Slavery in Libya

It comes as a shock to learn that slave auctions still take place, and that Black Africans are still being bought and sold. One of so many things we like to think of as no longer taking place in the modern world, but which are still going on.

Slavery was found inconsistent with common law here in the UK in 1772 and trading in slaves made illegal in the British Empire in 1807, though another act was needed to officially abolish slavery throughout the British Empire in 1833, and it continued in some parts for another few years. The world’s first international human rights society, the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, was formed here in 1839 (and continues now as Anti-Slavery International. But slavery has continued around the world, and even in the UK the National Crime Agency says there may be “tens of thousands” of victims of modern slavery and trafficking now.

Slavery has a long history in Libya into modern times, but has changed following the overthrow of Gaddafi by NATO-led forces, since when the country has been in disorder. Both Black Libyans and migrants on their way to Europe through Libya have been targeted, including those taken back to Libya while making the Mediterranean crossing and put into camps. Captured by people smugglers or militias they are often tortured to try and extract money from their families, and may be sold as slaves.

Reports about the slave auctions had leaked out and led to complaints by some African governments, but it was the leaking of videos of the auctions that led to large-scale protests in France and to hundreds of people at this protest outside the Libyan embassy in London.

The narrow pavement of Knightsbridge outside the Libyan Embassy soon became very full, spilling out onto the road, which was almost blocked by the time I left. Many of those at the protest were Black, and some carried flags of African nations.

Although there have been reports about the terrible conditions in the Libyan camps and the slave auctions for some months, little has appeared in the Western press, and many see the Western intervention to remove Gaddafi as part of a wider continuing neo-colonialist attempt to control Africa’s natural resources. They complain the west and those it has put into power in Libya are engaged in a process of de-Africanisation and elimination of Black Libyans and that the slave auctions are a logical extension.

Although I was able to photograph those at the centre of the protest, the crowding made it difficult to move around as the numbers at the event grew, and many of my pictures show the same small number of people, particularly those who had brought national flags and who spoke at the event.

More at: End Slave Auctions in Libya

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