When Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi was toppled, people took revenge on those they saw as his supporters — including the entire town of Tawergha, whose 40,000 residents were forced to flee. Now, almost a decade after militia forces rampaged through the town, torching homes, destroying buildings and leaving farms in ruins, the people of Tawergha are coming home. Around a third of the original population of the town have returned — among them is Abdelghani Omar, who has opened a barber shop. “At first it was tough,” Omar said. “My relatives convinced me to get into hairdressing.” People are trickling back to Tawergha after years living in makeshift tent camps, to try to turn the page on a brutal chapter of their lives. Omar’s family persuaded him he was doing the right thing and providing a “useful” service for the battered community. Tawergha, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) east of the capital Tripoli, is close to the port city of Misrata. At the end of the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted and killed Kadhafi, Tawergha endured brutal reprisal attacks by fighters from Misrata. Militias from Misrata were key in defeating Kadhafi, and seeing Tawergha as the enemy, they laid siege to the town, pounding it with artillery. Most of the town’s population was violently displaced, according to Human Rights Watch, which denounced what it called “collective punishment” and a “possible crime against humanity”.