News / Africa

Arab Spring Forges New Bonds Between North African Neighbors

Multimedia

Lisa Bryant

The popular uprisings in Tunisia and Libya are reshaping ancient bonds between these North African neighbors. Tunisians who once flocked to Libya for jobs are now providing food and shelter to war-torn Libyans, and possibly a delivery route for rebel weapons.

The Dehiba-Wazin desert border separating Tunisia and Libya is bustling on a scorching afternoon. Cars and trucks cross over, crammed with fruit, milk and other supplies that are increasingly hard to find in war-torn Libya.

An ambulance heads the other way, bound for the nearest Tunisian hospital, an hour-and-a half drive away.

Tripoli, where diplomatic negotiations to end the Libyan conflict are intensifying, lies 260 kilometers to the northeast. Tunis is a 500 kilometer drive due north.

That's where Libyan Ayooub Maslati, 23, has come from. A few months ago, Maslati worked as a marketing manager in Tripoli. Now he lives in Tunis, driving to Libya a few times a month to deliver what he says is humanitarian assistance to the rebels.

"[I help provide] aid supplies for families - like food, milk, water. The basic needs," Maslati noted.

Maslati smiles but doesn't answer when asked about weapons reportedly flowing across the border. Tunisian border guards don't appear to be checking the vehicles crossing very carefully.

"For aid, they don't ask because they understand the situation. But for the guns, I don't have [any] idea," Maslati added.

Tunisian police commissioner Kamel Debichi says thousands of people cross the border daily. He says it's up to customs officials - not border police - to check for arms.  Debichi adds that border officials may have found a few weapons here and there, items Libyans must have forgotten in their car trunks.

Libyan rebels control the other side of the border crossing. They even have a spokesman, Nader Ayousef, who studied in the United States.

"Welcome guys. Welcome to our Libya hora [free]... this is Wazin border gate, which has been captured by the Gadhafi troops in late March and then been liberated by the pro-democracy fighters here," said Ayousef.  "And we are still here, keeping this humanitarian border."

Rebels clad in jeans and combat fatigues smoke and chat. Nearby Wazin village is deserted.  Its residents fled weeks ago. The hundreds of opposition fighters holed up in the nearby Western Mountains clash frequently with Gadhafi loyalists.

"Our fighters [are in] the mountains [are] just in [a] defense position, just defending you know. [They] haven't got much power, much modern weapons to attack those [Gadhafi] troops, just defending," Ayousef explained.

Shelling by Libyan troops has strayed over the border, reaching the Tunisian town of Dehiba three kilometers away.

Resident Islam Ben Hamed, who chats with friends at a cafe, says nobody has died, but people are scared.

"We hear... the morning and every night - it make you crazy," said Hamed.

More than 1,000 Libyans have also fled to Dehiba. They now account for about 15 percent of the population. Some are staying at a refugee camp run by the United Arab Emirates. But many residents have opened their homes to Libyans like Soraya, 30, and her family.

Soraya says she thanks Tunisians for their welcome. She feels they are like her second family.

Dehiba's residents are coming to grips with two revolutions, their own popular uprising in January and now the Libyan one. The unrest has brought many changes, both good and bad.

Islam Ben Hamed, for example, lost his job working at a Tunisian resort hotel this year because tourism plummeted after the revolution.

But the Libyan conflict has brought work to his younger brother Lotfi as a border monitor for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  Recently, Lotfi Ben Hamed has seen more and more Libyans returning home.

"They feel more familiar with what's going on and they're going back because they're more comfortable and more secure," Lotfi Ben Hamed noted.

Lotfi Ben Hamed says Tunisians are still emerging from their own uprising. Now, they're dealing with Libya's. He says he's just trying to move forward and is hoping for the best.

You May Like

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid