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

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora