After The Revolution : The Libyan Civil War


Like any form of war, it is rare that revolutions unfold according to some preordained plan. This is because of course, there is usually several plans in operation, which just so happen to have a common interest. After the common interest is achieved, they will often turn on each other. This is particularly important for those who wish to establish a democracy after a dictatorship; unless the revolutionary constitution and new military provide a commitment to liberal and secular rights, the majority - without a familiarity with these concepts - may very well turn to theocracy, following the long-repressed religious leadership. Likewise a broad-based revolution really needs to be careful of its political preferences; being united with political opponents to overthrow a dictatorship is unhelpful if those opponents are worse that the dictator in question.

It is thus the outcomes of the civil war that becomes the deciding factor of what political system will rule a region after a revolution that has multiple participants, and this raises a matter of critical importance for social activists outside of the region of military struggle. The contemporary case of Libya is an illustrative example, starting from a review of the Gaddafi dictatorship, then the Libyan revolution, the current Libyan Civil War, and the relevance for similar countries.

The Gaddafi Dictatorship

In 2011, the dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi's "Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" came to an end. In a broad sense regime fitted the model of a quasi-fascist government, similar to the Arabic Ba'athist regimes. Like these governments, Gaddafi's regime was indisputably modernist, following the bloodless coup d'etat by the Free Officers Movement that he led against King Idris in 1969. The country at this time had strong ties with the US and the UK and was a constitutional monarchy. However oil wealth had been largely used to enrich the royal family and their supporters; the literacy rate was only 10%, some 40% of the population were without permanent dwellings, and life expectancy was 57 years. After jailing high-level possible opponents, the new government redirected funds towards providing education, health care, and housing. Income per-capita would rise to one of the highest levels in Africa. At the same time, the country became a one-party state with free media and free trade unions prohibited and existing institutions became part of the totalitarian perspective. Thousands were imprisoned, tortured, or executed by security services as the country became notorious for its disdain of human rights, often carried out by Gaddafi in person (e.g., Gaddafi's Harem, by Annick Cojean).

Attempts to establish a pan-Arab Federation of Arab Republics failed, and instead emphasis was turned on to an internal "cultural revolution" of al-Kitāb al-Aḫḍar, "the Green Book", a collection of often strange aphorisms (especially relating to women and sport) from which one can drive some supposed principles of direct democracy, socialist economics, and the desire to build a new international movement, all within a single-party state itself under the control of a military dictatorship, and ultimately Gaddafi himself holding the title "Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution". Whilst engaging in cultural and political totalitarianism, the socialist economics shown signs of significant success. Foreign expertise required a higher level of private ownership in oil production and banking, but over time this diminished and local expertise improved. Property law forbade landlordism by preventing ownership of more than one dwelling, and a large number of companies were operated by self-management principles with state ownership. By 2009, life expectancy had risen to 77 years - only one less than the United States of America.

Libya under Gaddafi followed an active foreign interventionist policy which was a combination of strategic support for some national liberation movements, brutal dictatorships, and terrorists, and often foolishly over-playing the country's capacity with disastrous results. Gaddafi publicaly supported the African National Congress, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, the Polisario Front, the Irish Republican Army, and reportedly spent significant money on training the Nicaraguan Sandinistas. For these actions some leftists still think that he can be classified as an anti-imperialist figure. Yet at the same time, Libya actively supported the dictatorship of Idi Amin, with hundreds of Libyan soldiers dying for that regime as it was overthrown. A military force was also sent to the Central African Republic in 2001 to protect Ange-Félix Patassé. Other war criminals, such as Liberia's Charles Taylor, Sierra Leone's Foday Sankoh, and Jean-Bédel Bokassa of the Central African Republic were trained or funded by Gaddafi's Libya. Four separate military invasions, interventions, and support of rebels by Libya into Chad all eventually failed. Direct support was given to terrorist activities such the the Rome and Vienna airport attacks of 1985, the bombing of the La Belle discothèque in 1986, the bombing of UTA Flight 772, and Pan Am Flight 103.

The Libyan Revolution

In 1980 Libya had a per capita income with purchasing parity slightly greater than that of the United States of America. In the decades that followed this proportion would shrink to less than a fifth in 2005. Fluctuations in oil prices and the effects of economic sanctions would resulted in modest long-term real GDP growth punctuated by high levels of volatility. Despite a high Human Development Index, unemployment, corruption, and censorship was rife. The combination of factors should have been evident; an aging dictatorship, a population with some social security but declining relative wealth, high levels of unemployment (approximately 50% among youth, 30% in general), an educated population, and - still often overlooked - access to the international ICT infrastructure by which comparisons and secure communications could be carried out.

This was an explosive mix. As the initial rumblings of the Arab Spring began to have some effect at the end of 2010 and the start of 2011, major protests broke out against the government in February 2011 throughout the country, which was met with lethal response. In turn, members of the police and military began to defect as protest volunteers began to manage infrastructure services. By the end of the month, a National Transitional Council had been established in Benghazi chaired by former justice minister Mustafa Abdul Jalil and Benghazi, Misrata, al-Bayda and Tobruk were controlled by rebels. The United Nations Security Council suspended Libya from the UN Human Rights Council, implemented sanctions and the International Criminal Court (ICC) began investigations into the killing of unarmed civilians. For his own part, Gaddafi claimed that protestors were drugged, linked to Al-Qaeda, and ominously, "We will march to purge Libya inch by inch, house by house, alley by alley" (resulting in the popular parody song by Noy Alooshe, "Zenga Zenga").

As has been repeated elsewhere initially the Gaddafi government was able to use superior firepower to prevent rebel successes; protesting civilians with improvised weapons, and regime defectors light arms, are little match against tanks, artillery, multiple rocket launchers, mortars etc. Nevertheless, after the UN Security Council declared a no-fly zone to protect civilians from aerial bombardment, the enforcement by NATO began saw the balance shift. Whilst the resolution expressly forbade foreign occupation, Qatar has admitted that it sent hundreds of troops to support the Libyan rebels. Human rights violations were carried out by both sides in the conflict, most prominently the indiscriminate use of heavy weapons in civilian areas.

By June the ICC investigation was complete and arrest warrants were issued for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and his brother-in-law Abdullah Senussi, head of state security, for crimes against humanity. By July, at Istanbul, over 30 governments recognised the NTC as the legitimate government of Libya and in August, Zlitan and Tripoli fell with coordinated attacks from the remarkably effective forces in the Nafusa Mountains and a Misrata coastal offensive. Shortly afterwards, the Arab League recognised the NTC to "the legitimate representative of the Libyan state". Weeks later, trapped in his hometown of Sirte, Gaddafi was captured and killed; it remains unknown whether he was subject to an extrajudicial execution. At the end of the revolution a total of around six thousand rebel fighters and civilians and three thousand soldiers had been killed.

The Aftermath and the Civil War

As can be expected sporadic and low intensity fighting continued occurring in parts of the country, most notably in the south of the country, with local tribal fighters rising in Bani Walid in January and September 2012, and conflict between two town militias at Zuwara in April. The National Transitional Council legalised trade unions and provided for greater press freedom, although in May legislation was passed prohibted the publication of material critical of the revolution, its institutions, or praising the Gaddafi family and his government along with granting immunity to participants in the revolution. Most importantly however was the elections for the General National Congress held in July 2012 with 80 seats for party lists and 120 for individual constituencies. Winning over 48% of the party list vote, the secular-liberal National Forces Alliance was well ahead of the second-placed conservative Justice and Construction Party, aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood, who received only 10.3% of the vote. In August, the NTC formally transferred power to the General National Congress and dissolved itself. In 2012, GDP growth in Libya had improved from -62% (2011) to 104.5% (2012) with a GDP per capita increase from $6000USD (2011) to $12,100 (2012).

Despite these fairly clear results, the General National Congress was not dominated by secular liberals, despite the party list results. The majority of seats where held by nominal local independents, many of which were significantly more conservative that the party-list election would indicate. During 2013, this disparity would become evident, as Islamicists began to extend their control throughout the country and often within the GNC itself, eventually electing an Islamicist leader as Congress President, Nouri Abusahmain, in June 2013. Abusahmain established a militia force, the Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room which kidnapped the Prime Minister Ali Zeidan in October. By this stage oil production had virtually ceased as various militias had taken control of the country funded by the GNC to a sum of $720 million USD. In December the now-Islamicist controlled Congress endorsed Sharia law, with special clauses suppressing women, and voted to extend the mandate of the Congress.

With protests resulting, in February 2014 General Khalifa Haftar, who had been involved in the Libyan military since the 1969 coup, ordered the GNC to dissolve and called for the formation of a caretaker government committee to oversee new elections. The GNC ignored this call, and in May 2014, forces loyal to General Haftar launched a large scale air and ground offensive codenamed Operation Dignity against Islamist armed groups in Benghazi and against the GNC in Tripoli. Four days later, the GNC announced a schedule the elections, which resulted in an overwhelming victory for the secular liberals, although this time only 18% of the potential electorate voted and one of the country's leading human-rights figures, Salwa Bugaighis, was assasinated. In response, Islamicists launched Operation Libya Dawn to seize Tripoli International Airport and a group of Islamicist GNC members and failed candidates, convened as the New General National Congress and declared themselves the government with Nouri Abusahmain as president. The majority of the elected General National Council relocated to Tobruk, remaing itself the Council of Deputies; the Libyan Supreme Court ordered that body to dissolve, a response which was ignored by the Council (as it was made under duress), but also meaning that there was no legal government.

This is, of course, impossible. Whether it is as a criminal mob, a statist institution of class rule, a primitive stateless council of elders, or a democratic commune, all regions of space have a government of some sort. In Libya in 2015 there are several. The most secular and democratic and which enjoys the widest international recognition is the Council of Deputies based in Tobruk and which controls a large swathe of the eastern and central parts of the country, along with the western Nafusa Mountains and surrounds. This government also has the support of the Libyan National Army and controls the main oil-producing regions. Their main competition is the Islamicist New General National Congress, made up of the losers of the 2014 June elections and led by Nouri Abusahmain, and the Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room and the Al-Qaeda associated Libya Shield militia. In the central coastal region of Sirte and in the eastern town of Derna, the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Ansar al-Sharia hold control. Outside of these major forces, regional militia control the Sawfajjin region and groups associated with the Tuareg people control the sparsely populated south-western region.

The Lessons Learned

It is of course disappointing to discover that there are were sections of the political left which argued that the intervention against the Gaddafi regime was wrong and continue to do so. Chief among these are Michel Chossudovsky of the Centre for Research on Globalisation along with Takis Fotopoulos of the Inclusive Democracy journal. Both of these figures argue that of the existence of a Zionist transnational elite bent on world domination, a perspective in which they can find allies in such luminary figues such as the former Ku Klux Klan wizard, David Duke. They are noted for their apparent rejection of any international interventions, even those endorsed by the United Nations for humanitarian purposes, although Fotopoulos does suggest that a ground-up forces such as the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War would be legitimate.

Praise be, that a desparate population facing a massacre from a tyrant and their fascist allies can make an appeal for an international brigade to form; if only such dictators would wait. One also considers the 75 or so anarcho-communists who protested against the Libya intervention at Hamburg in March 2011 under the banner: "Yes to the revolt, No to the intervention". Needless to say, they established a brigade right on the spot and travelled to Libya to show practical support to the people of Benghazi facing extermination, no? One also discovers that small Trotskyite sects such as the Sparticist League in Australia likewise opposed "imperialist" intervention in East Timor (i.e., the UN-endorsed military intervention (INTERFET) followed by a UN-administration (UNTAET) that led to an East Timorese government) as the pro-integration militias were on a murderous rampage; they argued that the best thing that could happen for the East Timorese is a workers revolution that overthrows the Australian ruling class: "If you could just hold off a bit on the raping and torching for a moment, Senhor Guterres..."

For some apparently tyrants, on the other hand, being the "sovereign state" actors can engage in some "national self-determination" and ask for help from whomever they want (note the Stalinist slippage from national self-determination to state sovereignty). Just to make it clear - it is fine for the Assad regime, for example, to bring in foreign fighters from Iran and receive billions of dollars worth of artillery, tanks, helicopters, and fighter planes from Russia - that is not "foreign intervention" of course - but it is completely wrong for the Syrian rebels to receive modest support in the form of non-lethal military aid, including communications equipment and medical supplies. Under the guise of the "sovereign state" they blithely overlook the extensive terrorist activities of a regime against its own population.

How often does it need to be stated? "The worker has no country" National self-determination can only be genuinely established by free individuals, people who have the opportunity to join their own political associations, unions, and the like and engage in the educated and rational formation of public opinion. Where this does not exist, and the oppressed people rise up - at great risk to themselves - they have every right in the world to ask for political and military assistance, even from "imperialist powers". It is insulting to the extreme that suggest that they are pseudo-revolutionaries, just because they have deviated from some armchair revolutionary's idea of what is the "right" path for a revolution to take, or that they are insufficiently intelligent to understand that those who intervene will ask for their due.

For those who haven't abdicated their internationalism there is the realisation of the increasing and pressing concerns of universal rights that transcend state borders, of the global environment that transcends state borders - all of which which JA Hobson described as early in 1902 as "inter-imperialism", and Karl Liebknecht described in 1907 as "trustification", and which Karl Kautsky coined the term "Ultraimperialismus" in 1914, and most comprehensively by Immanuel Wallerstein's world-systems theory. Capitalism can indeed be a world system, and even as an international liberal capitalism - and this will most certainly be an advance on regional despotisms, no matter how independent. But even such an advanced stage of capitalism cannot provide a worldwide stateless commonwealth that is a free association of producers.

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Good enough, if you weren’t Libyan.

Gaddafi ruled Libya for 42 years between 1969 and 2011. He gained power by deposing King Idriss As-Sunusi in a coup at a time when Nasserist Arab Nationalism, Socialism and secularism were surging throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Gaddafi was removed from power during a popular rebellion in 2011.

In the first part, I will explain the background of the situation in Libya throughout different times, in order to give the rule of Gaddafi a background. Then I will address the claims of Veljko Radulovic, whose answer fetched 1.3k upvotes. Misinformed individuals like him only serve to spread misinformation and praise a ruler most Libyans would rather have been without.

During his 42-year rule, there were many phases that were passed, each of which changed the conditions for the average Libyan. Since this 42-year history was unusually eventful, I will split this into 4 parts: the 1970s, the 1980s, the 1990s and the 2000s.

Part 1 - A Historical Background

1970s

The 1970s started when Gaddafi was in his first year of power. As a Nasserist himself, he initially wanted to cede power to Gamal Abdelnasser of Egypt, in order to create another Pan-Arab union after the previous one had failed.

The Libyan Arab Republic spanned from 1969 to 1977, and immediately re-aligned itself from the USA to the Soviet Union, but also maintained its stance as a member of the Non-Aligned Movement. Due to its deterioration of relations with the West, it started to arm itself rapidly, starting a buying spree that spanned to the 1980s, and buying more equipment than could be theoretically be manned by the entire population of military age.

Libya’s relations with its Southern neighbour, Chad, deteriorated as Libya and France sought total dominance over the country. In 1973, Libya took over the Ouzhou Strip, located to the South of Libya. The Libyan-Chadian War, which was fought between Libyans and Chadians, and Americans, French and Chadians, escalated to an all-out war in 1978. The ensuing war had American and French planes pounding the dis-organised Libyan Army, which had a strength of 15,000 men, eventually killing 5,000 of them.

Libya also entered another war with Egypt in 1977, after the latter signed the signing of the Camp David Accords, announcing a “March to Cairo” with his military. As soon as his army reached the border with Egypt, they were (obviously) rejected by the border officials, prompting Gaddafi to announce an invasion of a country with ten times his country’s population. They only managed to capture one town before being chewed up and spat out by the Egyptian Army. More than 1,000 Libyans died.

The 1970s saw Libya’s increasing involvement in the international arena and negligence towards Libyan internal affairs. Internally, the 1970s was characterised by the gutting of Libyan politics, through the abolition of all parties but the Arab Socialist Union.

In the international stage, Gaddafi sought to use the politics of oil to influence world powers. It was the first to embargo the US after Nixon announced a $2.2bn aid package to Israel in 1973. Other Arab countries soon followed, triggering the 1973 Oil Crisis.

He also made sure that Libya would nationalise and increase its oil production, which necessitated a seizure of oil-producing assets from BP and other companies and withdrew $550 million in investments from British banks. After rejecting the small compensation offered by the Libyan Government, the British Treasury banned Libya from participation in the Stirling Area.

During most of the 1970s, Libya’s economy was diversified, with oil taking up a minority share of the economy. Its GDP per capita was also a lot more than that of other countries, and even with the slow collapse of the industrial sectors, managed to make it through the 1970s with a GDP per capita (PPP) double that of America. In the 1980s, despite some efforts to reinvigorate the industry, its death was finalised. Agriculture, however, boomed in a country where less than 10% of land was arable, due to massive subsidies towards farmers.

The rule of Gaddafi during these periods was marked by a sudden transition to “Socialism” in a system that was almost communist in itself. What marked the main difference between the rules of Gaddafi and his predecessor was that Gaddafi focused on the countryside and isolated villages a lot more than on the major cities. King Idriss’s Libya featured a Tripoli that was known to be the cleanest city in the world at the time, and life there was luxurious, while the villages that scattered the mountainous areas and other isolated spots still had high illiteracy rates.

This strategy was implemented to such a degree that my grandfather’s village was evacuated to a nearby spot, where they moved to new houses with electricity and landlines. However, to this day, many roads in Tripoli remain unpaved, and it is one of the only capitals in the world with no sewage system. They would drill holes and fill them, then hire a truck to pump out the sewage when it fills up.

1980s

The 1980s were characterised by the ongoing Chad War, the building of the Great Manmade River, the Libyan-American conflict over the Gulf of Sidra and the international campaign of sponsoring terrorism.

Chadian War

The Chadian War was going quite well. Libya had captured the Ouzhou Strip, and went on to hold around one third of Chad. The French and Americans thought that Libya would never possess the logistical capability to initiate such a massive deployment, and so, dismissed Gaddafi’s threats of invasion. It was all going fine, with Libya’s enormous amounts of high-tech Soviet-made firepower and numbers.

However, Hassiene Habre, the president of Chad at the time, called America and France to intervene. Things quickly went downhill after that.

Due to the fact that the Libyan Army was purposely decentralised in order to prevent a coup, joint coordinated combat was rendered impossible between the Army and Air Force. The force could not match French intelligence, aerial and military support, combined with American logistical support.

The last phase of this war was the Toyota War, by which France donated many Toyota pickup trucks, fitting them with Milan anti-tank missiles. This gave them a maneuverable tank-killing machine and the biggest innovation in asymmetric warfare, the technical.

Using their new-found firepower, they launched a devastating attack on Ouadi Doum Airbase, killing many, many conscripts and capturing a lot of state-of-the-art Soviet equipment. The equipment was shared evenly between France and America for research. The attack also opened the way for a brief Chadian invasion of Libya.

Great Manmade River

In 1984, plans were made to provide every Libyan with water. In the committees of experts rounded up to do the research, many proposals were made, including the installation of desalination plants and, quite stupidly, to bring water in pipes from the heart of the Sahara desert. Initially, the GMMR project was dismissed for being too expensive, not offering drinkable water, being insecure as a system of transit and because the water reservoirs had no means for replenishment. However, it was chosen as a project and it started. The project was largely a success in the fact that it did technically give us water, a failure in that the water was unfiltered and tasted so awful that it was undrinkable.

Libyan-American Conflict

In August 1981, the US shot down two Libyan jets in a dogfight, after “freedom of navigation exercises” held by the US in the Gulf of Sidra were regarded by Libya to be a violation of its sovereignty. That December, America issued an importation ban on Libyan oil.

On the 23rd of March, the US carried out airstrikes that destroyed some ships of the Libyan Navy, killing 35 Libyan sailors, and targeted SAM sites and bases within Libya. The retaliation was in the form of the West Berlin “La Belle” nightclub bombing, which killed three US servicemen and injured 229.

On the 15th of April 1986, in retaliation to the bombing of the West Berlin Discotheque, the US attacked Libyan forces in the Gulf of Sidra and in Libya, destroying air defences, three army bases and two airfields, killing dozens of officers and Gaddafi’s adopted daughter.

In response to that, Gaddafi intensified support for anti-American Government entities, funding Jeff Forte’s Al-Rukn faction of the Black P. Stones gang in Chicago. Forte was later convicted of preparing strikes on US Government buildings, assassinations and airplane hijackings on behalf of the Libyan Government.

Gaddafi’s campaign in sponsoring terrorism

Due to the length of this section should I have written it, I will mention, in bullet points, the various armed groups and operations Gaddafi had been funding and supporting, or has personally endorsed, throughout his tenure:

North-Chad’s Insurgency
Japanese Red Army (Lod Airport Massacre)
Black September Movement (Munich Massacre)
Irish Republican Army
Moro Islamic Liberation Front
New People’s Army
Communist Party in the Philippines
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s assassination
Sandinistas in Nicaragua
Libyan diplomats instructed to shoot 11 protesters, killing Yvonne Fletcher
La Belle Nightclub bombings
Workers Revolutionary Party
Attempted radicalisation of Maoris in New Zealand
Attempted radicalisation of Aborigines in Australia
The Free Aceh Movement
Pan Am Flight 103 Bombing (Lockerbie)
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
As can be seen here, the number of groups supported by Gaddafi is huge. This ensured that sanctions were put in place in order to limit Gaddafi’s spending. However, this just made him even more inclined to spend abroad, and also to buy huge amounts of weapons. During the 80s, Gaddafi bought six Foxtrot-class submarines, but they only made a grand total of three patrols before being put to storage due to high costs of operation.

1990s

The 1990s were characterised by the imposition of international sanctions after the Lockerbie bombing and the support of Gaddafi for Islamists in Algeria. This time was the most uneventful and peaceful in the history of Gaddafi’s rule, but witnessed a steady decline in Libya’s GDP. There was also a rise in dissent and repression after a failed attempt to assassinate Gaddafi by elements of the Libyan Army.

2000s

In the 2000s, under many sanctions, Gaddafi agreed to hand over his nuclear and chemical weapons programmes and pay reparations for the bombings of Lockerbie and the Discotheque. This time was characterised by the improvement in Libya’s relations with the West, Gaddafi & Sons’ massive spending sprees and worst of all, international cooperation across intelligence agencies to provide information of and to deport Libyan dissidents and activists, meanwhile using Libya as a “black site” for many intelligence agencies’ dirty work.

Part 2 - Addressing claims made by some Quorans on rights given to Libyan citizens

In this section, I will address many popular myths surrounding the rule of Gaddafi.

In Libya, a home is considered a natural human right

In Libya, it was true that having a home was a right, but it came at the cost of utterly destroying the housing market. There were stories of people who had worked for their entire lives to buy two houses in different cities, and were only allowed to have one.

There was also the issue with robbers and squatters. If you were to go to another city with your family, or to go on holiday somewhere, or ever so much as leave your house unattended, a squatter may break into your house and claim it and everything inside to be his.

There was no property register to prove that the house was yours, and there was a massive risk in housing fraud. If you paid for a flat, the owner could easily claim that the buyers tried to push him to homelessness, and he would keep the money and the flat.

The only people it was good for was Gaddafi’s supporters, who often received confiscated houses. The law turned a blind eye on many squatters who supported Gaddafi.

Education was free

This notion is often why many people seem to like Gaddafi. It is because education was free. However, Libya as a whole had free education since independence, and so, it was not an achievement itself.

However, the quality of education in Libya deteriorated to the point that in Tripoli, private schools outnumber public ones. Having been a student of this school system myself, I can attest to the scale of the infusion of propaganda into every subject. The curriculum went from being accepted by most Western universities to one that is not accepted by any. The politics of Gaddafi also changed the foreign language taught in schools from English to French to Russian and back to English.

Gaddafi also abolished entrance requirements in many universities. He once said that if somebody wanted to become a doctor, they can. With this, universities had to cope with massive numbers of entrants and vet them while being in University, making it a lot less efficient and lowering the universities’ standards.

Medical treatment was free

This was the case before Gaddafi’s time, and it still is the case in modern Libya. It is also the case with most of the countries around the world. However, in Libya, the hospitals which treated Libyans were often neglected, with poor work conditions for the doctors and a salary of only $1,200. I can attest to this because two of my relatives are surgeons.

Libya’s chronically underfunded hospital system also had very outdated equipment. Even now, when I go to an NHS hospital in Scotland, I would likely receive treatment with state-of-the-art equipment that has been properly sterilised and used by experienced professionals. In Libya, we only had experienced professionals.

There were no electricity bills in Libya, electricity was free

This bothers me a lot. If anybody has been to Libya, they would know that we face power cuts that sometimes last for weeks at a time. Common power cuts often last for three to six hours per day.

This is not only because people may misuse this “right” of free electricity. It is also because when Libya had a research nuclear reactor and made breakthroughs in nuclear technology, Gaddafi hadn’t thought for one time to build a nuclear power station to ease the pressure on the current generators. He built a nuclear bomb, he built many chemical weapons, but not once did he think about a power station.

If anything, this shows how detached from the populace Gaddafi had been.

Gaddafi carried out the world’s largest irrigation project, known as the Great Manmade River project, to make water readily available throughout the desert country.

The GMMR project, although a success in bringing water to households, was both late and unnecessarily expensive. Gaddafi could have chosen some other projects which were both faster, cheaper and more efficient. But instead, he spent many hundreds of times more of Libya’s money to build a series of pipes to extract water from the desert.

All newlyweds in Libya would receive 60,000 Dinar ($50,000 USD) by the government to buy their first apartment to help start a family.

Firstly, 60,000 dinars aren’t $50,000. They aren’t and never were.

Secondly, this almost never happened. Gaddafi didn’t even like the idea of having a housing market, and when I asked my parents about this, I was told that there was no such payment.

A portion of Libyan oil sales is or was credited directly to the bank accounts of all Libyan citizens.

This never happened either. I have a close relative who was working back-to-back with a Frenchman and a Canadian. Yet, those two people earned twenty times as much as he did for the same work.

Taxes utterly crushed any semblance of hope in Libyans with ambition for prosperity. After taxes, a car buyer must pay the ten times the car’s value, in taxes, because it was considered a luxury. If anybody here has been to Libya, they will know how large the area is, and how necessary it is to have a car.

Libya had it’s own state bank:

Libya had its own State bank, which provided loans to citizens at zero percent interest by law and they had no external debt.

Libya still has many state banks and private ones. It also had them before Gaddafi took power. It is not really something special to Libya, as every Muslim country has a bank that charges zero interest for loans. Otherwise, there would be an outrage.

A bursary was given to mothers with new-born babies:

When a Libyan woman gave birth she was given the equivalent to $5000 USD for herself and the child.

This “bursary” was also non-existent.

If Libyans cannot find the education or medical facilities they need in Libya, the government would fund them to go abroad for it – not only free but they get US $2,300/month accommodation and car allowance.

… if you can dare to criticise the institutions.

Virtually nobody claimed this allowance for medical care, as it would require criticism towards the healthcare system, and therefore, the regime. That could very easily get you killed.

The only real way to be allowed to go abroad was to have your company give you a contract in a foreign city, and to have an offer for a place in a foreign university.

This also required extreme vetting measures, which meant that many who weren’t allowed to travel abroad were also arrested at home. And even when abroad, you can’t criticise the regime, as Gaddafi was fond of spending money on assassinating critics abroad.

Libya had a semi-Communist system which gave every person work. This was, however, not the work that you would get in other Communist countries like the USSR, where they actually did something. Many were simply employed in the public sector and paid or doing absolutely nothing, no questions asked.

This is not to mention the taxes held on every single thing one could buy. A close relative’s first mobile phone was bought in 2001, and it cost him around 1500 LYD, an equivalent to 750 USD. Not to mention the extraordinarily high costs of making a phone call. The only thing that taxes did not touch was the heavily subsidised food, which was the only way of keeping us Libyans alive throughout this misery. Sometimes, there would be no food in the first place. I know a closer relative whose family hunted a wolf to eat it. Some people were that famished.

Meanwhile, Gaddafi was spending ungodly amounts of money on gold-lined silk robes, the best cars and luxury planes, his sons were spending on football clubs, throwing parties, buying the many lamborghinis, Paganis and the best cars, and even spending several billions of dollars of Libyan money to form their own militias.

Gaddafi is said to have hidden around $200 billion in offshore accounts, and a lot more hidden completely. The Libyan GDP, by contrast, didn’t budge past the $40 billion range. There are many beneficiaries who benefit from these accounts today, sucking out the money the we Libyans deserve. Libya’s foreign reserves have plunged, from $125 billion in 2012 to $34 billion now. The thieves who take this money are both individuals and governments alike.

Many people like to claim that Libyans aren’t ready for democracy, and that they don’t care. Libya’s civil society was destroyed in the 70s, and rendered non-existent ever since. Gaddafi had employed informants on every corner, and somewhere between 10% and 20% of the entire population was employed as informants.

People could not go to the same mosque for too many consecutive prayers, as they risk enforced disappearance. Even in prisons, nobody documented who was in these prisons, and why they were there. Some prisons were bloody and brutal. The infamous Bousleem prison tortured inmates so regularly that it was well-known to the entire country.

With the Libyan people’s money, Gaddafi decided to buy many weapons of all calibres, including 20 million small arms. Libya’s population is six million. If you decided to give every man, woman and child in Libya three weapons, you’d still be able to arm a fighting force of two million. This is what is causing the instability that is plaguing Libya and preventing it from building up again.

So when the Libyan people rose against him, with absolutely nothing to lose, he did nothing but kill many and threaten to kill many more.

After all, these people have been humiliated for forty two years. Could they not be humiliated more?

Thanks Ahmed Abdelhaq for the A2A.

https://www.quora.com/What-was-it-like-to-live-under-the-Gaddafi-regime/...

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