The 2011 Libyan protests are an ongoing series of protests and confrontations occurring in the North African state of Libya against the government of Libya and its head of state Muammar al-Gaddafi. The unrest began on 13 January 2011 and continues to the present. Media outlets have reported the unrest as being inspired by the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, connecting the protests with the wider 2010–2011 Middle East and North Africa protests.
On 18 February, demonstrators took control over most of Benghazi, the country's second-largest city, with some support from police and defecting military units. The government reacted by sending elite troops and mercenaries, which were resisted by Benghazi's inhabitants and mutinying members of the military. By 20 February, more than 200 people had been killed in Benghazi. Protests in Tripoli centred around Green Square. On 21 February, Libyan Air Force aircraft attacked civilian protesters in Tripoli, drawing international condemnation. The New York Times reported that "the crackdown in Libya has proven the bloodiest of the recent government actions."
Some Libyan diplomats have stepped down over the course of the protests while others have distanced themselves from Gaddafi and his government, declaring his current regime as illegitimate and accusing him of genocide and crimes against humanity in his attack against the people of Libya.
History[edit | edit source]
Muammar Al Gaddafi has ruled Libya as the Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution since overthrowing the monarchy in 1969. Following the retirement of Fidel Castro in 2008 and the death of Omar Bongo in 2009, Gaddafi is the world's longest ruling non-royal head of state. Traditionally, Libya is divided by clans, whom a strong leader like Gaddafi helps to pacify.
Petroleum revenues contribute up to 58% of Libya's GDP, leading to a resource curse. Governments with "resource curse" revenue have a lower need for taxes from other industries and consequently are less willing to develop their middle class. To calm down opposition, such governments can use the income from natural resources to offer services to the population, or to specific regime supporters. The government of Libya can utilize these techniques by using the national oil resources.
Andrew Solomon wrote an article in The New Yorker entitled "How Qaddafi Lost Libya", after the protests began. He said that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi only had illusions of reform that gave hope but that he was an "absolute failure" when it came to creating reforms. He also added that Libya's oil wealth was not spread over a relatively small population of six million and that Gaddafi did not fulfill "even the most basic government obligations;" the burgeoning youth population of a third of the country under the age of 15 was also ignored by Gaddafi who failed to ameliorate youth unemployment, according to Solomon.
However, Gaddafi's government has also had some more economic progress than other Arab countries. Libya's purchasing power parity (PPP) GDP per capita in 2010 was US$14,878; its human development index in 2010 was 0.755; and its literacy rate in 2009 was 86.8%. These numbers were lower in Egypt and Tunisia. Indeed, Libyan citizens are considered well educated and rich. This specific situation create a wider contrast between good education, high demand of democracy, and government's practices (perceived corruption, political system, supply of democracy). Its corruption perception index in 2010 was 2.2, which was worse that of Egypt and Tunisia, two neighboring countries who faced uprising before Libya.
Early Developments[edit | edit source]
From 13–16 January, upset at delays and political corruption, protesters in Darnah, Benghazi, Bani Walid and other cities broke into and occupied housing that the government was building. By 27 January, the government had responded to the housing unrest with a US$24 billion investment fund to provide housing and development.
In late January, Jamal al-Hajji, a writer, political commentator and accountant, "call[ed] on the internet for demonstrations to be held in support of greater freedoms in Libya" inspired by the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings. He was arrested on 1 February by plain-clothes police officers, and charged on 3 February with injuring someone with his car. Amnesty International claimed that because al-Hajji had previously been imprisoned for his non-violent political opinions, the real reason for the present arrest appeared to be his call for demonstrations.
In early February, Gaddafi had met with "political activists, journalists, and media figures" and "warned" them that they would be "held responsible" if they participated "in any way in disturbing the peace or creating chaos in Libya"