Umar Mukhtar: Lion Of The Desert

June 12, 2012 § 1 Comment

Umar Mukhtar (1862 – September 16, 1931), was born in the small village of Janzour, near Tobruk in eastern Barqa (Cyrenaica) in Libya. Beginning in 1912, he organized and, for nearly twenty years, led native resistance to Italian colonization of Libya. The Italians captured and hanged him in 1931.Umar Mukhtar

He was orphaned early and was adopted by Sharif El Gariani, nephew of Hussein Ghariani, a political-religious leader in Cyrenaica. He received his early education at the local mosque and then studied for eight years at the Senussi university at Jaghbub, which was also the headquarters of the Senussi Movement.

In October 1911, during the Italo-Turkish War, an Italian naval contingent under the command of Admiral Luigi Faravelli reached the shores of Libya, and demanded that the Turkish administration and garrison surrender their territory to the Italians or incur the immediate destruction of the city of Tripoli. The Turks and their Libyan allies withdrew to the countryside instead of surrendering, and the Italians bombarded the city for three days, then proclaimed the Tripolitanians to be “committed and strongly bound to Italy.” This marked the beginning of a series of battles between the Italian colonial forces and the Libyan armed opposition under Umar Mukhtar.

A teacher of the Qur’an by profession, Mukhtar was also skilled in the strategies and tactics of desert warfare. He knew local geography well and used that knowledge to advantage in battles against the Italians, who were unaccustomed to desert warfare. Mukhtar repeatedly led his small, highly alert groups in successful attacks against the Italians, after which they would fade back into the desert terrain. Mukhtar’s men skillfully attacked outposts, ambushed troops, and cut lines of supply and communication. The Italian army was left astonished and embarrassed by his guerrilla tactics

“I’m not a sweet bite of a meal anyone can swallow. No matter how long they try to change my belief and opinion, Allah is going to let them down” Umar Mukhtar

Umar Mukhtar’s struggle of nearly twenty years came to an end on September 11, 1931, when he was wounded in battle near Slonta, then captured by the Italian army. The Italians treated the native leader hero as a prize catch. His resilience had an impact on his jailers, who later remarked upon his steadfastness. His interrogators stated that Mukhtar recited verses of peace from the Qur’an.

In three days, Mukhtar was tried, convicted, and, on September 14, 1931, sentenced to be hanged publicly (historians and scholars have questioned whether his trial was fair or impartial). When asked if he wished to say any last words, Mukhtar replied with a Qur’anic phrase: “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.” (“To God we belong and to Him we shall return.”). On September 16, 1931, on the orders of the Italian court and with Italian hopes that Libyan resistance would die with him, Mukhtar was hanged before his followers in the concentration camp of Suluq at the age of 82 years.

Today, Mukhtar’s face appears on the Libyan ten-dinar bill.

Umar Mukhtar

His final years were depicted in the movie Lion of the Desert (1981), starring Anthony Quinn, Oliver Reed, and Irene Papas. The Italian authorities had banned the film in 1982 because, in the words of the then Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, it was “damaging to the honor of the army”.

The last act of the government’s intervention against the film was on April 7, 1987, in Trento; afterward, MPs from Democrazia Proletaria asked Parliament to show the movie at the Chamber of Deputies.

The movie was finally broadcasted on television in Italy by Sky Italy on June 11, 2009 during the official visit to Italy of Libya’s former leader Muammar Gaddafi (who wore a photograph of Umar Mukhtar hanging on his chest while on the state visit, and brought along Umar Mukhtar’s elderly son).

from the movie Lion of the Desert:
Umar Mukhtar: We do not kill prisoners!
Arab Warrior: They do it to us!
Umar Mukhtar: They are not our teachers!

With the Libyan uprising beginning February 17, 2011, Umar Mukhtar again became a symbol for a united, free Libya and his picture is depicted on various flags and posters of the Free Libya movement. Rebel forces named one of their brigades the “Umar Mukhtar brigade” after him.

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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