Libyan refugees are forced to flee
Libyan refugees are forced to flee
Mel Frikberg

TRIPOLI – Nafisa Muhammad knows all too well that vengeance is alive and well in post-revolution Libya. “One of my brothers was kidnapped by rebels from Misrata at Benghazi airport," she says. "On his first day at a local detention center, he was beaten to death.”

The 31-year-old woman now lives in a refugee camp in Fillah, in the northwest of Libya. Her cousin was also a victim of the post Gaddafi-era. He was burnt to death along with other loyalist combatants who had remained faithful to Gaddafi. Former rebels locked them in a fire truck, splashed it with gasoline and set it on fire. Footage of mutilated corpses was then sent to their relatives, as payback for the atrocities perpetrated by Gaddafi’s supporters against the people of Misrata during the city’s siege in March 2011. A few months after the revolution, ethnic and politically fueled violence is still very common.

A large majority of the 74,000 displaced people in Libya are living in appalling conditions, according to the UNHCR Refugee Agency. The 25 to 30 detention centers – official or secret – and refugee camps are run by the government, army and police or by local militias. Most receive help from international and Libyan NGOs but their means are limited.

One of the consequences is the high number of miscarriages due to a lack of care and bad treatment in the camps. In the detention centers, cells are overcrowded while the local militias dish out their arbitrary justice. The inmates, who are predominantly black, are deprived of food and water.

Arbitrary detention, torture

Human Rights Watch raised the alarm in mid-July, saying that the Libyan government should take immediate steps to assume custody of all 5,000 detainees still held by militias, with some subjected to severe torture. According to the international human rights organization, these prisoners are Gaddafi’s security force members, former government officials, foreign mercenaries and migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa.

Muftha is the displaced persons’ coordinator at the Fillah refugee camp. He refuses to give his last name for safety reasons. Muftha comes from a city famous for supporting Gaddafi during the war. Now he is afraid of being kidnapped by militias if he leaves the camp - and that he will disappear, never to be seen again. “Although we are free to enter and leave the camp, most of us don’t. We rely on women to bring food back from outside.”

According to Samuel Cheung, the person in charge of safety issues at the UNHCR in Tripoli, many displaced people left their hometown because of clashes between rival militias. Some of these clashes date back to the Gaddafi era. They are related to tribal land disputes – an important source of tension in today’s Libya. This adds another threat to the fragile stability of a country in search of democracy.

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Society

How The Top Collector Of Chinese Art Evades Censors In New Hong Kong Museum

Swiss businessman Uli Sigg is the most important collector of Chinese contemporary art. In 2012, he gave away most of his collection to the M+ in Hong Kong. Now the museum has opened as the Communist Party is cracking down hard on freedom of expression. So how do you run a museum in the face of widespread censorship from Beijing?

''Rouge 1992'' by Li Shan at the M+ museum

Maximilian Kalkhof

The first test has been passed, Uli Sigg thinks. So far, everything has gone well. His new exhibition has opened, visitors like to come, and — this is the most important thing for the Swiss businessman — everything is on display. He has not had to take an exhibit off the list of works.

The M+ in Hong Kong is a new museum that wants to compete with the established ones. It wants to surpass the MoMa in New York and Centre Pompidou in Paris. Sigg, a rather down-to-earth man, says: “There is no better museum in the whole world.” That is very much self-praise, since Sigg’s own collection is central to the museum.

The only problem is: great art is often political; it questions the rulers. Since the Chinese Communist Party has been cracking down on critics and freedom in Hong Kong, the metropolis is a bad place for politics and art. So how did the collection get there?

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