The Libyan Revolution Conflict: Roots and Implications

13 April, 2020

The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies has published Mustafa Umar al-Tair’s Roots and Repercussions of Conflict in the Libyan Revolution: A Contribution to Analysis [or alternatively (as per the URL for the Arabic notice of publication: The Libyan Revolution Conflict, Roots and Implications], a book that tracks the Libyan Revolution from its inception, with analysis of the most important factors that sparked off its eruption. It examines the discourses employed by Gaddafi’s authorities, as well as by the revolutionaries, that helped to kindle the conflict – and it spotlights the roots of the conflict in Libyan culture and history, particularly the role of the tribe and tribal loyalties. The book additionally assesses the roles played by neighboring countries, Arab and non-Arab regional states, and the major western powers, in providing support to the Libyan parties to the conflict and setting the stage for international intervention.

Birth and Malaise

In his Introduction to the book’s seven chapters, the author shows how developments in the surrounding region helped consolidate the rule of the Gaddafi family over Libya, before proceeding to assess the general factors that led to the revolution, and the immediate ones that sparked it.

The first chapter, “After Colonialism - the Nation State: the Period of Birth and Early Malaise,” takes up the tribe in Libya as social agent, the colonial era, the monarchy, civilian rule – ‘birth’ as the author terms it – then finally the Republican stage of military rule or ’malaise’. The chapter ends with mapping the societal struggle in Libya between preservation of authority and the quest for social and political change.

In Chapter Two, “Despotism and Social Oppression,” the author recounts the “life story of a despotic rule” and the attendant erection of a wall of fear, a process involving multiple stages: repealing existing laws and so dismantling society, the state and its institutions; implementing a program of repression and subjugation that began with students in secondary schools, institutes and universities and spread to all groups of society; building a new system of "revolutionary committees"; strengthening and diversifying the security services; constructing notorious prisons; carrying out assassinations; and, on a global scale, blowing up transportation conveyances and entertainment venues.

Erupting Volcano

In the third chapter, "Accumulated Rage and Revolution’s Historic Opportunity," al-Tair examines the Libyan public’s ascendant anger with Gaddafi, pending the historic moment of the launch of the popular revolution. He likens that event to “the moment that an active but dormant volcano violently erupts… damaging the earth and killing all living beings, be they plant, animal or human".

Chapter Four, "Chronicles of the Revolution," reviews the daily record of Libyan revolution, starting with its inception in the city of Benghazi, and observes: "The revolution started two days before the time it was anticipated. But as had been expected, the spark came from the city of Benghazi. The regime tried to stomp it out, but flames soon enveloped the majority of the country's cities and towns, and unlike the cases of Tunisia and Egypt the eruption was not for a limited number of days, but rather continued for months – 246 days – from its inception until the head of the regime was killed.” The author divides these diaries into four stages: the revolution’s launch; its internationalization; the outbreak of civil war; the revolution’s victory and the end of the Qaddafi era.

Internal and External

In Chapter Five, “The Role of Social Agents in Spreading and Sustaining the Revolution,” al-Tair examines the cities of Benghazi and al-Bayda and the roles in of each played by the educated elite, clerics, tribesmen and youth using social media.

In Chapter Five the author spotlights "the role of the external element in the aftermath," in enabling the February 17 revolutionaries to change the regime. “External factors” are not limited conceptually to the intervention of foreign countries in the regime change; they also include the media (especially the visual media) and journalists who arrived in throngs from different parts of the world, Arab and non-Arab international organizations that played a pivotal role, and the interventions of neighboring Arab and African countries, as well as the group of Western countries, led by the United States of America, Britain, France and Italy.

Chapter Seven, “The Revolution’s Success and an Era’s End” is the author’s presentation of Gaddafi’s end, the revolution’s declaration of the victory, and the beginnings of work to establish a new system of government in Libya: the establishment of the transitional government, the General National Congress and the election of the interim government.

Read Also