02/16/2013, 00.00
LIBYA

Libya, Salafists ready to destroy Tripoli’s symbolic statute. The population revolts

For the head of the Department of Antiquities, the extremists are a threat to the entire national cultural heritage. Also at risk is the Unesco World Heritage sites such as Leptis Magna and Cyrene. Since August, more than 70 monuments destroyed by Islamic extremists. The population of Tripoli organize a demonstration to oust the Salafis.

Tripoli (AsiaNews) - The Islamists are threatening the historical and archaeological heritage of Libya. At risk are not only statues and monuments considered indecent by Islam, but also UNESCO World Heritage sites such as the Roman city of Leptis Magna, Sabratha and Cyrene, the Berber oasis of Gadames, the cave paintings of Tadrart Acacus. The warning has been launched by Mustafa Turjman, head of the Department of Antiquities of Libya. The researcher reports that in recent days some Salafis have attempted to cover with a veil and damage the statue "the Gazelle" (see photo) a bronze monument depicting a naked woman, a symbol of the city of Tripoli and dating back to the Italian colonization. According Turjam the defense of the Libyan cultural heritage has become a small battle for the new Libya, full of the contradictions of the Arab Spring that culminated with the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

Two years after the death of Gaddafi, the country still does not have a stable government capable of ensuring security and border control and has become a sort of haven for Islamic extremist militias active in Algeria and Mali. Since August Islamic extremists have already destroyed 70 mosques and shrines belonging to the Sufi minority, a current both Shiite and Sunni Islam considers heretical. Not only religious monuments are being targeted, hundreds of tombs dating back to the colonial period and several non-Muslim libraries and cultural centres have been destroyed.

The alarm raised by Turjam is shared by most of the population. Many Libyans consider the Salafis and Islamic extremists a minority, imposing its will through weapons and the support of complacent leaders. "The Gazelle is the symbol of Tripoli," says Souad Wheidi, physiotherapist, "it is part of the heritage of the city and has survived to the monarchy and the Gaddafi regime ...". He points out that "the Salafis are a small minority, trying in every way to take power." Adel Turki, a restorer from  Bristol University who directed restoration work on the statue in 2012, says "the people of Tripoli considers the monument an important part of their past."

"If the Salafists will destroy it, the people will take to the streets against them." In the coming days in Tripoli a large demonstration is being organised against the Islamic militias that roam the city. Similar protests also took place in October in Benghazi, after the murder of Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador who died in the attack on the U.S. consulate organized by Islamic extremists on September 11, 2012.

 

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