An Italian Revert & A Martyr: The Story of Yousef El Musulmani

June 12, 2012 § 5 Comments

A great story in a small book written by Fathi Ali Saahli of CARMINE JORIO GIUSEPPE (Yousef El Musulmani). Yousef El Musulmani

Carmine Jorio was born to a Christian family in Naples, Italy in 1883. When he was a teenager he had a dream troubling him many nights and told his mother who called the village priest. He told the priest that he dreamt that he saw himself at the edge of a mountain and being transformed into a great bird, and when he was ready to fly a great serpent jumped at him and while he was struggling with the serpent he woke up.

The priest told him not to worry, that at sometime in his future he would become something else and his struggle with the serpent is the eternal struggle between good and evil.

In 1901 he joined the Italian army and specialized in small arms maintenance and repair. On 15 October, 1911, he was a sergeant and a member of the marine force of 15,000 strong directed to occupy the City of Derna in eastern Libya.

After ten days of bombardment and failed landings, the defending force of 3,500 Turk and Arab soldiers were finally defeated and the Italians occupied the Turkish garrison of the city and made it their own.  Count Trombi was then appointed as a governor and the garrison was strengthened by 1,500 soldiers and two battalions of Alpine Chasseurs.

Carmine Jorio became one of the soldiers in the Italian garrison of Derna. It seems that Carmine was very inquisitive of his new environment and wished to learn Arabic language and to understand the Quran. His battalion shared some of the vicious and heavy fighting against the Libyan Mujahedin in January 1915 around Derna and near Martouba.

In 1916 Carmine made the great step of his life, he fled Derna garrison and delivered himself voluntary to the Mujahedin in the outskirts of the Green Mountain. He was then taken to Al Fadeel Bu Omar الفضيل بو عمر one of Omar Mukhtar commanders where he declared his conversion to Islam and became known as Yousef El Musulmani يوسف المسلمانى .

Yousef El Musulmani became one of the free fighters of the land and a great help to the cause with his expertise in small arms and Italians tactics of war. He was present in the battles of Marsa Brega, Bir Bilal, Solug and many others. Omar Mukhtar made him a lieutenant and he married a girl from Kufra called Tibra Musa Al Majebri تبرة موسى المجبرى . He had two children, a boy called Mohamed محمد , and a girl called Aisha عائشة . His grandsons and granddaughters still live with us in their own home land.

His fantastic story ended abruptly when after twelve years and due to the betrayal of some traitors he was captured near Jialo oasis in 1928. As some high fascist officials were personally following up his case he was put to a quick trial on the spot , tried for high treason and given the verdict of capital punishment. He was then given the choice of converting back to his former religion and offered life instead, but he refused and willed only that his family –hidden then by his fellow Mujahedin- to be left living peacefully with his fellow Muslims.

Historical eyewitnesses say that he stood gallantly and read few verses of the Quran before he was hit by the firing squad in the market Jialo square, and he was buried in Jialo.

A record of Carmine’s story is found in several Fascist writings, bearing in mind that they represent the Fascist point of view. Those include Dante Maria Tuninetti, Secretary of the Fascist Party of Cyrenaica, several military officers and the Minister of Colonies then.

In 1991, Salvatore Bono, professor of Afro-Asian History of Perugia University, Italy wrote a research on the soldier that became a fighter with Omar Mukhtar.

Doesn’t Yousef El Musulmani Deserved To Be Remembered By Us?


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§ 5 Responses to An Italian Revert & A Martyr: The Story of Yousef El Musulmani

  • As I have written five long articles about the history of Carmine Jorio, alias Yusuf el-Musulmani, I can say that the Fathi Ali Saahli book gives us many errors. First, Jorio was born in Altavilla Silentina, near Salerno, and not in Naples; his born-date was December 8, 1892, and not 1883; he joined the Italian army in 1912, not in 1901, so he could not partecipate to the firs Italian invasion of Libya; he was in the Italian garrison of Tucrah (or Tocra), and not in Derna, when he, on the night of the July 14, 1916, left his garrison; little after, he was captured by a bedouine caravan thet left him to Ajadabiah, before the great Sanusi Muhammad Idris. In Ajdabiah Carmine Jorio escaped to the gallows because he was taken under the protection of the Idris’ brother, Sayied Muhammad er-Rida. So the Italian deserter accepted to stay amomg the Sanusi Mujahedins,to converted to Islam becoming Yusuf el-Musulmani, and to fight along with his friend Omar al-Mukhtar. It is very true that, before being shooted after the trial, he refused to return to his former religion, but he done that only for the honour of his two sons remained among the Mujaheddins. But is very false – or better, ridiculous – that someone offered to Jorio the life in exchange for his return to the Christian religion. For the Italian army. the Jorio’s fault of betrayal was so great that no power might save his life.
    The book of Fathi Ali Saahli is an example of a strange and inaccurate way of writing the history.
    Very sincerely
    Ennio Scannapieco, Salerno, Italy.

    • Bob Othman says:

      Ennio Scannapieco,

      Your explanation is much appreciated and noted. If such discrepancies offended you, I do offer my apologies. Truthfully, I do not have any idea on how to verify whether all the facts available are accurate or misleading. And that includes all info from you as well. With due respect to your work (and i truly believe that you have made extensive studies), I will include the discrepancies as footnotes to the original article. Again, many thanks to your kind attention and I do stand corrected. Thanks.

      • Dear Mr. Othman:
        many thanks for your very kind e-mail.
        The incorrectnesses noted about the Fathi Ali Saahli’s booklet are not offensive for me, but perhaps only for some little historical truths. In Italy the story of Carmine Jorio/Yusuf el-Musulmani (not Carmine Jorio Giuseppe) is very well known, al least untill his escape from Tocrah’s Italian garrison and after his capture (on November 16, 1928) at the Gicherra Oasis, near Jialo. Jorio was born on the December 9, 1892, in the little town of Altavilla Silentina, province of Salerno; in 1911 he married a young girl of his country, but on the March 21, 1912, he was enlisted – or better, precepted – by the Italian army, and sent in Libya with the 79° regiment of infantry. As proved by the italian document (a sentence to dearh for disertion dated December 30, 1916), Jorio escaped from the prison of the Tocrah garrison (in wich he had been shut up for row and drunkness) and began his great adventure among the Sanusi Mujahedins. These are simple truths easily checkable. Then, following a story that Jorio heself told to the Italian military authorities after his capture at Gicherra, after his escape from the military prison, he was captured – still drunk – by a Libyan caravan that took him first at el-Abjar, and then to Ajdabiah, residence of the Great Sanusi chief Muhammad Idris, the future king Idris I°. Sentenced to the gallows, Jorio was saved, at the last moment, by the Great Sanusi’s brother Sayied Muhammad el-Rida. El-Rida has been infomed that Jorio was a marks-man (or a good shot) in his regiment, so he offered to Jorio a chance of salvation, but in exchange for a “little” favour: to kill for him two el-Rida’s ennemies of another tribe!… Jorio accepted, and done so well this charge, that el-Rida took him under his protection and proposed to the Italian deserter to join with the Sanusi Mujahedins, taking however the oath to the Sanusi Brotherhood. Jorio had not other choiches, so he accepted the proposal. Of course, this last part of the history is inverifiable, as we have only the words of Jorio himself. It is sure, nevertheless, that the poor Italian deserter, after some months learned very well the Arab language and the Quran, and accepted to be converted to the Islamic religion, taking the new name of Yusuf el-Musulmani. But the true Jorio’s conversion was another one: he understood that the Libyan people had all rights to fight against the violent Italian colonialism, so decided to help the Libyan fighters for freedom, becoming friend and lieutenant of Omar al-Muthkar. Jorio married two arab women, the second was a girl of great beauty named, in the italian documents, “Teber ben-Mussa”, but whose correct name was, following Fathi Ali Saahli, Tibra Musa al-Majebri (but another Libyan source gives a little different name: Tibra Musa al-Miqires). In 1928 the woman was captured by Italian soldiers, and to free her Jorio falled in the fatal trap of Gicherra Oasis.
        Even if some accounts of this story were in the booklet “Il mistero di Cufra” (1932) written by the fascist author Dante Maria Tuninetti, the true story of Carmine Jorio was known in Italy only after the Second World War and the fall of the Fascism. In 1931 a good Italian journalist, Francesco Maratea (1889-1977), during a trip in Libya interwieved the general Pietro Maletti who had questioned Carmine Jorio after his arrest and during the trial; but only in 1950 Maratea could publish a long reportage about the entire story of Yusuf el-Musulmani on an Italian magazine. In 2004 another famed Italian journalist, Gian Antonio Stella, descovered again and popularized this exotic history. Four years after Stella wrote also an historic fiction (titled “Carmine Pasha”) in which Carmine Jorio is trasformed in a literary personage. My dream to write an entire historical book on the adventurous life of Yusuf el-Musulmani has been frustrated, up till now, by my inability to purchase one of the works published in Libya on this subject. Even if a book as that one of Fathi Ali Saahli give us many biographical inaccuracies, I think that it might be very useful for my aim. Might you give me an advice or an help for this purpose?
        Apologizing for the lenght of tis mail, thank you for your patient attention.
        Very cordially, Ennio Scannapieco, Salerno, Italy

  • […] I wrote an article “An Italian Revert & A Martyr: The Story of Yousef El Musulmani“, which I picked up from various online sources. It was a very important story closely linked […]

  • Bob Othman says:

    Ennio Scannapieco, many thanks for your kind advise. I have put all your comments in my article “”. I hope to publish on the corrected article of the great man. Thank you again.

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