is town was once home to thousands of mostly black non-Arab residents. Now, the only manmade sound is a generator that powers a small militia checkpoint, where rebels say the town is a â€œclosed military area.â€
What happened to the residents of Tawergha appears to be another sign that despite the rebel leadershipâ€™s pledges that it will exact no revenge on supporters of deposed dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Libyaâ€™s new rulers often are dealing harshly with the countryâ€™s black residents.
According to Tawergha residents, rebel soldiers from Misrata forced them from their homes on Aug. 15 when they took control of the town. The residents were then apparently driven out of a pair of refugee camps in Tripoli over this past weekend.
â€œThe Misrata people are still looking for black people,â€ said Hassan, a Tawergha resident who is now sheltering in a third camp in Janzour, six miles east of Tripoli. â€œOne of the men who came to this camp told me my brother was killed yesterday by the revolutionaries.â€
On Tuesday, Amnesty International issued a report on human rights issues in Libya that included claims that the rebels had abused prisoners, conducted revenge killings and removed pro-Gadhafi fighters from hospitals.
Dalia Eltahawy, an Amnesty researcher, said the Tawerghis â€œare certainly a very vulnerable group and need to be protected.â€ She called on the rebel leadership to â€œinvestigate and bring people to justiceâ€ for those abuses â€œto avoid a culture of impunity.â€
But rebel leaders, in their response, made no mention of Tawergha, though they promised to â€œmove quickly â€¦ to make sure similar abuses are avoided in areas of continued conflict such as Bani Walid and Sirte.â€
â€œWhile the Amnesty report is overwhelmingly filled with the horrific abuses and killings by the Gadhafi regime, there are a small number of incidents involving those opposed to Gadhafi,â€ the rebelsâ€™ ruling National Transitional Council said in a statement. â€œThe NTC strongly condemns any abuses perpetrated by either side.â€
Thereâ€™s no doubt that until last month, Tawergha was used by Gadhafi forces as a base from which to fire artillery into Misrata, which lies about 25 miles north.
Misratans say, however, that Tawerghaâ€™s involvement on Gadhafiâ€™s side went deeper: Many of the villageâ€™s residents openly participated in an offensive against Misrata that left more than 1,000 dead and as many missing, they say.
â€œLook on YouTube and you will see hundreds of Tawerghi men saying, â€˜Weâ€™re coming to get you, Misrata,â€™â€ said Ahmed Sawehli, a psychiatrist in Misrata. â€œThey shot the videos themselves with their cellphones.â€
The Tawerghis do not deny that some from the town fought for Gadhafi, but they say they are victims of a pre-existing racism in Libya that has manifested itself violently during the revolution.
The evidence that the rebelsâ€™ pursuit of the Tawerghis did not end with the collapse of the Gadhafi regime is visible, both in the emptiness of this village and that of the camps to which the residents fled.
At one, in a Turkish-owned industrial complex in the Salah al Deen neighborhood of southern Tripoli, a man looting metal from the complex simply said that the Tawerghis had â€œgone to Niger,â€ the country that borders Libya on the south.