Informational Highlight: Libya

On Friday, the president of the United States signed an executive order freezing entrance into the US from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and suspending all refugee admission for 120 days. The countries banned are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen. This order has caused outcry from human rights organizations, legal scholars, and the international community. This week Her Campus Lasell will feature an informational article on each country whose citizens have been banned from the US in order to increase understanding of the complex nature of these countries and their citizens.



Libya, the fourth largest country in Africa, is bordered by Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Algeria, and Tunisia. Its capital city, Tripoli, is home to ⅙ of the population. The national language of Libya is Arabic. 97 percent of the population is Muslim, with a majority of them belonging to the Sunni branch of Islam. In 2010, the adult literacy rate was 89 percent. Prior to the 2011 revolution, Libya was home to a large number of immigrants and refugees, primarily from Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco. In 2013 Libya made it into the top 20 countries on the world giving index. It was recorded that in a regular month, three quarters of Libyans helped someone they did not know.



Human history in Libya dates back as late as 8000 BC. In the 5th century BC, the Phoenicians controlled the area as part of their expansive empire. They were followed by the ancient Greeks, the ancient Egyptians, the ancient Romans, the Byzantine Empire, Islamic Caliphs, the Ottoman Turks, and eventually, in 1912, Italy. In 1951 Libya declared its independence from Italy, and became a constitutional monarchy. In 1969, a coup led by Muammar Gaddafi overthrew the monarchy, and Libya eventually became the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. In the late 1970s, Libya began experiencing great economic success. However, they were soon condemned by the international community for spending that new influx of money funding terrorist actions. In 2011, Arab Spring uprisings were met with violence from the Gaddafi government. A resistance government formed, and soon a civil war broke out. Eventually Gaddafi’s government was driven out of power, and Libya now struggles with conflict between different parliaments.



In 2012, the first free elections in Libya were held. The people voted into parliament, including 30 women, joined together to create the General National Congress. In 2014 the Congress was replaced with the Council of Deputies. However, the country still lacked leadership, and in 2014 Libya was considered a non-state. In 2015 an interim government, which is still internationally recognized, was created. This government consists of a presidency council, and a house of representatives.


Human Rights

During the rule of Gaddafi, there was actually an increase in human rights recognition in Libya. Literacy rose, homelessness dropped, and there was free access to healthcare, public-housing, and water. However, civil liberties were severely restricted, and citizens were not allowed freedom of speech, press, or assembly. Forced disappearances of those who spoke out against the government are still being investigated today. The country is currently praised for its progressive human rights approach on some issues, and criticized for its history of political oppression.



From 1969 to the early 2000s, Gaddafi’s Libya was repeatedly responsible for supporting terrorist attacks around the world. These attacks included but are not limited to: the killing of a London policewoman, the bombing of a West Berlin nightclub, and the bombing of a passenger plane. In 2012 the American diplomatic compound and CIA annex were attacked, resulting in the death of four US citizens.


Benghazi Attacks

After the 2011 uprisings, the CIA began building a covert presence in Benghazi. That same year, Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, was named the liaison to the Libyan opposition. Soon tensions began to rise, and the months leading up to the attacks were strife with instability. On Sept. 11, 2012, members of Ansar al-Sharia attacked the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi. Several hours later, the group attacked the CIA annex in Benghazi. The Libyan government strongly condemned the attacks, and pro-American demonstrations sprung up throughout Libya in condolence for the lives lost. The US government was heavily criticized for being caught off guard by the attacks. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was questioned by a Senate committee on the US response, but no official wrongdoing was found.


US-Libya Relations

Prior to the 2003 “War on Terror”, the US and Libya engaged in sporadic military skirmishes, including retaliatory bombing. However, Libya decided to cooperate with the US and UK in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the relationship began to normalize. In 2013, the two countries entered an agreement to collaborate on security related measures. Currently, the US and Libya enjoy strong diplomatic relations, specifically strong in security cooperation after the 2012 attacks.



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