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

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL 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.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid