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The Reasons Behind The Libya Crisis

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Published: Thu, 20 Apr 2017

Recently, the world has witnessed the uprising of numerous Arab countries controlled by dictators. Of particular notice is the fact that mostly of these countries are rich with natural resources, mainly oil and gas. Substantial revenues are obtained from these natural resources, mainly from product exported to the western world.

Libya is a country located in the Maghreb region of North Africa. Its formal name is the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, it means „state of the masses”. It is bordered on the north by the Mediterranean Sea, on the east by Egypt and Sudan, on the south by Chad and Niger, and to the west by Algeria and Tunisia Libya has a land area of 700,000 square kilometers, 90% of it is desert. The capital Tripoli which is located in the North is the biggest city next to Benghazi.

This Arab nation has a population of 6.4 million people, 97% are Berber and Arab. The rest of the population is composed of Greeks, Maltese, Italians, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Turks, Indian and Tunisians.

Arabic is the major language in Libya, while English and Italian are widely understood in the major cities.

Islam is the major religion and it is very important in the every day life of the Muslims.

The economy of Libya depends heavily on the exportation of oil and gaz. The oil revenues represent one quarter of the GDP and practically all export income. The construction sector and non-oil sector include the production of petrochemicals, steel, iron ore and aluminum, which represent about 20 % of the GDP.

The agriculture output is limited by the dry and hot climate, which makes for poor soils. Libya must import 75 % of their food.

Libya has been under the power of Muammar Gaddafi since 1969. His system is a dictatorship, known as Jamahiriya.

Gaddafi was born in 1942 near Sirte in Libya. He graduated from the University in 1963. Two years later, he graduated from the Libyan military. As a result of his early plotting to over through the Libyan Monarchy, he finally took control of the government in a military coup on September 1st.1969. He became the chief of the Revolutionary Command Council and was named chairman of Libya’s new governing body. In order to firmly establish his dictatorship, he first removed all U.S and British military bases, as well as expelling most of the Jewish and Italian communities. Following strict Islamic principles, Gaddafi outlawed alcoholic beverages as well gambling. In 1973 all foreign-owned assets in the country had been nationalized.

Gaddafi had a plan to spread his power over all the Arabian countries, and as a consequence, he tried to unify Libya with other Arab countries, however here, he was unsuccessful. He was known for strong military forces and as such, was implicated in some abortive coup attempts in Sudan and Egypt. The dictator’s political philosophy was published in1974 in the Green Book. It espoused a form of Islamic socialism.

Meanwhile, he was not only known in the Arabic countries but also on the international scene for his revolutionary government style. Gaddafi was involved in several terrorist and revolutionary groups worldwide, including the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland, the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam in the United States. Due to numerous terrorist attacks, this brought him into conflict with the U.S government. As a consequence, U.S warplanes bombed several sites in Libya.

In 1988, Gaddafi became isolated from the international community after his revolutionary groups were involved in destroying a civilian Pan Am airplane over Scotland.

In 2003, the UN sanctions against Libya were lifted after the announcement that the alleged perpetrators were turned over to international authorities. Furthermore most of the U.S sanctions were dropped after Libya declared to terminate their unconventional weapons program. In February 2009, the Libyan leader gave his first speech in front of the UN General Assembly after being elected chairman of the African Union. He remained in this position only for the customary one-year term, following refusal by several African countries.

How the crisis started:


The protest began on December 17th 2010, with a protest action from an eighteen year old graduate unemployed student, which triggered a whole series of clashes and protests with the police. The young man was shot dead by the police after they opened fire on the demonstrators. Also a 26-year-old man, Mohamed Bouazizi was accused of trading merchandise illegally, so the police confiscated all his belongings.

As a protest of his treatment Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire! The diffusion of the disagreement with the government set off protest in several towns, the capital Tunis, as well as Safakes, Kairouan, Sousse, Mednin and Ben Guerdane. Most of the demonstrators were young people under 25 years of age. They represented an extremely high level of unemployment in Tunisia. The protesters claimed that they needed work and shouted „ Shame on the government”. The president of Tunisia Zine El Abidine Ben Ali considered the demonstrations as unacceptable and therefore gave the order to punish and arrest the protestors. The violent reaction of the authorities made the population even angrier and formed an unstoppable wave of public anger. The government tried to calm down the angry population by promising to „ deepen democracy and revitalize pluralism”, to allow freedom of press and to tackle rising food prices. The demonstrators continued to fight for their rights and freedom. Zine El Abine Ben Ali announced that he had dismissed his government and called for new parliamentary elections. On January 14th 2011 he published that he was stepping down temporarily and left the country. There were many reasons why Tunisia’s government collapsed, mostly due to high unemployment, but also due to food price inflation, as well as WikiLeaks information diffusion. The corruption of Ben Ali’s family was exposed in the U.S government cables published by WikiLeaks.

According to WikiLeaks the „quasi-mafia”family was living in luxury, indulging in boundless consumption and authoritarian techniques to rule the country. WikiLeaks revealed several other secret information. These uncovered secrets have caused massive disruption with the population.

The protests in Tunisia made the authoritarian leaders across North Africa and the Arab region nervous. Shortly after Zine El Ben Ali was forced into exile, demonstrations started in the capital of Egypt, Cairo. On January 25th 2011, Egyptian protestors got together in the centre of Cairo. The reasons of the demonstration were to bring an end to Hosni Mubarak’s power, since 30 years president of Egypt, and to protest against the economic misery of the North African nation. The general discontent with the government is the result of poverty, unemployment, economic woes, police abuses and corruption. The Tunisian demonstrations pushed many Egyptians into the streets, in order to fight for their rights. By using social medias such as facebook or twitter, groups were created and information about the organization of the protest was broadcast. The media was a considerable help for the population in order to make the impact big by informing as many people as possible.

Egyptian organizers were giving out the instructions until the Internet and cell phone connections were blocked by the government. Although the social media tools were blocked, a vast crowd of protesters went on to the streets. The protest seemed to be peaceful for a while, until the crowd started waving Egyptian and Tunisian flags, shouting the same protest chants that had rung out in Tunis.

Police and security personnel immediately reacted to the demonstration with clubs and tear gas to clear the demonstrators. The results of the demonstrations has been estimated, beginning February, at least 300 people had been killed over two weeks and about 2000 had been injured.

On February 11th, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces took over power and President Hosni Mubarak stepped down as president. The conclusion of the protests in Egypt is the arrest of former ministers, as well as their having to stand trial, as well as the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. With the above, the military took over the Egyptian government and the freezing of the Ex- President Mubarak and his family’s assets.

The revolution against the government in Tunisia and Egypt have reached a third, wit country, Libya. The Libyans are under Gaddafi’s regime for now 42 years. Muammar Gaddafi’s system is called Islamic socialism, it is based on Islamic morals and the control of the country is by the government military. His philosophy is published in the famous „Green Book”and is the base of his regime. Now that the revolution has started in other countries, the Libyans took the chance along with Tunisia and Egypt to demand an end to Gaddafi’s power.

15-21 February

The Libyan uprising began 15 February 2011 in the east of Libya in Benghazi where the popularity of the dictator has been historically lower. The protest started with about 200 people and shortly later, it was a total of 500 to 600 protesters. As with the demonstration in Tunis and Cairo, it ended up being a violent fight with the police. . Many people were killed. Regime loyalist and Special Forces commander Abdel Fattah Younes attacked Katiba on February 19th with his troops using truck-mounted anti-aircraft guns, machine guns and tanks. On the other side the Libyan government hired African mercenaries to reinforce their troops. Because of the violence and unstable security, on February 21 a travel warning was announced by the American Embassy. Benghazi was taken under control by the protesters replacing the Libyan flag by the flag of the country’s old monarchy to mark the disagreement of the population.

22 – 28 February

On the one hand, Gaddafi occupied the capital with African mercenaries. On the other hand the second largest city Benghazi was reported from the demonstrators to be „alive with celebration”. The reports described Libya’s situation as civil war or revolution. The protesters took control of Tobruk on February 24 and waved the former Libyan flag as their celebration. An interim government was created by the former justice minister Mustafa Mohamed Abud Al to take control of the country. Meanwhile the civilians supporters got armed by the regime to support the patrols and control Tripoli. On February 28, Gaddafi showed the world how easy-going he has been handling the demonstrations. He gave an interview to journalists from the BBC and ABC News in which he claimed, „All my people love me”. He defined the pressure from foreign nations as „falseness” and laughed at the fact that he should leave Libya.

1 – 4 March

On 1 March, the option of a no-fly zone over Libya was once again discussed with US State Department officials and Stephen Smith the Australian Minister of Defense. Al Jazeera reported that Gaddafi’s troops are fighting with heavy weapons while the protesters are using small arms.

On 2 March, the demonstrators planned to march on the capital with about 5,000 volunteers. The United States of America marked their presence by extending their offshore occupation. Referring to the international media, Gaddafi supporters averted journalists and onlookers from approaching his troops. The dictator’s forces took over the town of Marsa Brega Seaport in Cyrenaica however he planned a counterattack against demonstrators in eastern Libya. Contrary to the reports Gaddafi claimed that he had no intention of an attack against rebels. Accordingly, he claimed it was Al-Qaeda operatives. To celebrate and show the importance of his philosophy he presented a 3-hour speech to mark the 34th anniversary of the establishment of the Jamahirya. He insisted on the fact that he ordered the retreat of Al-Qaeda, blaming them for unrest. During the speech the Jamahiriya was described as a „ democracy…. without elections… (controlled by)…the authority of the people”. The Arab League took position by proposing the possibility of a no-fly zone over the country and declined direct military intervention.

On 3 March, the people of the city Brega called for reinforcement in the fear that Gaddafi’s fighters would attack them again. Shortly after that distress call the feared attacks hit Brega by air bombing.

On a televised news conference, Barack Obama repeated his request that Gaddafi go into voluntarily exile and depart from power.

On 4 March, a protest march in Tripoli was again planned by demonstrators even knowing the danger to be killed by the dictator’s forces. According to Time Magazine, the protesters were been fired upon by Gaddafi’s troops with canisters of tear gas.

5-8 March

Going from one city to the other, the city of Sirt, Bin Jawad and Zawiyah had been occupied by protesters and Gaddafi’s forces. By both fighting against each other, the net result was rebels groups being killed. In consequence of the repeating air bombing, Alain Juppé, the French Foreign Minister declared that in conjunction with the United Kingdom, a demand of petition at the United Nations Security Council for the no-fly zone was requested.

On 6 March, the opposition troops captured eight British SAS troops and held them prisoner in Benghazi. While the violence continued, Gaddafi’s government celebrated the fall of Tobruk, Misurata, Zawiyah to the Libyan military. Referring to Al Jazeera the group Libya Relief communicated that the National Transitional Council has only 8-10 days worth of food supplies and fuel left.

On March 8, pro-Gaddafi’s forces maintained their attacks with artillery fire and tank, placed in Zawiyah. Meanwhile the Libyan Army kept fighting on Tripoli with heavy weapons.

According to Al Jazzera the offer for Gaddafi to go into exile without confronting trial was rejected by Libyan’s president and his family by the National Transitional Council.

The National Transitional Council has come to the conclusion to offer the Libyans leader an ultimatum of 72 hours.

The latest news, 9 March, a petition for a non-fly zone has been formulated by the AVAAZ.org to the UN, with the goal to finally impose one.

On 10 March, Gaddafi refused to recognize a „ No fly zone „.


Dictator regimes, in which the people are dictated to, robbed of their personal rights of freedom of speech, or freedom of movement or personal enterprise, or even worse yet, robbed of their personal belongings, or businesses, can only survive a limited amount of time.

With time, normal mankind expects to have certain rights, as well as a possibility to earn a living, as well as raise in peace and without fear, their family.

Without such rights, it is only a matter of time, when the people will start to speak out, even against such a regime often risking their own life. A totally disgruntled, and unemployed young man showed the world his extreme dissatisfaction, by burning himself to death!

Let us hope, that this current uprising, will be a sign to the rest of the world where dictator regimes still flourish. In what way this whole movement will affect the rest of the world, particularly Europe…. this still remains to be seen.









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