggle (Jihad), they could not control the whole country because the Libyan fighters (Mojahideen) left their homes and headed for the mountains where they planned their attacks against the Italian armies.
Some of the major Libyan fighters (Mojahideen) against the Italians were Omar Al-Mukhtar [see photo on the right] , Ramadan As-Swaihli, Mohammad Farhat Az-Zawi, Al-Fadeel Bo-Omar, Sulaiman Al-Barouni and Silima An-Nailiah to name a few. Omar Al-Mukhtar is considered the great symbol for the Libyan resistance (Jihad) against the Italian occupation. He reorganized the Mojahideen in the Green Mountain (Aj-Jabal Al-Akhdar) North East Libya and he re-ignited the resistance against Italy after World War I when the Italians thought that they succeeded in silencing the Libyan resistance.
Feeling that they may lose Libya to the Mojahideen, the Italian authorities sent one of their bloodiest high ranking officers Badolio who used the most inhuman measures to end the resistance. He did not just lead the fight against Omar Al-Mukhtar and his comrades, but he also punished even those who were living peacefully in the cities and villages accusing them of helping the Mojahideen.
Badolio was not the only one whom the Italian government thought able to end the Libyan resistance through using the most inhumane and bloodiest measures. Mussolini, the infamous Italian dictator, sent another high ranking officer to kill thousands and thousands of innocent Libyans, young and old. fighters and non-fighters. Mussolini thought that the solution to the Libyan problem was Rodolfo Grasiani and by sending him to lead the fight against the Libyans he was telling his cabinet that anything and everything must be done to control Libya. Grasiani agreed to go to Libya if and only if Mussolini let him do the job without any consideration or respect for rules and laws in Italy or in the World and Mussolini agreed immediately. Before coming to Libya, Grasiani went to Morj, Switzerland where he enjoyed a vacation in which he planned his murderous attack on the Libyans, all Libyans according to Mussolini's Motto "If you are not with me, you are against me !" which means the only way to control the country is by killing almost half of its population and the Italians did cause the death of half of Libya's men, women, elderly and children, directly through public hangings and shootings and indirectly (hunger, illness and horror) for the sake of one thing: showing the world that they have the power to invade and capture colonies just like the other powers in the world.
Grasiani's plan was: First to isolate Libya completely and prevent any direct or indirect contact between the Mojahideen and their neighbours who supply the Libyan Mojahideen with weapons and information. Grasiani built a wired wall 300 Kilometers long, 2 meters high and 3 meters wide from Bardiyat Slaiman port North Libya to Al-Jaghboub South East Libya.
The second part of the plan was to built concentration camps where thousands of Libyans must live under complete control of the Italian army. Grasiani built concentration camps in: Al-Aghaila, Al-Maghroun, Solouq and Al-Abiyar to name a few. By the end of November 1929 all Libyans who lived in tents in Al-Jabal Al-Akhdar, Mortaf-Aat Al-Thahir from Beneena North to Ash-Shlaithemiya South, from Tawkera to the southern desert of Balt Abdel-Hafeeth and all the members of any tribe that had one or more of its sons fighting with Mojahideen, all those and more, thousands and thousands of Libyans were forced to leave their land and live in one of the concentration camps mentioned above.
Life in the camps was miserable and thousands of Libyans died of hunger, illness and some of them were hanged or shot because they were believed to be helping the Mojahideen. In 1933, the Italian Army Health Department Chairman, Dr. Todesky wrote in his book (Cerinyca today):
"From May 1930 to September 1930 more than 80,000 Libyans were forced to leave their land and live in concentration camps. They were taken 300 at a time watched by soldiers to make sure that the Libyans go directly to the concentration camps. " Dr. Todesky continued " By the end of 1930 all Libyans who lived in tents were forced to go and live in the camps. 55% of the Libyans died in the camps."
The Libyan historian Mahmoud Ali At-Taeb said in an interview with the Libyan magazine Ash-Shoura (October 1979) that in November 1930 there were at least seventeen funerals a day in the camps due to hunger, illness and depression.
When some world newspapers talked about the inhumane life in the concentration camps in Libya, the Italian army started giving the Libyans some dry barley (22 Kilo-grams per person per month !) which was too little too late.
Outside the camps, in the mountains, the Mojahideen continued to fight the Italian occupation, but by the year 1931 the Mojahideen were out of food, out of information and out of ammunitions. The leader of the Mojahideen, Omar Al-Mukhtar, was ill couple of times and many of his comrades asked him to retire and leave the country. He was 80 years old. But he refused and kept fighting and he deserved a name given to him as "The Lion of the Desert."
On September 16, 1931 the Italians hanged Omar Al-Mukhtar in the city of Solouq and they forced the Libyans to watch their hero being hanged. No consideration to Omar Al-Mukhtar's old age, no consideration to international law and no consideration to world war treaties. But, remember that the Italians caused the death of half of Libya's population and killing Omar Al-Mukhtar to the Italians was ending the Libyan resistance which to them means finally taking control of the country after 20 years of struggle.
Libya was under the Italian occupation till 1943 when Italy was defeated in World War II and Libya came under the Allies armies occupation till December 24, 1951 when Libya achieved its independence after years and years of occupation.