Libyan Concentration Camps

What I found most interesting was alluded to in both Lion of the Desert and “Reactions to Colonialism: The Politics of Collaboration and Resistance, 1911-1932” was the Italian concentration camps in Libya. Besides alluding to horrible conditions such as lack of food, water, and shelter, and disregard for life in the camps, the movie up until the point we watched does not show details of the concentration camps.

Horrible conditions of the camps include the actual migration to the camps–walking through the desert– and being behind barbed wire like animals. 

This attached source, which does not seem entirely reliable, actually cites a book by Dr. Todesky, “Cerinaica Today”. To quote the book,

“From May 1930 to September 1930 more than 80,000 Libyans were forced to leave their land and live in concentration camps, they were taken 300 at a time watched by soldiers to make sure that the Libyans go directly to the concentration camps. ” Dr. Todesky continued ” By the end of 1930 all Libyans who live in tents were forced to go and live in the camps. 55% of the Libyans died in the camps.”

This reliable source ( says that the camps had the following conditions:

“barbed wire, forced labor, a total lack of medical aid, and intense hunger and deprivation. Prisoners talked of having to eat grass, insects and mice to stay alive.”

I would be interested in finding out more about these camps and if I find more information will update the blog.

It’s Complicated.

This article did a good job of considering just how complicated collaboration and resistance was in Libya during Italian colonial rule but it also showed how complicated it was. I appreciated how in-depth the article went as well as the examples that were used multiple times to help convey the ultimate thesis of the article.

I found many things of interest within this article. One of them was how inter-mixed the tribes were in Libya. This is important because when historians say that many tribes in Libya sided with the Italians to get back at their rival tribes, it makes people think that it is one tribe against the other and that they have nothing in common. The article explained that this idea was a “colonial construct” that was used to separate the Libyan people in order to create more “order” for their ruling of them when in reality, the tribes did have things in common which ultimately might have led to their rival relationships.

Another point that I found to be of interest was the fact that some tribes viewed other tribes as more threatening to them than the Italians. Of course, each tribe and group had something different from the other groups, something that made them who they were and unlike any other tribe, but it made me wonder, did they feel like they were all attached to their homeland Libya? If they had all banded together, rather than fought amongst themselves at times, could they have kicked out Italy all together? The answer to this question is much deeper than what has been mentioned and being an outsider looking in, I can only speculate and imagine what the situation was like. The roots between the groups were deep and were probably too deep to simply forget. As stated before, this entire section of history has so many different factors involved which makes it complicated. Very complicated.

Reactions to Colonialism: Contradicitons in Colllaboration

What interested me in this article again addressed the relationship between a loss of independance and the emergence of capitalism. It seems to me that the collaboration of those who benefited from the trade of British and Italian capital goods only strenghtened Italian power and ability to govern. How did the collaboration of both merchants, upper-class, and some phesantry with the Italians affect the resistance movement? Were those who worked in collaboration with the Italians also resist? And, if so, who had the upper-hand, those who collaborated or those who resisted? Obviously, collaboration undermined the resistance, but to what extent?

Lion of the Desert, A summary

Since I was not able to attend the movie last night, here is my summary and opinion of the first hour and twenty-five minutes. In the beginning we see Mussolini in his “situation room.” There are maps on the walls and everyone is dressed in military garb. He is unhappy because the last 5 governors of the province of Cirenaica have failed at ending the violent (thought quite thoughtful and intellectual) rebellion lead by Omar Muhktar, a muslim intellectual who used to be a teacher. One of the generals, Rodolfo Graziani is chosen as the new governor of the rebellious province and Mussolini tells him not to fail because everyone else had and they are wimps. Graziani assures Mussolini that he will not lose, and then makes his way to Africa. It then cuts to a desert town where people seem free and happy. Some boys are getting a lesson in the Qur’an from a old man who we later find out is Omar Mukhtar. Mukhtar looks like a professor, with a pair of round spectacles, sitting cross-legged in front of a group of boys. While he is trying to give his lesson, a group of his soldiers return and the boys quickly lose concentration and are distracted by the music and dancing that is now taking place. Mukhtar also goes out to see what is happening, meeting up with one of his senior advisors and military leaders. They tell him that a new governor has been chosen and that his name is Graziani, a name that seems to carry some weight with the Muslim leaders because of his cruelty and brutality in war and with crushing rebellions. Mukhtar seems a little worried and decides to get his troops back together. He grabs his gun and supplies, and heads off with the other younger men.

There is a great big ballroom that reminded me of the scene in the Godfather: Part II when it is new year’s eve in Cuba and the rebellion starts. ANYWAY, everyone is dancing and having fun. Fans are spinning, people are eating and drinking. PARTICULARLY there is some super bad acting from the women who just do some stereotypically italian things and make weird faces. Graziani enters and everyone stops dancing and music comes to a record-scratching halt. Everyone sings a ridiculous song to Graziani and he comes in looking spiffy with his white suit and a dorky looking feather on his head, which makes him look more like a show horse than a brutal leader. Some crazy guy in the front starts to yell about Mussolini and everyone else joins in, but Graziani says, “chill bro, ladies are here. let’s just relax.” Graziani meets the guy that is apparently really good at negotiating and befriending the Muslims, but who later turns out to be a total bust and ruins the who negotiation process. The next day, they all discuss strategy and learn that more Italian forces have been defeated. Graziani is wicked pissed and decides to send out a force to kill Mukhtar. He is especially peeved when he learns that the forces that were defeated saw Mukhtar. Good for them.

ANYHOO, Graziani sends a bearded genrel who looks like Vladmir Lenin and sends him to a town in the desert. He rounds everyone up, takes a bunch of slaves, hits an old dude, kills a cripple, and burns half of the town’s food (total asshole). This is the last straw for one a young guy in the town and he throws a hissy-fit and marches off to join the rebellion and Mukhtar, leaving behind a grieving mother and a knocked-out grandpa.

Muhktar knows where the Italian Lenin will come through in the desert and sets a trap. He follows what he thinks is the whole Muslim force into the desert but IT’S A TRAP and he gets shot in the face. One young officer and a scout car and freed by Mukhtar and they return with the flag.


I think you get the point that I watched the movie, but feel free to ask me for anymore interpretations. I really loved this movie. Classic old-school war movie.