The Italian Takeover of Kufra

The Frankfurter Zeitung reporter and author Muhammad Asad interviewed a man from Kufra after its seizure by the Italians in his book The Road to Mecca.

“How did Kufra fall?”
With a weary gesture, Sidi Umar [al-Mukhṭār] motioned to one of his men to come closer: “Let this man tell thee the story…He is one of the few who have escaped from Kufra. He came to me only yesterday.”
The man from Kufra sat down on his haunches before me and pulled his ragged burnus around him. He spoke slowly, without any tremor of emotion in his voice; but his gaunt face seemed to mirror all the horrors he had witnessed.

“They came upon us in three columns, from three sides, with many armoured cars and heavy cannon. Their aeroplanes came down low and bombed houses and mosques and palm groves. We had only a few hundred men able to carry arms; the rest were women and children and old men. We defended house after house, but they were too strong for us, and in the end only the village of Al-Hawari was left to us. Our rifles were useless against their armoured cars; and they overwhelmed us. Only a few of us escaped. I hid myself in the palm orchards waiting for a chance to make my way through the Italian lines; and all through the night I could hear the screams of the women as they were being raped by the Italian soldiers and Eritrean askaris. On the following day an old woman came to my hiding place and brought me water and bread. She told me that the Italian general had assembled all the surviving people before the tomb of Sayyid Muhammad al-Mahdi; and before their eyes he tore a copy of the Koran into pieces, threw it to the ground and set his boot upon it, shouting, “Let your beduin prophet help you now, if he can!” And then he ordered the palm trees of the oasis to be cut down and the wells destroyed and all the books of Sayyid Ahmad’s library burned. And on the next day he commanded that some of our elders and ulama be taken up in an aeroplane – and they were hurled out of the plane high above the ground to be smashed to death…And all through the second night I heard from my hiding place the cries of our women and the laughter of the soldiers, and their rifle shots…At last I crept out into the desert in the dark of night and found a stray camel and rode away…”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s