As Libyans prepared to celebrate the first anniversary (on September 1) of the military coup which overthrew king Idris, thousands of Italians left the country.
As Libyans prepared to celebrate the first anniversary (on September 1) of the military coup which overthrew king Idris, thousands of Italians left the country. Six weeks ago the Libyan Government announced that it was confiscating the property and assets of the 19,000 Italians in the country in retaliation for Italy's past colonisation.
In the three days before the anniversary of the coup well over 1,000 Italians embarked at Tripoli to return home. Many of then have lived in Libya since before the Second World War when the country was an Italian colony. Many of the Italians were searched before being allowed to board ship.
Traces of foreign influence have been disappearing fast in Libya since a group of young army officers toppled king Idris from his throne. An extensive "Arabisation" programme launched by the military leader under Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has resulted in the banning of non-arab signs at hotels, Tripoli's international airport, on shops and public places. Motorists who can not read Arabic can not read the name of the street along which they are driving.
The six Italian or English-language newspapers formerly appearing in Tripoli have ceased publication. Another item to disappear is alcohol. The sale of all wines an spirits has been banned by the country's 28-year old leader. Nightclubs too have been ruled out.
The future of commerce and industry in the country is in the balance since the Italians who ran much of it are expected to have all left by the end of this year. They are no longer eligible of licenses to trade or to follow a profession.
The past year has also seen the evacuation of the last military bases in Libya and the closure of the giant American Wheelus Base, outside Tripoli.
Since the discovery and exploitation of vast quantities of oil in the past ten years the 2,000,000 people in Libya have enjoyed one of the highest living standards in the Arab world. As the country moves towards a State-controlled economy a big questions marks hangs over the future of its rich oil industry.
During the shooting of this film a Dutch television team was detained. The cameramen who took these pictures was also arrested but kept his camera running as he was taken for questioning. The televisions men were late released.