Mussolini & the Sword of Islam
Mussolini’s visit to Libya in 1937 was a masterpiece of propaganda. He inaugurated the “Litoranea” (an impressive highway completed in less than 18 months), deprived Italo Balbo of the glory and set himself up as a protector of Islam. Very ironic since Italian colonialism in Cyrenaica had been very brutal. An entire population of 100,000 had been marched to Cyrenaican concentration camps and an estimated 40,000 died. Only in 1931 after the capture and hanging of Omar al-Mukhtar did the situation end. In this region of Libya the “Sanusi order had become deeply rooted as a state and as a religion” (p.63). Even after years of fascist propaganda the tribes in Cyrenaica resisted Italian colonialism.
I can’t help but remember Gaddafi’s visit to Italy in 2009. He arrived wearing a picture of al-Mukhtar pinned to his jacket. Berlusconi stated “A long painful chapter with Libya has been closed”, and Gaddafi “praised this generation of Italians for having resolved the issues of the past with great courage”. But as is usually the case, economic concerns and prestige were the main factors involved here. I just think it’s ironic that after over 70 years this “long painful chapter” as Berlusconi called it, is long from being over. This course on Italian Colonialism should be taught in Italian schools at all levels and it is not. The censorship of documents or films relating to the colonial experience by Italian authorities creates a barrier to the truth. Italians need to know what happened during their colonial experience and to be able to judge using all information available.
Arch of the Fileni (Litoranea)
Mussolini’s visit to Libya in 1937:
Geddafi & Berlusconi 2009
This is a very good article explaining the relationship between Italy and Libya during the past 100 years: