Sunday, 27 March 2011

Libya - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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This article is about the country. For other uses, see Libya (disambiguation).
Lībiyā   (Arabic)

(and largest city)
32°52′N 13°11′E / 32.867°N 13.183°E / 32.867; 13.183
Official language(s) Arabic[b]
Demonym Libyan
Government Disputed
(See below)
 -  Relinquished by Italy 10 February 1947 
 -  From United Kingdom & France under United Nations Trusteeship
24 December 1951 
 -  Total 1,759,541 km2 (17th)
679,359 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) Negligible surface water, reservoirs of water underground.
 -  2010 estimate 6,420,000[1] (105th)
 -  2006 census 5,670,688[c] 
 -  Density 3.6/km2 (218th)
9.4/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $96.138 billion[2] (68th)
 -  Per capita $14,884[2] (56th)
GDP (nominal) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $76.557 billion[2] (64th)
 -  Per capita $11,852[2] (48th)
HDI (2010) increase0.755[3] (high) (53rd)
Currency Dinar (LYD)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .ly
Calling code 218
a. ^ Though both governments disputing Libya agree that Tripoli is the capital, the headquarters of the National Transitional Council is Benghazi.

b. ^ Libyan Arabic and other varieties are the spoken languages, while literary Arabic is the official written language.

c. ^ Includes 350,000 foreigners
Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
الجماهيرية العربية الليبية الشعبية الإشتراكية العظمى
Al-Jamāhīriyyah al-ʿArabiyyah al-Lībiyyah aš-Šaʿbiyyah al-Ištirākiyyah al-ʿUẓmā   (Arabic)

Flag Coat of arms
AnthemAllahu Akbar
God is great
Capital Tripoli
Government Jamahiriya
 -  Leader and Guide of the Revolution Muammar Gaddafi
 -  Secretary General of the General People's Congress Mohamed Abdul Quasim al-Zwai
 -  Secretary General of the General People's Committee Baghdadi Mahmudi
Libyan Republic
الجمهورية الليبية
al-Jumhūriyya al-Lībiyya  (Arabic)

Flag Coat of arms
Capital Tripoli (de jure)
Benghazi (de facto)
Government Provisional government
 -  Chairperson of the National Transitional Council Mustafa Abdul Jalil
 -  Interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jebril

Libya (Arabic: ‏ليبياLībiyā, Nafusi: Libya) is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. Bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Libya faces Egypt to the east, Sudan to the south east, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west.

As a result of the 2011 Libyan uprising, there are currently two entities claiming to be the official government of Libya.[4] The regime of Muammar Gaddafi, which refers to the country as the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,[5][6] controls Tripoli and most of the western half of the country. The National Transitional Council of the Libyan Republic,[7][8] led by Mustafa Abdul Jalil, is based in Benghazi and controls most of the eastern half of the country. France and Portugal have officially recognized the Council as the sole "legitimate representative" of Libya.[9][10]

With an area of almost 1,800,000 square kilometres (700,000 sq mi), Libya is the fourth largest country in Africa by area, and the 17th largest in the world.[11] The capital, Tripoli, is home to 1.7 million of Libya's 6.4 million people. The three traditional parts of the country are Tripolitania, Fezzan, and Cyrenaica. Libya has the highest HDI in Africa and the fourth highest GDP (PPP) per capita in Africa as of 2009, behind Seychelles, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. These are largely due to its large petroleum reserves and low population.[12][13] Libya has the 10th-largest proven oil reserves of any country in the world and the 17th-highest petroleum production.




The name Libya (

/ˈlɪbiə/; Arabic: ليبياLībyā ·info); Libyan Arabic: Lībya ·info), Egyptian: R'bw, Punic: 𐤉𐤁𐤋 lby, Ancient Greek: Λιβύη Libúē, Latin: Libya) originally derives from the Libu Berber tribesmen[citation needed] (Ancient Greek: Λίβυες Líbues, Latin: Libyes). The land of the Libu was Λιβύη (Libúē) and Λιβύᾱ (Libúā) in the Attic and Doric dialects respectively, entering Latin as Libya. In Classical Greece the term had a broader meaning, encompassing all the continent that later (2nd century BC) came to be known as Africa, in antiquity assumed to make up one third of the world's landmass, besides Europe and Asia.

During the Islamic Middle Ages, Ibn Khaldun recorded that the Libu were known as the Lawata.[14]

The name Libya was resuscitated in 1903 by the Italian geographer Federico Minutilli,[15] who in 1903 used it as first in today's meaning in his work "Bibliografia della Libia", and later adopted by the Italian government in its "Regio Decreto di Annessione" (Royal Decree of Annexation) of the Ottoman provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica dating November 5, 1911.[15]

Libya gained independence in 1951 as the United Libyan Kingdom (al-Mamlaka al-Libiyya al-Muttahida), changing its name to the Kingdom of Libya (Arabic: المملكة الليبية‎ (al-Mamlaka al-Libiyya) in 1963.[16] Following a coup d'état in 1969, the name of the state was changed to the Libyan Arab Republic (Arabic: الجمهورية العربية الليبيةAl-Ǧumhūriyyat al-ʿArabiyyat al-Lībiyya).

In 1977 the title of the state was changed to the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (Arabic: الجماهيرية العربية الليبية الشعبية الاشتراكية العظمىal-Ǧamāhīriyyah al-ʿArabiyyah al-Lībiyyah aš-Šaʿbiyyah al-Ištirākiyyah al-ʿUẓmā

·info)). Jamahiriya (Ǧamāhīriyyah) is an Arabic term generally translated as "state of the masses". The term, a neologism coined by Muammar Gaddafi, is intended to be a generic term describing a type of state: a "republic ruled by the masses" or "people's republic". Within the United Nations and the Olympic movement, Libya is known as the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.[17][18]

The National Transitional Council established in 2011 refers to the state as the Libyan Republic[19][20] (Arabic: الجمهورية الليبية al-Jumhūriyya al-Lībiyya).


Main article: History of Libya


Prehistoric Libyan rock paintings in Tadrart Acacus reveal a Sahara once lush in vegetation and wildlife.

Tens of thousands of years ago, the Sahara desert, which now covers roughly 90% of Libya, was lush with green vegetation. It was home to lakes, forests, diverse wildlife and a temperate Mediterranean climate. Archaeological evidence indicates that the coastal plain of Ancient Libya was inhabited by the Neolithic Berbers from as early as 8000 BC. These peoples were perhaps drawn by the climate, which enabled their culture to grow; the Berbers were skilled in the domestication of cattle and the cultivation of crops.[21]

Rock paintings and carvings at Wadi Mathendous and the mountainous region of Jebel Acacus are the best sources of information about prehistoric Libya, and the pastoralist culture that settled there. The paintings reveal that the Libyan Sahara contained rivers, grassy plateaus and an abundance of wildlife such as giraffes, elephants and crocodiles.

Pockets of the Berber population still remain in most of modern Libya. Dispersal in Africa from the Atlantic coast to the Siwa Oasis in Egypt seems to have followed, due to climatic changes which caused increasing desertification. It is thought that the indigenous Libyan civilization of the Garamantes, based in Germa, originated from this time, or may have done so even earlier when the Sahara was still green. The Garamantes were a Saharan people of Berber origin who used an elaborate underground irrigation system, and founded a kingdom in the Fezzan area of modern-day Libya. They were probably present as tribal people in the Fezzan by 1000 BC, and were a local power in the Sahara between 500 BC and 500 AD. By the time of contact with the Phoenicians, the first of the outside civilisations to arrive in Libya from the East, the Garamantes and other local Berber tribes that lived in the Sahara were already well established.


Phoenician and Greek colonies

The Phoenicians were the first to establish trading posts in Libya, when the merchants of Tyre (in present-day Lebanon) developed commercial relations with the Berber tribes and made treaties with them to ensure their cooperation in the exploitation of raw materials.[22][23] By the 5th century BCE, the greatest of the Phoenician colonies, Carthage, had extended its hegemony across much of North Africa, where a distinctive civilization, known as Punic, came into being. Punic settlements on the Libyan coast included Oea (later Tripoli), Libdah (later Leptis Magna) and Sabratha. These cities were in an area that was later called Tripolis, or "Three Cities", from which Libya's modern capital Tripoli takes its name.

In 630 BC, the Ancient Greeks colonized Eastern Libya and founded the city of Cyrene.[24] Within 200 years, four more important Greek cities were established in the area that became known as Cyrenaica: Barce (later Al Marj); Euhesperides (later Berenice, present-day Benghazi); Taucheira (later Arsinoe, present-day Tukrah); and Apollonia (later Susah), the port of Cyrene. Together with Cyrene, they were known as the Pentapolis (Five Cities). Cyrene became one of the greatest intellectual and artistic centers of the Greek world, and was famous for its medical school, learned academies, and architecture. The Greeks of the Pentapolis resisted encroachments by the Egyptians from the East, as well as by the Carthaginians from the West, but in 525 BC the Persian army of Cambyses II overran Cyrenaica, which for the next two centuries remained under Persian or Egyptian rule. Alexander the Great was greeted by the Greeks when he entered Cyrenaica in 331 BC, and Eastern Libya again fell under the control of the Greeks, this time as part of the Ptolemaic Kingdom. Later, a federation of the Pentapolis was formed that was customarily ruled by a king drawn from the Ptolemaic royal house.

Roman era

The Arch of Septimius Severus at Leptis Magna. Roman emperor Septimus Severus allowed the city to become one of the most prominent in Roman Africa.

After the fall of Carthage the Romans did not occupy immediately Tripolitania (the region around Tripoli), but left it under control of the kings of Numidia, until the coastal cities asked and obtained its protection.[25] Ptolemy Apion, the last Greek ruler, bequeathed Cyrenaica to Rome, which formally annexed the region in 74 BC and joined it to Crete as a Roman province. During the Roman civil wars Tripolitania (still not formally annexed) and Cyrenaica sustained Pompey and Marc Antony against respectively Caesar and Octavian.[25][26] The Romans completed the conquest of the region under Augustus, occupying northern Fezzan ("Fasania") with Cornelius Balbus Minor.[27] As part of the Africa Nova province, Tripolitania was prosperous,[25] and reached a golden age in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, when the city of Leptis Magna, home to the Severian dynasty, was at its height.[25] On the other side, Cyrenaica's first Christian communities were established by the time of the Emperor Claudius [26] but was heavily devastated during the Kitos War, [28] and, although repopulated by Trajan with military colonies, [28] from then started its decadence.[26] Anyway, for more than 400 years Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were part of a cosmopolitan state whose citizens shared a common language, legal system, and Roman identity. Roman ruins like those of Leptis Magna and Sabratha, extant in present-day Libya, attest to the vitality of the region, where populous cities and even smaller towns enjoyed the amenities of urban life—the forum, markets, public entertainments, and baths—found in every corner of the Roman Empire. Merchants and artisans from many parts of the Roman world established themselves in North Africa, but the character of the cities of Tripolitania remained decidedly Punic and, in Cyrenaica, Greek. Tripolitania was a major exporter of olive oil, [29] as well as a centre for the trade of ivory and wild animals [29] conveyed to the coast by the Garamantes, while Cyrenaica remained an important source of wines, drugs, and horses. The bulk of the population in the countryside consisted of Berber farmers, who in the west were thoroughly "romanized" in language and customs.[30] Until the tenth century the African Romance remained in use in some Tripolitanian areas, mainly near the Tunisian border.[31]

The decline of the Roman Empire saw the classical cities fall into ruin, a process hastened by the Vandals' destructive sweep though North Africa in the 5th century. The region's prosperity had shrunk under Vandal domination, and the old Roman political and social order, disrupted by the Vandals, could not be restored. In outlying areas neglected by the Vandals, the inhabitants had sought the protection of tribal chieftains and, having grown accustomed to their autonomy, resisted reassimilation into the imperial system.

When the Empire returned (now as East Romans) as part of Justinian's reconquests of the 6th century, efforts were made to strengthen the old cities, but it was only a last gasp before they collapsed into disuse. Cyrenaica, which had remained an outpost of the Byzantine Empire during the Vandal period, also took on the characteristics of an armed camp. Unpopular Byzantine governors imposed burdensome taxation to meet military costs, while the towns and public services—including the water system—were left to decay. Byzantine rule in Africa did prolong the Roman ideal of imperial unity there for another century and a half however, and prevented the ascendancy of the Berber nomads in the coastal region. By the beginning of the 7th century, Byzantine control over the region was weak, Berber rebellions were becoming more frequent, and there was little to oppose Muslim invasion.

Arab Islamic rule 642–1551

The Atiq Mosque in Awjila is the oldest mosque in the Sahara.

Tenuous Byzantine control over Libya was restricted to a few poorly defended coastal strongholds, and as such, the Arab horsemen who first crossed into the Pentapolis of Cyrenaica in September 642 AD encountered little resistance. Under the command of 'Amr ibn al-'As, the armies of Islam conquered Cyrenaica, and renamed the Pentapolis, Barqa. By 647, an army of 40,000 Arabs, led by Abdullah ibn Saad, the foster-brother of Caliph Uthman, penetrated deep into Western Libya and took Tripoli from the Byzantines in 643. From Barqa, the Fezzan (Libya's Southern region) was conquered by Uqba ibn Nafi in 663 and Berber resistance was overcome. During the following centuries Libya came under the rule of several Islamic dynasties, under various levels of autonomy from Ummayad, Abbasid and Fatimid caliphates of the time. Arab rule was easily imposed in the coastal farming areas and on the towns, which prospered again under Arab patronage. Townsmen valued the security that permitted them to practice their commerce and trade in peace, while the punicized farmers recognized their affinity with the Semitic Arabs to whom they looked to protect their lands. In Cyrenaica, Monophysite adherents of the Coptic Church had welcomed the Muslim Arabs as liberators from Byzantine oppression. The Berber tribes of the hinterland accepted Islam, however they resisted Arab political rule.

For the next several decades, Libya was under the purview of the Ummayad Caliph of Damascus until the Abbasids overthrew the Ummayads in 750, and Libya came under the rule of Baghdad. When Caliph Harun al-Rashid appointed Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab as his governor of Ifriqiya in 800, Libya enjoyed considerable local autonomy under the Aghlabid dynasty. The Aghlabids were amongst the most attentive Islamic rulers of Libya; they brought about a measure of order to the region, and restored Roman irrigation systems, which brought prosperity to the area from the agricultural surplus. By the end of the 9th century, the Shiite Fatimids controlled Western Libya from their capital in Mahdia, before they ruled the entire region from their new capital of Cairo in 972 and appointed Bologhine ibn Ziri as governor. During Fatimid rule, Tripoli thrived on the trade in slaves and gold brought from the Sudan and on the sale of wool, leather, and salt shipped from its docks to Italy in exchange for wood and iron goods. Ibn Ziri's Berber Zirid Dynasty ultimately broke away from the Shiite Fatimids, and recognised the Sunni Abbasids of Baghdad as rightful Caliphs. In retaliation, the Fatimids brought about the migration of as many as 200,000 families from two Bedouin tribes, the Banu Sulaym and Banu Hilal to North Africa—this act completely altered the fabric of Libyan cities, and cemented the cultural and linguistic Arabisation of the region.[25]Ibn Khaldun noted that the lands ravaged by Banu Hilal invaders had become completely arid desert.[32]

King Roger II of Sicily was the first Norman King to rule Tripoli when he captured it in 1146.

After the subsequent social unrest during Zirid rule, the coast of Libya was weakened and invaded by the Normans of Sicily.[33] It was not until 1174 that the Ayyubid Sharaf al-Din Qaraqush reconquered Tripoli from European rule with an army of Turks and Bedouins. Afterward, a viceroy from the Almohads, Muhammad ibn Abu Hafs, ruled Libya from 1207 to 1221 before the later establishment of a Tunisian Hafsid dynasty [33] independent from the Almohads. The Hafsids ruled Tripolitania for nearly 300 years, and established significant trade with the city-states of Europe. Hafsid rulers also encouraged art, literature, architecture and scholarship. Ahmad Zarruq was one of the most famous Islamic scholars to settle in Libya, and did so during this time. By the 16th century however, the Hafsids became increasingly caught up in the power struggle between Spain and the Ottoman Empire. After a successful invasion of Tripoli by Habsburg Spain in 1510,[33] and its handover to the Knights of St. John, the Ottoman admiral Sinan Pasha) finally took control of Libya in 1551.[33]

Ottoman regency 1551–1911

Main article: Ottoman Libya

The Siege of Tripoli in 1551 allowed the Ottomans to capture the city from the Knights of St. John.

After a successful invasion by the Habsburgs of Spain in the early 16th century, Charles V entrusted its defense to the Knights of St. John in Malta. Lured by the piracy that spread through the Maghreb coastline, adventurers such as Barbarossa and his successors consolidated Ottoman control in the central Maghreb. The Ottoman Turks conquered Tripoli in 1551 under the command of Sinan Pasha. In the next year his successor Turgut Reis was named the Bey of Tripoli and later Pasha of Tripoli in 1556. As Pasha, he adorned and built up Tripoli, making it one of the most impressive cities along the North African coast.[34] By 1565, administrative authority as regent in Tripoli was vested in a pasha appointed directly by the sultan in Constantinople. In the 1580s, the rulers of Fezzan gave their allegiance to the sultan, and although Ottoman authority was absent in Cyrenaica, a bey was stationed in Benghazi late in the next century to act as agent of the government in Tripoli.[26]

In time, real power came to rest with the pasha’s corp of janissaries, a self-governing military guild, and in time the pasha’s role was reduced to that of ceremonial head of state.[33] Mutinies and coups were frequent, and in 1611 the deys staged a coup against the pasha, and Dey Sulayman Safar was appointed as head of government. For the next hundred years, a series of deys effectively ruled Tripolitania some for only a few weeks, and at various times the dey was also pasha-regent. The regency governed by the dey was autonomous in internal affairs and, although dependent on the sultan for fresh recruits to the corps of janissaries, his government was left to pursue a virtually independent foreign policy as well. The two most important Deys were Mehmed Saqizli (r. 1631–49) and Osman Saqizli (r. 1649–72), both also Pasha, who ruled effectively the region.[35] The latter conquered also Cyrenaica.[35]

An elevation of the city of Ottoman Tripoli in 1675

Tripoli was the only city of size in Ottoman Libya (then known as Tripolitania Eyalet) at the end of the 17th century and had a population of about 30,000. The bulk of its residents were Moors, as city-dwelling Arabs were then known. Several hundred Turks and renegades formed a governing elite, a large portion of which were kouloughlis (lit. sons of servants—offspring of Turkish soldiers and Arab women); they identified with local interests and were respected by locals. Jews and Moriscos were active as merchants and craftsmen and a small number of European traders also frequented the city. European slaves and large numbers of enslaved blacks transported from Sudan were also a feature of everyday life in Tripoli. In 1551, Turgut Reis enslaved almost the entire population of the Maltese island of Gozo, some 6,300 people, sending them to Libya.[36] The most pronounced slavery activity involved the enslavement of black Africans who were brought via trans-Saharan trade routes. Even though the slave trade was officially abolished in Tripoli in 1853, in practice it continued until the 1890s.[37]

USS Enterprise of the Mediterranean Squadron capturing Tripolitan Corsair during the First Barbary War, 1801

Lacking direction from the Ottoman government, Tripoli lapsed into a period of military anarchy during which coup followed coup and few deys survived in office more than a year. One such coup was led by Turkish officer Ahmed Karamanli.[35] The Karamanlis ruled from 1711 until 1835 mainly in Tripolitania, but had influence in Cyrenaica and Fezzan as well by the mid 18th century. Ahmed was a Janissary and popular cavalry officer.[35] He murdered the Ottoman Dey of Tripolitania and seized the throne in 1711.[35] After persuading Sultan Ahmed III to recognize him as governor, Ahmed established himself as pasha and made his post hereditary. Though Tripolitania continued to pay nominal tribute to the Ottoman padishah, it otherwise acted as an independent kingdom. Ahmed greatly expanded his city's economy, particularly through the employment of corsairs (pirates) on crucial Mediterranean shipping routes; nations that wished to protect their ships from the corsairs were forced to pay tribute to the pasha. Ahmad's successors proved to be less capable than himself, however, the region's delicate balance of power allowed the Karamanli to survive several dynastic crises without invasion. In 1793, Turkish officer Ali Benghul deposed Hamet Karamanli and briefly restored Tripolitania to Ottoman rule. However, Hamet's brother Yusuf (r. 1795–1832) reestablished Tripolitania's independence.

In the early 19th century war broke out between the United States and Tripolitania, and a series of battles ensued in what came to be known as the Barbary Wars. By 1819, the various treaties of the Napoleonic Wars had forced the Barbary states to give up piracy almost entirely, and Tripolitania's economy began to crumble. As Yusuf weakened, factions sprung up around his three sons; though Yusuf abdicated in 1832 in favor of his son Ali II, civil war soon resulted. Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II sent in troops ostensibly to restore order, but instead deposed and exiled Ali II, marking the end of both the Karamanli dynasty and an independent Tripolitania.[38] Anyway, order was not recovered easily, and the revolt of the Lybian under Abd-El-Gelil and Gûma ben Khalifa lasted until the death of the latter in 1858.[38]

The second period of direct Ottoman rule saw administrative changes, and what seemed as greater order in the governance of the three provinces of Libya. In general however, 19th century Ottoman rule was characterised by corruption, revolt and repression. The region of Libya in particular became a backwater province in a decaying empire that had been dubbed the "sick man of Europe". It would not be long before the Scramble for Africa and European colonial interests set their eyes on the marginal Turkish provinces of Libya. Reunification came about through the unlikely route of an invasion (Italo-Turkish War, 1911–1912) and occupation starting from 1911 when Italy simultaneously turned the three regions into colonies.[39]

Italian colony and World War II 1911–1951

Main article: Italian Libya

Australian infantry at Tobruk during World War II. Beginning on 10 April 1941, the Siege of Tobruk lasted for 240 days.

Omar Mukhtar was the leader of Libyan resistance in Cyrenaica against the Italian colonization.

From 1912 to 1927, the territory of Libya was known as Italian North Africa. From 1927 to 1934, the territory was split into two colonies, Italian Cyrenaica and Italian Tripolitania, run by Italian governors. Some 150,000 Italians settled in Libya, constituting roughly 20% of the total population.[40]

In 1934, Italy adopted the name "Libya" (used by the Greeks for all of North Africa, except Egypt) as the official name of the colony (made up of the three provinces of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan). Idris al-Mahdi as-Senussi (later King Idris I), Emir of Cyrenaica, led Libyan resistance to Italian occupation between the two world wars. Ilan Pappé estimates that between 1928 and 1932 the Italian military "killed half the Bedouin population (directly or through starvation in camps)."[41] Italian historian Gentile sets to about fifty thousands the number of victims of the repression.[42]

From 1943 to 1951, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were under British administration, while the French controlled Fezzan. In 1944, Idris returned from exile in Cairo but declined to resume permanent residence in Cyrenaica until the removal of some aspects of foreign control in 1947. Under the terms of the 1947 peace treaty with the Allies, Italy relinquished all claims to Libya.[43]

Independence and the Kingdom of Libya 1951–1969

Main article: Kingdom of Libya

King Idris I announced Libya's independence on the 24th of December 1951, and became King until the 1969 coup that overthrew his government.

On November 21, 1949, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution stating that Libya should become independent before January 1, 1952. Idris represented Libya in the subsequent UN negotiations. On December 24, 1951, Libya declared its independence as the United Kingdom of Libya, a constitutional and hereditary monarchy under King Idris, Libya's first and only monarch.

1951 also saw the enactment of the Libyan Constitution. The Libyan National Assembly drafted the Constitution and passed a resolution accepting it in a meeting held in the city of Benghazi on Sunday, 6th Muharram, Hegiras 1371: October 7, 1951. Mohamed Abulas’ad El-Alem, President of the National Assembly and the two Vice-Presidents of the National Assembly, Omar Faiek Shennib and Abu Baker Ahmed Abu Baker executed and submitted the Constitution to King Idris following which it was published in the Official Gazette of Libya.

The enactment of the Libyan Constitution was significant in that it was the first piece of legislation to formally entrench the rights of Libyan citizens following the post-war creation of the Libyan nation state. Following on from the intense UN debates during which Idris had argued that the creation of a single Libyan state would be of benefit to the regions of Tripolitania, Fezzan, and Cyrenaica, the Libyan government was keen to formulate a constitution which contained many of the entrenched rights common to European and North American nation states. Thus, not creating a secular state - Article 5 proclaims Islam the religion of the State - the Libyan Constitution did formally set out rights such as equality before the law as well as equal civil and political rights, equal opportunities, and an equal responsibility for public duties and obligations, "without distinction of religion, belief, race, language, wealth, kinship or political or social opinions" (Article 11).

The discovery of significant oil reserves in 1959 and the subsequent income from petroleum sales enabled one of the world's poorest nations to establish an extremely wealthy state. Although oil drastically improved the Libyan government's finances, resentment among some factions began to build over the increased concentration of the nation's wealth in the hands of King Idris. This discontent mounted with the rise of Nasserism and Arab nationalism throughout North Africa and the Middle East, so while the continued presence of Americans, Italians and British in Libya aided in the increased levels of wealth and tourism following WWII, it was seen by some as a threat.

During this period, Britain was involved in extensive engineering projects in Libya and was also the country's biggest supplier of arms. The United States also maintained the large Wheelus Air Base in Libya.

Libya under Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi 1969–present

This section may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards. Please improve this section if you can. The talk page may contain suggestions. (February 2011)

On 1 September 1969, a small group of military officers led by then 27-year-old army officer Muammar Gaddafi staged a coup d'état against King Idris, launching the Libyan Revolution.[44] Gaddafi was, and is to this day, referred to as the "Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution" in government statements and the official Libyan press.[45]

On Prophet Muhammad's birthday in 1973, Muammar Gaddafi delivered his famous "Five-Point Address".[46] The five main points of his address being:

  • Suspension of all existing laws and implementation of Sharia
  • Purging the country of the "politically sick"
  • Creation of a "people's militia" to "protect the revolution"
  • Administrative revolution
  • Cultural revolution

Muammar Gaddafi set up an extensive surveillance system. Reportedly 10 to 20 percent of Libyans work in surveillance for the Revolutionary committees. The surveillance takes place in government, in factories, and in the education sector.[46]

Muammar Gaddafi executed dissidents publicly and the executions were often rebroadcast on state television channels.[46][47]

Muammar Gaddafi employed his network of diplomats and recruits to assassinate dozens of critical refugees around the world. Amnesty International listed at least 25 assassinations between 1980 and 1987.[46][48]

In 1977, Libya officially became the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Later that same year, Gaddafi ordered an artillery strike on Egypt in retaliation against Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's intent to sign a peace treaty with Israel. Sadat's forces triumphed easily in a four-day border war that came to be known as the Libyan-Egyptian War, leaving over 400 Libyans dead and much of Gaddafi's armored divisions in ruins.

February 1977, Libya begins supplying Goukouni Oueddei and the People's Armed Forces (FAP) with substantial amounts of military supplies. The Chadian–Libyan conflict began in earnest when Gaddafi's long-held support of rebel forces in northern Chad escalated into a Libyan military invasion of its southern neighbor.

Hundreds of Libyans lost their lives in the war against Tanzania, when Gaddafi tried to save his friend Idi Amin. Gaddafi financed various other groups from anti-nuclear movements to Australian trade unions.[49]

Once a breadbasket of ancient world, the eastern parts of the country become impoverished under Gaddafi's economic theories.[50][51]

Much of the country’s income from oil, which soared in the 1970s, was spent on arms purchases and on sponsoring dozens of paramilitaries and terrorist groups around the world.[49][52][53][54] An airstrike failed to kill Gaddafi in 1986. Libya was finally put under international sanctions after bombing of a commercial flight killed hundreds of travelers.

Gaddafi assumed the honorific title of "King of Kings of Africa" in 2008 as part of his campaign for a United States of Africa.[55] By the early 2010s, in addition to attempting to assume a leadership role in the African Union, Libya was also viewed as having formed closer ties with Italy, one of its former colonial rulers, than any other country in the European Union.[56]

2011 uprising and coalition intervention


This article or section may be slanted towards recent events. Please try to keep recent events in historical perspective. (March 2011)

After popular movements overturned the rulers of Tunisia and Egypt, its immediate neighbours to the west and east, Libya experienced a full-scale revolt beginning in February 2011.[57][58] By 20 February, the unrest had spread to Tripoli. In the early hours of 21 February 2011, Saif al-Islam Muammar Al-Gaddafi, oldest son of Muammar Gaddafi, spoke on Libyan television of his fears that the country would fragment and be replaced by "15 Islamic fundamentalist emirates" if the uprising engulfed the entire state. He warned that the country's economic wealth and recent prosperity was at risk, admitted that "mistakes had been made" in quelling recent protests and announced that a constitutional convention would begin on 23 February. Shortly after this speech, the Libyan Ambassador to India announced on BBC Radio 5 live that he had resigned in protest at the "massacre" of protesters.

Gaddafi appeared on Libyan state TV to deny rumours given voice by the United Kingdom's foreign minister, William Hague, saying, "I want to show that I'm in Tripoli and not in Venezuela. Do not believe the channels belonging to stray dogs."[59] His government has also portrayed the recent rebellion as being engineered by Western elements and Israel, and has been suspected of manipulating the Libyan news media through planted reports in newspapers and television.[60] Two Libyan Air Force colonels flew their Mirage F1 jets to Malta and defected, claiming they refused orders to bomb protesters.[61][62] The military of Russia claims it cannot verify a single airstrike against protesters has taken place since the unrest began.[63]

While much of Libya has tipped out of Gaddafi's control as of early March 2011, coming under the aegis of a coalition of opposition forces, including soldiers who decided to mobilize in support of the rebels, Gaddafi forces have been able to forcefully respond to recent rebel pushes in Western Libya and counterattack strategic areas such as Ras Lunuf.[64] The town of Zawiyah, 30 miles from Tripoli, was bombarded by planes and tanks and seized by pro-Gaddafi troops, "exercising a level of brutality not yet seen in the conflict." [65] Eastern Libya, centered on the second city and vital port of Benghazi, is said to be firmly in the hands of the opposition, while Tripoli and its environs remain in dispute.[66] However, in several public appearances, Gaddafi has threatened to destroy the protest movement, and Al Jazeera and other agencies have reported his government is arming pro-Gaddafi militiamen to kill protesters and defectors against the regime in Tripoli.[67] Organs of the United Nations, including United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon[68] and the United Nations Human Rights Council, have condemned the crackdown as violating international law, with the latter body expelling Libya outright in an unprecedented action urged by Libya's own delegation to the UN.[69][70] The United States imposed economic sanctions against Libya,[71] followed shortly by Australia,[72] Canada[73] and the United Nations Security Council, which also voted to refer Gaddafi and other government officials to the International Criminal Court for investigation.[74][75]

On 26 February 2011, a national council was established under the stewardship of Mustafa Mohamed Abud Al Jeleil, Gaddafi's former justice minister, to administer the areas of Libya under rebel control. This marked the first serious effort to organize the broad-based opposition to the Gaddafi regime. While the council is presently based in Benghazi, it claims Tripoli as its capital.[76] Hafiz Ghoga, a human rights lawyer, later assumed the role of spokesman for the council.[77] On 10 March 2011 , France became the first state to recognise the National Libyan Council as the country's legitimate government.

On 17 March 2011 the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1973 with a 10–0 vote and five abstentions. Resolution 1973 sanctioned the establishment a no-fly zone and the use of "all means necessary" to protect civilians within Libya.[78]

Shortly afterwards, Libyan Foreign Minister Mussa Kussa stated that "Libya has decided an immediate ceasefire and an immediate halt to all military operations".[79] However, attacks against insurgent strongholds appear to have continued despite this claim.

On Saturday 19 March 2011, the first Allied act to secure the no-fly zone began when French military jets entered Libyan airspace on a reconnaissance mission heralding attacks on enemy targets.[80] Allied military action to enforce the ceasefire commenced the same day when a French aircraft opened fire and destroyed an enemy vehicle on the ground. French jets also destroyed five enemy tanks belonging to the Gaddafi regime.[81] The United States and United Kingdom launched attacks on over 20 "integrated air defense systems" using more than 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles during operations Odyssey Dawn and Ellamy.[82]


Main article: Geography of Libya

Satellite image of Libya

Libya is a predominantly desert country. Up to 90% of the land area is covered in desert.

The Jabal Al Akdhar area. Annual rainfall averages at between 400 and 600 millimetres (15.7 and 23.6 inches).[83]

Libya extends over 1,759,540 square kilometres (679,362 sq mi), making it the 17th largest nation in the world by size. Libya is somewhat smaller than Indonesia in land area, and roughly the size of the US state of Alaska. It is bound to the north by the Mediterranean Sea, the west by Tunisia and Algeria, the southwest by Niger, the south by Chad and Sudan and to the east by Egypt. Libya lies between latitudes 19° and 34°N, and longitudes and 26°E.

At 1,770 kilometres (1,100 mi), Libya's coastline is the longest of any African country bordering the Mediterranean.[84][85] The portion of the Mediterranean Sea north of Libya is often called the Libyan Sea. The climate is mostly dry and desertlike in nature. However, the northern regions enjoy a milder Mediterranean climate.

Natural hazards come in the form of hot, dry, dust-laden sirocco (known in Libya as the gibli). This is a southern wind blowing from one to four days in spring and autumn. There are also dust storms and sandstorms. Oases can also be found scattered throughout Libya, the most important of which are Ghadames and Kufra.

Libyan Desert

The Libyan Desert, which covers much of Libya, is one of the most arid places on earth.[44] In places, decades may pass without rain, and even in the highlands rainfall seldom happens, once every 5–10 years. At Uweinat, as of 2006 the last recorded rainfall was in September 1998.[86] There is a large depression, the Qattara Depression, just to the south of the northernmost scarp, with Siwa Oasis at its western extremity. The depression continues in a shallower form west, to the oases of Jaghbub and Jalo.

Likewise, the temperature in the Libyan desert can be extreme; on September 13, 1922 the town of Al 'Aziziyah, which is located Southwest of Tripoli, recorded an air temperature of 57.8 °C (136.0 °F), generally accepted as the highest recorded naturally occurring air temperature reached on Earth.[87]

There are a few scattered uninhabited small oases, usually linked to the major depressions, where water can be found by digging to a few feet in depth. In the west there is a widely dispersed group of oases in unconnected shallow depressions, the Kufra group, consisting of Tazerbo, Rebianae and Kufra.[86] Aside from the scarps, the general flatness is only interrupted by a series of plateaus and massifs near the centre of the Libyan Desert, around the convergence of the Egyptian-Sudanese-Libyan borders.

Slightly further to the south are the massifs of Arkenu, Uweinat and Kissu. These granite mountains are ancient, having formed long before the sandstones surrounding them. Arkenu and Western Uweinat are ring complexes very similar to those in the Aïr Mountains. Eastern Uweinat (the highest point in the Libyan Desert) is a raised sandstone plateau adjacent to the granite part further west.[86] The plain to the north of Uweinat is dotted with eroded volcanic features. With the discovery of oil in the 1950s also came the discovery of a massive aquifer underneath much of the country. The water in this aquifer pre-dates the last ice ages and the Sahara desert itself.[88] The country is also home to the Arkenu craters, double impact craters found in the desert.

Government and politics

Main article: Politics of Libya

Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

There are two branches of government in the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. The "revolutionary sector" comprises Revolutionary Leader Gaddafi, the Revolutionary Committees and the remaining members of the 12-person Revolutionary Command Council, which was established in 1969.[89] The historical revolutionary leadership is not elected and cannot be voted out of office; they are in power by virtue of their involvement in the revolution.

The second sector, the Jamahiriya sector, comprises Basic People's Congresses in each of the 1,500 urban wards, 32 Sha'biyat People's Congresses for the regions, and the National General People's Congress. These legislative bodies are represented by corresponding executive bodies (Local People's Committees, Sha'biyat People's Committees and the National General People's Committee/Cabinet).

Every four years, the membership of the Basic People's Congresses elects their own leaders and the secretaries for the People's Committees, sometimes after many debates and a critical vote. The leadership of the Local People's Congress represents the local congress at the People's Congress of the next level. The members of the National General People's Congress elect the members of the National General People's Committee (the Cabinet) at their annual meeting.

The government controls both state-run and semi-autonomous media. In cases involving a violation of "certain taboos", the private press, like The Tripoli Post has been censored,[90] although articles that are critical of policies have been requested and intentionally published by the revolutionary leadership itself as a means of initiating reforms.

Libya is the most censored country in the Middle East and North Africa, according to the Freedom of the Press Index.[91]

Political parties were banned by the 1972 Prohibition of Party Politics Act Number 71.[92] According to the Association Act of 1971, the establishment of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is allowed. However, because they are required to conform to the goals of the revolution, their numbers are small in comparison with those in neighbouring countries. Trade unions do not exist,[93] but numerous professional associations are integrated into the state structure as a third pillar, along with the People's Congresses and Committees. These associations do not have the right to strike. Professional associations send delegates to the General People's Congress, where they have a representative mandate.

Libyan Republic

The Libyan Republic is governed by a 31 member Transitional National Council formed on 27 February 2011. On 5 March 2011 the council declared itself to be the "sole representative of all Libya". It is currently recognised by France as the official government of Libya [94] and is supported by the Arab League,[95] European Union,[96] the United Kingdom and Portugal.[97] The council formed an interim government on 23 March 2011 with Mahmoud Jibril as prime minister. [98]

Foreign relations

Kingdom of Libya

King Idris with U.S. vice-president Richard Nixon (March 1957). Libya sought cordial relations with the West.

Libya's foreign policies have fluctuated since 1951. As a Kingdom, Libya maintained a definitively pro-Western stance, yet was recognized as belonging to the conservative traditionalist bloc in the League of Arab States (the present-day Arab League), of which it became a member in 1953.[99] The government was also friendly towards Western countries such as the United Kingdom, United States, France, Italy, Greece, and established full diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in 1955.

Although the government supported Arab causes, including the Moroccan and Algerian independence movements, it took little active part in the Arab-Israeli dispute or the tumultuous inter-Arab politics of the 1950s and early 1960s. The Kingdom was noted for its close association with the West, while it steered an essentially conservative course at home.[100]

Libya under Gaddafi

After the 1969 coup, Muammar Gaddafi closed American and British bases and partly nationalized foreign oil and commercial interests in Libya.

On 11 June 1972, Gaddafi announced that any Arab wishing to volunteer for Palestinian armed groups "can register his name at any Libyan embassy will be given adequate training for combat". He also promised financial support for attacks.[101][102][103]

On 7 October 1972, Gaddafi praised the Lod Airport massacre, carried out by the Japanese Red Army, and demanded Palestinian terrorist groups to carry out similar attacks.[101]

Gaddafi created the Islamic Legion, a mercenary group associated with Arab supremacism.

He also played a key role in promoting oil embargoes as a political weapon, hoping that an oil price rise and embargo in 1973 would persuade the West to end support for Israel.[104]

In 1973 the Irish Naval Service intercepted the vessel Claudia in Irish territorial waters, which carried Soviet arms from Libya to the Provisional IRA.[105][106] In 1976 after a series of terror attacks by the Provisional IRA, Gaddafi announced that "the bombs which are convulsing Britain and breaking its spirit are the bombs of Libyan people. We have sent them to the Irish revolutionaries so that the British will pay the price for their past deeds".[101]

Gaddafi was a close supporter of Ugandan President Idi Amin.[107] Gaddafi was not alone – the Soviet Union armed Amin and East German Stasi agents came to build Amin's repression machinery.[108][109][110] Gaddafi shipped troops to fight against Tanzania on behalf of Idi Amin. About 600 Libyan soldiers lost their lives attempting to defend the collapsing presidency of Amin,[111] during which Amin's government killed hundreds of thousands of Ugandans.

Gaddafi aided Jean-Bedel Bokassa, the Emperor of the Central African Empire.[111][112]

Together with Moscow and Fidel Castro, Gaddafi supported Soviet protege Haile Mariam Mengistu,[112] who was later convicted for a genocide that killed thousands at least.

In October 1981 Egypt's President Anwar Sadat was assassinated. Gaddafi applauded the murder and remarked that it was a punishment.[113]

Neighboring Arab countries and the United States became concerned of Gaddafi's policies, and they made a deal to increase in military credits and training.[114]

In April 1984, Libyan refugees in London protested against execution of two dissidents. Libyan diplomats shot at 11 people and killed a British policewoman. The incident led to the breaking off of diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and Libya for over a decade.[115]

Gaddafi asserted in June 1984 that he wanted his agents to assassinate dissident refugees even when they were on pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca. In August 1984, one Libyan plot in Mecca was thwarted by Saudi Arabian police.[116]

After December 1985 Rome and Vienna airport attacks, which killed 19 and wounded around 140, Gaddafi indicated that he would continue to support the Red Army Faction, the Red Brigades, and the Irish Republican Army as long as European countries support anti-Gaddafi Libyans.[54] The Foreign Minister of Libya also called the massacres "heroic acts".[117]

In 1986 Libyan state television announced that Libya was training suicide squads to attack American and European interests.[118]

Gaddafi claimed the Gulf of Sidra as his territorial water and his navy was involved in a conflict from January to March 1986.

On 5 April 1986, Libyan agents bombed "La Belle" nightclub in West Berlin, killing three people and injuring 229 people who were spending the evening there. Gaddafi's plan was intercepted by Western intelligence. More detailed information was retrieved years later when Stasi archives were investigated by the reunited Germany. Libyan agents who had carried out the operation from the Libyan embassy in East Germany were prosecuted by reunited Germany in the 1990s.[119]

Germany and the United States learned that the bombing in West Berlin had been ordered from Tripoli. On 14 April 1986, the United States carried out Operation El Dorado Canyon against Gaddafi and members of his regime. Air defenses, three army bases, and two airfields in Tripoli and Benghazi were bombed. The surgical strikes failed to kill Gaddafi but he lost a few dozen military officers.[44][120]

Gaddafi announced that he had won a spectacular military victory over the United States and the country was officially renamed the "Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriyah".[116] However, his speech appeared devoid passion and even the "victory" celebrations appeared unusual. Criticism of Gaddafi by ordinary Libyan citizens became more bold, such as defacing of Gaddafi posters.[116] The raids against Gaddafi had brought the regime to its the weakest point in 17 years.[116]

Many Western European countries took action against Libyan terror and other activities following years.

Gaddafi fueled a number of Islamist and communist terrorist groups in the Philippines. The country still struggles with their murders and kidnappings.[46][49][53][54][121]

Gaddafi fueled paramilitaries in the Oceania. He attempted to radicalized New Zealand's Maoris.[49] In Australia he financed trade unions and some politicians. In May 1987, Australia deported diplomats and broke off relations with Libya because of the activities in the Oceania.[48][49]

In late 1987 French authorities stopped a merchant vessel, the MV Eksund, which was delivering a 150 ton Libyan arms shipment to European terrorist groups.

In 1991, two Libyan intelligence agents were indicted by prosecutors in the United States and United Kingdom for their involvement in the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Six other Libyans were put on trial in absentia for the 1989 bombing of UTA Flight 772 over Chad and Niger. The UN Security Council demanded that Libya surrender the suspects, cooperate with the Pan Am 103 and UTA 772 investigations, pay compensation to the victims' families, and cease all support for terrorism. Libya's refusal to comply led to the approval of Security Council Resolution 748 on March 31, 1992, imposing international sanctions on the state designed to bring about Libyan compliance. Continued Libyan defiance led to further sanctions by the UN against Libya in November 1993.[122]

Gaddafi trained and supported Charles Taylor, who was indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the conflict in Sierra Leone.[123]

Libya had close ties with Slobodan Milošević's regime. Gaddafi aligned himself with the Orthodox Serbs against Bosnia's Muslims and Kosovo's Albanians. Gaddafi supported Milošević even when Milošević was charged with large-scale ethnic cleansing against Albanians in Kosovo.[124][125][126]

In 1999, less than a decade after the sanctions were put in place, Libya began to make dramatic policy changes in regard to the Western world, including turning over the Lockerbie suspects for trial. This diplomatic breakthrough followed years of negotiation, including a visit by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to Libya in December 1998, and personal appeals by Nelson Mandela. Eventually UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook persuaded the Americans to accept a trial of the suspects in the Netherlands under Scottish law, with the UN Security Council agreeing to suspend sanctions as soon as the suspects arrived in the Netherlands for trial.[44]

Following the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003, Gaddafi decided to abandon his weapons of mass destruction programmes and pay almost 3 billion US dollars in compensation to the families of Pan Am Flight 103 and UTA Flight 772.[127][128] The decision was welcomed by many western nations and was seen as an important step toward Libya rejoining the international community.[129] Since 2003 the country has made efforts to normalize its ties with the European Union and the United States and has even coined the catchphrase, 'The Libya Model', an example intended to show the world what can be achieved through negotiation, rather than force, when there is goodwill on both sides. By 2004 George W. Bush had lifted the economic sanctions and official relations resumed with the United States. Libya opened a liaison office in Washington, and the United States opened an office in Tripoli. In January 2004, Congressman Tom Lantos led the first official Congressional delegation visit to Libya.[130]

Libya has supported Sudan's President Omar al-Beshir despite charges of a genocide in Darfur.[131]

The release, in 2007, of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor, who had been held since 1999, charged with conspiring to deliberately infect over 400 children with HIV, was seen as marking a new stage in Libyan-Western relations.

The United States removed Gaddafi's regime, after 27 years, from its list of states sponsoring terrorism.[132]

On October 16, 2007, Libya was elected to serve on the United Nations Security Council for two years starting in January 2008.[133] In February 2009, Gaddafi was selected to be chairman of the African Union for one year.

In 2009 the United Kingdom and Libya signed a prisoner-exchange agreement and then Libya requested the transfer of the convicted Lockerbie bomber, who finally returned home in August 2009.[134]

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Libyan National Security Adviser Moatessem-Billal al-Gaddafi in 2009

As of October 25, 2009, Canadian visa requests were being denied and Canadian travelers were told they were not welcome in Libya, in an apparent reprisal for Canada's near tongue-lashing[vague] of Gaddafi.[135] Specifically, Harper's government was planning to publicly criticize Gadhafi for praising the convicted Lockerbie bomber.[136]

Libyan-Swiss relations strongly suffered after the arrest of Hannibal Gadhafi for beating up his domestic servants in Geneva in 2008. In response, Gaddafi removed all his money held in Swiss banks and asked the United Nations to vote to abolish Switzerland as a sovereign nation.[137] [138]

Libya still provides bounties for heads of refugees who have criticized Gaddafi, including 1 million dollars for Ashur Shamis, a Libyan-British journalist.[139]

Cooperation with Italy

On August 30, 2008, Gaddafi and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi signed a historic cooperation treaty in Benghazi.[140][141][142] Under its terms, Italy will pay $5 billion to Libya as compensation for its former military occupation. In exchange, Libya will take measures to combat illegal immigration coming from its shores and boost investments in Italian companies.[141][143] The treaty was ratified by Italy on February 6, 2009,[140] and by Libya on March 2, during a visit to Tripoli by Berlusconi.[141][144] In June Gaddafi made his first visit to Rome, where he met Prime Minister Berlusconi, President Giorgio Napolitano, Senate President Renato Schifani, and Chamber President Gianfranco Fini, among others.[141] The Democratic Party and Italy of Values opposed the visit,[145][146] and many protests were staged throughout Italy by human rights organizations and the Italian Radicals.[147] Gaddafi also took part in the 35th G8 summit in L'Aquila in July 2009 as Chairman of the African Union.[141] Since 2008, Italy is Libya's principal commercial partner. Numerous commercial agreements have been signed in the oil, infrastructural and financial sectors between both countries. Italy gets a quarter of its oil from Libya.[148]

Human rights

Main article: Human rights in Libya

According to the US Department of State’s annual human rights report for 2007, Libya’s authoritarian regime continued to have a poor record in the area of human rights.[149] Some of the numerous and serious abuses on the part of the government include poor prison conditions, arbitrary arrest and prisoners held incommunicado, and political prisoners held for many years without charge or trial. The judiciary is controlled by the government, and there is no right to a fair public trial. Libyans do not have the right to change their government. Freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and religion are restricted. Independent human rights organizations are prohibited. Ethnic and tribal minorities suffer discrimination, and the state continues to restrict the labor rights of foreign jobs.

In 2005 Freedom House rated both political rights and civil liberties in Libya as "7" (1 representing the most free and 7 the least free rating), and gave it the freedom rating of "Not Free".[150]

In May, 2010, Libya was elected by the UN General Assembly to a three-year term on the UN's Human Rights Council.[151] It was suspended from the Human Rights Council in March, 2011.[152]

Libya's human rights record was put in the spotlight in February 2011, due to the government's violent response to pro-democracy protestors, which killed hundreds of demonstrators.[153]

Administrative divisions and cities

Historically the area of Libya was considered three provinces (or states), Tripolitania in the northwest, Barka (Cyrenaica) in the east, and Fezzan in the southwest. It was the conquest by Italy in the Italo-Turkish War that united them in a single political unit. Under the Italians Libya, in 1934, was divided into four provinces and one territory (in the south): Tripoli, Misurata, Benghazi, Al Bayda, and the Territory of the Libyan Sahara.[154]

After independence, Libya was divided into three governorates (muhafazat)[155] and then in 1963 into ten governorates.[156][157] The governorates were legally abolished in February 1975, and nine "control bureaus" were set up to deal directly with the nine areas, respectively: education, health, housing, social services, labor, agricultural services, communications, financial services, and economy, each under their own ministry.[158] However, the courts and some other agencies continued to operate as if the governorate structure were still in place.[158] In 1983 Libya was split into forty-six districts (baladiyat), then in 1987 into twenty-five.[159][160][161] In 1995, Libya was divided into thirteen districts (shabiyah),[162] in 1998 into twenty-six districts, and in 2001 into thirty-two districts.[163] These were then further rearranged into twenty-two districts in 2007:

The current twenty-two shabiyat system in Libya (since 2007)

Map of Libya


Pop (2006)[164]↓

Land area (km2)↓

(on map)↓

البطنان Al Butnan 159,536 83,860 1
درنة Darnah 163,351 19,630 2
الجبل الاخضر Al Jabal al Akhdar 206,180 7,800 3
المرج Al Marj 185,848 10,000 4
بنغازي Benghazi 670,797 43,535 5
الواحات Al Wahat 177,047 6
الكفرة Al Kufrah 50,104 483,510 7
سرت Sirt/Surt 141,378 77,660 8
مرزق Murzuq 78,621 349,790 22
سبها Sabha 134,162 15,330 19
وادي الحياة Wadi Al Hayaa 76,858 31,890 20
مصراتة Misratah 550,938 9
المرقب Al Murgub 432,202 10
طرابلس Tarabulus 1,065,405 11
الجفارة Al Jfara 453,198 1,940 12
الزاوية Az Zawiyah 290,993 2,890 13
النقاط الخمس An Nuqat al Khams 287,662 5,250 14
الجبل الغربي Al Jabal al Gharbi 304,159 15
نالوت Nalut 93,224 16
غات Ghat 23,518 72,700 21
الجفرة Al Jufrah 52,342 117,410 17
وادي الشاطئ Wadi Al Shatii 78,532 97,160 18

Libyan districts are further subdivided into Basic People's Congresses which act as townships or boroughs.

The below table shows the ten largest cities in the country (some may be considered neighborhoods of larger cities).

No. City Population
1 Tripoli 1,228,187
2 Benghazi 670,797
3 Misurata 507,069
4 Az Zawiyah 318,726
5 Sabha 250,404
6 Ajdabiya 108,771
7 Al Khums 103,743
8 Al Bayda 99,208
9 Darnah 88,317
10 Tobruk 75,893


Ambox outdated serious.svg

This section may need to be updated. Please update this section to reflect recent events or newly available information, and remove this template when finished. Please see the talk page for more information. (February 2011)
Main article: Economy of Libya

Libya's economy relies heavily on oil. The ENI Oil Bouri DP4 in the Bouri Field is the biggest platform in the Mediterranean sea.

Pivot irrigation in Kufra, southeast Cyrenaica. Oil wealth has enabled Libya to pursue extravagant[says who?] projects such as agriculture and the Great Manmade River in the Sahara desert.

Modern buildings in Tripoli

The Libyan economy depends primarily upon revenues from the oil sector, which constitute practically all export earnings and about one-quarter of gross domestic product (GDP). The discovery of the oil and natural gas reserves in the country in 1959 led to the transformation of Libya's economy from a poor country to (then) Africa's richest. The World Bank defines Libya as an 'Upper Middle Income Economy', along with only seven other African countries.[166] In the early 1980s, Libya was one of the wealthiest countries in the world; its GDP per capita was higher than that of developed countries such as Italy, Singapore, South Korea, Spain and New Zealand.[167]

Today, high oil revenues and a small population give Libya one of the highest GDPs per capita in Africa and have allowed the Libyan state to provide an extensive level of social security, particularly in the fields of housing and education.[168] Many problems still beset Libya's economy however; unemployment is the highest in the region at 21%, according to the latest census figures.[169]

Compared to its neighbors, Libya enjoys a low level of both absolute and relative poverty. Libyan officials in the past six years have carried out economic reforms as part of a broader campaign to reintegrate the country into the global capitalist economy.[170] This effort picked up steam after UN sanctions were lifted in September 2003, and as Libya announced in December 2003 that it would abandon programmes to build weapons of mass destruction.[171]

Libya has begun some market-oriented reforms. Initial steps have included applying for membership of the World Trade Organization, reducing subsidies, and announcing plans for privatisation.[172] Authorities have privatised more than 100 government owned companies since 2003 in industries including oil refining, tourism and real estate, of which 29 are 100% foreign owned.[173] The non-oil manufacturing and construction sectors, which account for about 20% of GDP, have expanded from processing mostly agricultural products to include the production of petrochemicals, iron, steel and aluminum.

Climatic conditions and poor soils severely limit agricultural output, and Libya imports about 75% of its food.[170] Water is also a problem, with some 28% of the population not having access to safe drinking water in 2000.[174] The Great Manmade River project is tapping into vast underground aquifers of fresh water discovered during the quest for oil, and is intended to improve the country's agricultural output.

Under the previous Prime Minister, Shukri Ghanem, and current Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi, Libya is undergoing a business boom. Many government-run industries are being privatised. Many international oil companies have returned to the country, including oil giants Shell and ExxonMobil.[175]

Tourism is on the rise, bringing increased demand for hotel accommodation and for capacity at airports such as Tripoli International. A multi-million dollar renovation of Libyan airports has recently[when?] been approved by the government to help meet such demands.[176] At present 130,000 people visit the country annually; the Libyan government hopes to increase this figure to 10,000,000 tourists. However there is little evidence to suggest the current administration is taking active steps to meet this figure. Libya has long been a notoriously difficult country for western tourists to visit due to stringent visa requirements. Since the 2011 protests there has been revived hope that an open society will encourage the return of tourists.[177] Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, the second-eldest son of Muammar Gaddafi, is involved in a green development project called the Green Mountain Sustainable Development Area, which seeks to bring tourism to Cyrene and to preserve Greek ruins in the area.[178]


Main article: Demographics of Libya

Fareed Zakaria said in 2011 that "The unusual thing about Libya is that it's a very large country with a very small population, but the population is actually concentrated very narrowly along the coast."[179] Population density is about 50 persons per km² (130/sq. mi.) in the two northern regions of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, but falls to less than one person per km² (2.6/sq. mi.) elsewhere. Ninety percent of the people live in less than 10% of the area, primarily along the coast. About 88% of the population is urban, mostly concentrated in the three largest cities, Tripoli , Benghazi and Al Bayda.[180] Libya has a population of about 6.5 million, around half of whom are under the age of 15. In 1984 the population reached 3.6 million and was growing at about 4% a year, one of the highest rates in the world. The 1984 population total was an increase from the 1.54 million reported in 1964.[181]

A map indicating the ethnic composition of Libya

Native Libyans are primarily Berbers; Arabized Berbers and Turks; ethnic "pure" Arabs, mainly tribal desert "Bedouins"; and Tuareg.[182] Small Hausa, and Tebu tribal groups in southern Libya are nomadic or seminomadic. Among foreign residents, the largest groups are citizens of other African nations, including North Africans (primarily Egyptians), and Sub-Saharan Africans.[183] In 2011, there were also an estimated 60,000 Bangladeshis, 30,000 Chinese and 30,000 Filipinos in Libya.[184] Libya is home to a large illegal population which numbers more than one million, mostly Egyptians and Sub-Saharan Africans.[185] Libya has a small Italian minority. Previously, there was a visible presence of Italian settlers, but many left after independence in 1947 and many more left in 1970 after the accession of Muammar Gaddafi.[186]

The main language spoken in Libya is Arabic (Libyan dialect) by 80% of the Libyans, and Modern Standard Arabic is also the official language; the Tamazight spoken by 20% (i.e. Berber and Tuareg languages), which do not have official status, are spoken by Libyan Berbers and Tuaregs in the south beside Arabic language.[187] Berber speakers live above all in the Jebel Nafusa region (Tripolitania), the town of Zuwarah on the coast, and the city-oases of Ghadames, Ghat and Awjila. In addition, Tuaregs speak Tamahaq, the only known Northern Tamasheq language, also Toubou is spoken in some pockets in Qatroun village and Koffra city. Italian and English are sometimes spoken in the big cities, although Italian speakers are mainly among the older generation.

There are about 140 tribes and clans in Libya.[188] Family life is important for Libyan families, the majority of which live in apartment blocks and other independent housing units, with precise modes of housing depending on their income and wealth. Although the Libyan Arabs traditionally lived nomadic lifestyles in tents, they have now settled in various towns and cities.[189] Because of this, their old ways of life are gradually fading out. An unknown small number of Libyans still live in the desert as their families have done for centuries. Most of the population has occupations in industry and services, and a small percentage is in agriculture.

According to the World Refugee Survey 2008, published by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Libya hosted a population of refugees and asylum seekers numbering approximately 16,000 in 2007. Of this group, approximately 9,000 persons were from the Former Palestine, 3,200 from Sudan, 2,500 from Somalia and 1,100 from Iraq.[190] Libya reportedly deported thousands of illegal entrants in 2007 without giving them the opportunity to apply for asylum. Refugees faced discrimination from Libyan officials when moving in the country and seeking employment.[190]


Main article: Education in Libya

Libya's population includes 1.7 million students, over 270,000 of whom study at the tertiary level.[191] Basic education in Libya is free for all citizens,[192] and compulsory to secondary level. The literacy rate is the highest in North Africa; over 82% of the population can read and write.[193]

Al Manar Royal Palace in central Benghazi, University of Libya's first campus, founded by royal decree in 1955

After Libya's independence in 1951, its first university, the University of Libya, was established in Benghazi by royal decree.[194] In academic year 1975/76 the number of university students was estimated to be 13,418. As of 2004, this number has increased to more than 200,000, with an extra 70,000 enrolled in the higher technical and vocational sector.[191] The rapid increase in the number of students in the higher education sector has been mirrored by an increase in the number of institutions of higher education.

Since 1975 the number of universities has grown from two to nine and after their introduction in 1980, the number of higher technical and vocational institutes currently stands at 84 (with 12 public universities).[191] Libya's higher education is mostly financed by the public budget, although a small number of private institutions has been given accreditation lately. In 1998 the budget allocated for education represented 38.2% of the national budget.[194]

The main universities in Libya are:

The main technology institutions are:


Main article: Religion in Libya
Religion in Libya
religion percent

Mosque in Ghadames, close to the Tunisian and Algerian border. About 97% of Libyans are followers of Islam.

By far the predominant religion in Libya is Islam with 97% of the population associating with the faith.[195] The vast majority of Libyan Muslims adhere to Sunni Islam, which provides both a spiritual guide for individuals and a keystone for government policy, but a minority (between 5 and 10%) adhere to Ibadism (a branch of Kharijism), above all in the Jebel Nefusa and the town of Zuwarah, west of Tripoli.

Before the 1930s, the Senussi Movement was the primary Islamic movement in Libya. This was a religious revival adapted to desert life. Its zawaaya (lodges) were found in Tripolitania and Fezzan, but Senussi influence was strongest in Cyrenaica. Rescuing the region from unrest and anarchy, the Senussi movement gave the Cyrenaican tribal people a religious attachment and feelings of unity and purpose.[196]

This Islamic movement, which was eventually destroyed by both Italian invasion and later the Gaddafi government,[196] was very conservative and somewhat different from the Islam that exists in Libya today. Gaddafi asserts that he is a devout Muslim, and his government is taking a role in supporting Islamic institutions and in worldwide proselytizing on behalf of Islam.[197] A Libyan form of Sufism is also common in parts of the country.[198]

Other than the overwhelming majority of Sunni Muslims, there are also small foreign communities of Christians. Coptic Orthodox Christianity, which is the Christian Church of Egypt, is the largest and most historical Christian denomination in Libya. There are over 60,000 Egyptian Copts in Libya, as they comprise over 1% of the population.[199][200] There are an estimated 40,000 Roman Catholics in Libya who are served by two Bishops, one in Tripoli (serving the Italian community) and one in Benghazi (serving the Maltese community). There is also a small Anglican community, made up mostly of African immigrant workers in Tripoli; it is part of the Anglican Diocese of Egypt.

Libya was until recent times the home of one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world, dating back to at least 300 BC.[201] In 1942 the Italian Fascist authorities set up forced labour camps south of Tripoli for the Jews, including Giado (about 3,000 Jews) and Gharyan, Jeren, and Tigrinna. In Giado some 500 Jews died of weakness, hunger, and disease. In 1942, Jews who were not in the concentration camps were heavily restricted in their economic activity and all men between 18 and 45 years were drafted for forced labour. In August 1942, Jews from Tripolitania were interned in a concentration camp at Sidi Azaz. In the three years after November 1945, more than 140 Jews were murdered, and hundreds more wounded, in a series of pogroms.[202] By 1948, about 38,000 Jews remained in the country. Upon Libya's independence in 1951, most of the Jewish community emigrated. (See History of the Jews in Libya.)


Main article: Culture of Libya
Further information: Music of Libya and Libyan literature

Temple of Zeus in Cyrene. Libya has a number of World Heritage Sites from the ancient Greek and Roman eras, which are popular tourist destinations.

Coastline of Benghazi, Libya's second largest city. With the longest Mediterranean coastline among African nations, Libya's mostly unspoilt beaches are a social gathering place.

Libya is culturally similar to its neighboring Maghrebian states. Libyans consider themselves very much a part of a wider Arab community. The Libyan state tends to strengthen this feeling by considering Arabic as the only official language, and forbidding the teaching and even the use of the Berber language. Libyan Arabs have a heritage in the traditions of the nomadic Bedouin and associate themselves with a particular Bedouin tribe.

Libya boasts few theatres or art galleries.[203][204] For many years there have been no public theatres, and only a few cinemas showing foreign films. The tradition of folk culture is still alive and well, with troupes performing music and dance at frequent festivals, both in Libya and abroad.

The main output of Libyan television is devoted to showing various styles of traditional Libyan music. Tuareg music and dance are popular in Ghadames and the south. Libyan television programmes are mostly in Arabic with a 30-minute news broadcast each evening in English and French. The government maintains strict control over all media outlets. A new analysis by the Committee to Protect Journalists has found Libya’s media the most tightly controlled in the Arab world.[90] To combat this, the government plans to introduce private media, an initiative intended to update the country's media.[205]

Many Libyans frequent the country's beach and they also visit Libya's archaeological sites—especially Leptis Magna, which is widely considered to be one of the best preserved Roman archaeological sites in the world.[206]

The nation's capital, Tripoli, boasts many museums and archives; these include the Government Library, the Ethnographic Museum, the Archaeological Museum, the National Archives, the Epigraphy Museum and the Islamic Museum. The Jamahiriya Museum, built in consultation with UNESCO, may be the country's most famous.[207]

Contemporary travel

The most common form of public transport between cities is the bus, but many people travel by automobile.[208] There are no railway services in Libya.[208]

Libyan cuisine

This section contains information which may be of unclear or questionable importance or relevance to the article's subject matter.
Please help improve this article by clarifying or removing superfluous information. (November 2010)

Libyan cuisine is generally simple, and is very similar to Sahara cuisine.[209] In many undeveloped areas and small towns, restaurants may be nonexistent, and food stores may be the only source to obtain food products.[209] Some common Libyan foods include couscous, bazeen, which is a type of unsweetened cake, and shurba, which is soup.[209] Libyan restaurants may serve international cuisine, or may serve simpler fare such as lamb, chicken, vegetable stew, potatoes and macaroni.[209] Alcohol consumption is illegal in the entire country.[210]

There are four main ingredients of traditional Libyan food: olives (and olive oil), palm dates, grains and milk.[211] Grains are roasted, ground, sieved and used for making bread, cakes, soups and bazeen. Dates are harvested, dried and can be eaten as they are, made into syrup or slightly fried and eaten with bsisa and milk. After eating, Libyans often drink black tea. This is normally repeated a second time (for the second glass of tea), and in the third round the tea is served with roasted peanuts or roasted almonds (mixed with the tea in the same glass).[211]

See also


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  • Brady, Adrienne (2008). Libya -Kiss The Hand You Cannot Sever (1 ed.). Melrose Books. ISBN 1906050600. 
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 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Department of State (Background Notes).

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1The disputed territory of Western Sahara is mostly occupied and administered by Morocco; the Polisario Front claims the territory in militating for the establishment an independent republic, and exercises limited control over rump border territories. 2Spanish exclaves.
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1 Only recognized by Turkey; see Cyprus dispute.
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Coordinates: 27°24′N 17°36′E / 27.4°N 17.6°E / 27.4; 17.6

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