Spotlight on Libya
My best hope is that Libya turns into a peaceful, sensible country that has all the things my father and lots of others have been calling for: independence of the courts and press, a protected and democratic constitution, with different parties involved in a healthy and open debate.
- Hisham Matar, Libyan award winning writer
The richness of Libyan history dates back to before antiquity. The nation holds much of the world’s history by being home to a UNESCO World Heritage site of Tadrart Acacus, the Red Castle and the 7th Century Greek inspired architecture of Leptis Magna. The northeastern nation spans 1,759,540 sq km, having the longest expanse of land of any African country on the Mediterranean sea, containing flora ranging from those in abundance such as the satureja to the rare maroon accented native sedum plant. The country’s fauna also houses rare animals such as the elusive fennec fox and the desert sand cat. Since becoming a unified country on December 24th 1951 from the British, French and Italian occupation, the population has risen to 6.4 million people comprised of an Arab speaking and Sunni Muslim majority with high rates of population literacy. Cultural cuisine such as Mb’atten, Couscous, and Shorba derive from the Shargawi (eastern Libyan), Gharbawi (western Libyan), Amazigi (Berber mountain tribes in western Libya) and South Libyan have been staples in the Libyan diet for centuries. Although wheat, barley and steal are major exports, Libya is known for having the largest oil reserves in Africa. As a result, the economy is mostly dependent on gas and oil. Attributed to having the greatest GDP growth rate of any nation (64% as of 2017) even with the black market exchanges, illegal unofficial trade and mistrust in the national banking system, the economic potential within the nation is recognized amongst even the wealthiest nations.
STATE OF AFFAIRS
Despite Libya’s economic potential, its political conflicts has risen to a global level for decades. Muammar Gaddafi was a strong proponent of Arab nationalism and Islamic socialism had staged a coup to overthrow the Senussi monarchy of King Idris in 1969, the only king in Libyan history. Originally replacing the monarchy with his established Revolutionary Command Council, Gaddafi quickly focused on alienating the Jewish and western minority in Libya and the strengthening of Arab nationalist governments by advocating for a Pan-Arab Union. After vast social, economic and military reforms, he established in 1973 the Basic People’s Congress as a form of direct democracy but still held the final decision for major issues of Libya. He changed the Libyan political system into rule under a new socialist regime titled the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Failure at resolving its border conflicts, bombings of foreign nations, and poor diplomatic peacekeeping efforts in the subsequent decades isolated Libya from promoting positive global relationships.
At the turn of the century, due to pressure from the United States, Israel and Great Britain, Muammar Gaddafi decided to retract his policies of Arabian socialism and underwent efforts for positive diplomatic relations with other nations. Beginning in Tunisia, then spreading across a few countries in Africa, the Arab Spring of 2010 was a wave of anti-government protests aimed a political reformation. The Arab Spring for Libya focused on the root of corruption and unemployment in the nation. In 2011, Libya had two factions vying for control of the political system: National Transitional Council led by Mustafa Abdul Jalil and the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya led by Muammar Gaddafi. The insurrection led to NATO intervention in 2011 resulting in the overthrow of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Gaddafi was killed by followers of the National Transitional Council.
Seven years after the fall of the Gaddafi regime, numerous factions continue to vie for political power even with foreign intervention. The factions residing in the different regions provided their own security, law enforcement and global communications. Continued anarchy and violence led to mass migration of millions of Libyans into Europe, many of which died crossing the Mediterranean Sea. The European Union pooled over half a billion dollars to stop the mass migration. Unfortunately, the amount that goes to stop migration ends of killing migrants during their trip or detainment of them with inhumane conditions. Some of the money has gone towards human trafficking, primarily done through the terrible treatment in the detention centers. Images are circulating of the horrific conditions of Libyan slave markets: people left with untreated open wounds, being hung upside down and many left dead on the floor. Libyans’ are forced to become armed combatants of the various factions and many are faced with sexual violence. The United Nations had pressed Libyan politicians to investigate and resolve its human rights and trafficking issues with little to no results. Countries such as Egypt, France, and Italy had continued to provide assistance to particular factions which only served to spur political animosity in the nation. No singular country wanted the responsibility of overseeing Libya’s transition into an elected government, responsibility fell on the United Nations. They hoped to end the political turmoil by having a peace conference between the leaders of the two biggest factions, Marshal Haftar and Fayez Serraj inn April of 2018. A few days before it would occur, Marshal Haftar launched an attack on his opposition. This ended the possibility of negotiations in the near future. Now the factions are at a standoff being susceptible to exploitation by terrorist organizations. ISIS, Ansar al-Sharia and al-Qa’ida has had influence in the region and continues to expand its military power and gain supporters. Libya will not see a change unless the Libyan National Army force and the United Nations influenced Government of national Accord reach and agreement and foreign organizations stop intervening with their own private interests.
CALL TO ACTION
The Libyan people continue to remain strong in the face of adversity with many still in need of immediate aid. Millions of peacekeepers, minority groups and civilians must resist opposition and avoid being killed, displaced and disregarded during the Libyan conflict. Many groups suffer at the hands of political instability leading to numerous human rights violations done by the efforts of militant groups vying for control and harsh living conditions with limited resources needed for survival. The systemic issues that are plaguing the nation requires a combined effort across multiple fronts to address the nation’s most pressing dilemmas. Assistance does not have to be in a monetary form as you could sign a petition, volunteer with an organization or donate supplies.
For more information as to how you can join the fight against the Libyan conflict please use these links: