The Country & People of Libya
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Libya, republic (2005 est. pop. 5,766,000), 679,358 sq mi (1,759,540 sq km), N Africa, bordered by Algeria and Tunisia (W), the Mediterranean Sea (N), Egypt and Sudan (E), and Chad and Niger (S). The principal cities are Tripoli (the capital) and Tobruk.
Most of Libya is part of the Sahara desert; the population is restricted to a coastal strip along the Mediterranean and a few widely scattered oases in the Libyan desert, in the east, and the Fazzan region, in the south. The discovery of oil in 1958 transformed Libya from a poor agricultural country into one of the world's leading petroleum producers, with vast sums to spend on social, agricultural, and military development. Petroleum accounts for 95% of export earnings and about a third of national income; Libya is also an important producer of natural gas. Major crops include cereals, olives, fruits, dates, and vegetables. Lower oil prices and economic sanctions arising from the Lockerbie incident (see below) hurt the economy in the 1990s. The majority of the inhabitants are Arabs, but there are scattered communities of Berbers and, in the southwest, many of mixed Berber and African descent. There are large numbers of foreign workers in Libya; in 1995 several thousand of them without proper papers were expelled. Islam is the official religion (most Libyans are Sunni Muslims), and Arabic is the official language.
At various times in its history the territory that is now Libya was occupied by Carthage, Rome, Arabia, Morocco, Egypt, and Spain. It was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1551 to 1911, serving in the 18th cent. as a base for pirates who, in return for immunity, provided large revenues to the local ruler.
Libya was seized by Italy in 1911, but Libyan resistance continued until the 1930s. During World War II, as an Italian colony, it was one of the main battlegrounds of N Africa, passing under an Anglo-French military government when the Axis were defeated in the area in 1943.
In accordance with a UN decision, in 1951 the country became independent as the United Kingdom of Libya, with King Idris I as ruler.
Idris was ousted in 1969 in a coup led by Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi, who established an anti-Western dictatorship. British and American bases were closed in 1970, and unification was sought, unsuccessfully, with several other Arab countries. An implacable foe of Israel, Qaddafi used Libya's vast oil wealth to create an extensive social welfare system and to help support the Palestinian guerrilla movement, particularly radical elements.
In 1979 Libya intervened in Uganda to help keep Idi Amin in power, and in 1981 it dispatched troops into neighboring Chad (Libya had occupied the disputed Aozou Strip, in N Chad, in 1973), withdrawing most of them later that year. Qaddafi's forces continued to take sides in Chadian fighting, for a time occupying much of N Chad.
In 1990 the dispute over the Aozou Strip was submitted to the International Court of Justice, which ruled in Chad's favor, and the strip was returned to Chad in 1994.
As a member of OPEC, Libya has been a leading exponent of limiting production and increasing prices of petroleum. Since 1986 Libya has attempted to form a union with the Arabic countries of the Maghreb, especially Algeria and Tunisia.
In the late 1980s the U.S. took action against Libya for its backing of terrorist activities against U.S. citizens, including an air strike (1986) on Qaddafi's residence and other sites in Libya.
In 1992 the UN Security Council accused Libya of supporting state terrorism and called for a ban on air flights and arms sales to it unless suspects in the Lockerbie and another airplane bombing were turned over to the U.S., Britain, and France. Libya's foreign assets were also frozen.
In Apr. 1999, Libya handed over the suspects in the Lockerbie crash to the UN, which lifted its sanctions, but those imposed by the United States remained in place.
In Dec., 1999, Qaddafi pledged not to aid or protect terrorists.
Libya agreed in 2003 to a $2.7 billion settlement with the families of the victims. and that and a revised settlement for viction of the UTA bombing led the UN Security Council to lift the sanctions imposed more than a decade earlier. The last of three payments due under the 2003 agreement, however, was not made until late 2008. In December 2003, after negotiations with the United States and Great Britain, the government renounced the production and use of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and agreed to submit to unannounced international inspections.
Subsequently (Mar., 2004), Libya acknowledged that it had produced and had stockpiles of chemical weapons. As a result of these events, the United States lifted most sanctions and resumed diplomatic relations with Libya, although it continued to list Libya as a state sponsor of terrorism until mid-2006.
In Sept., 2008, Italy and Libya signed a memorandum under which Italy agreed to pay $5 billion over 20 years as compensation for its three decades of colonial rule in Libya.
In Feb., 2011, antigovernment protests in Libya quickly became a full-scale uprising, as the government lost control of Benghazi and NE Libya as well as a number of cities in NW Libya. By the end of the month, however, the government had brutally suppressed protesters in the capital, and in early March it recaptured many cities it had lost to the rebellion. Hundreds of thousands of foreigners fled the country. The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants in June for Qaddafi and other government members in connection with the killing of protesters.
As Qaddafi's forces advanced on Benghazi, the UN Security Council approved (March) a no-fly zone over Libya; it was enforced by aircraft from a mix of NATO and Arab nations, which at times also attacked government ground forces. The Benghazi-based rebels, who established a governing council, fought a seesawing contest for central N Libya. Misratah and the Nafusa Mtns. became the most signifcant battlegrounds in the west, and after repulsing government forces there, the rebels made some advances by midyear. The rebels benefited from aid from some Western and other nations, and their National Transitional Council (NTC) was recognized by some nations. In August, increasing rebel successes culminated in the fall of Tripoli; in September, the NTC was recognized by the United Nations as Libya's legitimate government.
Rebel forces captured Sirte and Bani Walid, two remaining Qaddafi strongholds, in Oct., 2011; Qaddafi was killed while trying to flee Sirte. At the end of the month, Abdurrahim el-Keib was appointed prime minister by the NTC, and a new cabinet was named in November. The situation remained unsettled, however, with occasional fighting erupting between rival militias and tribes, and in Feb., 2012, leaders in E Libya called for the establishment of the autonomous region of Cyrenaica there, a move that was denounced in W Libya.
In July, the 200-members of the national congress were elected, with no group clearly dominating the result. In September, Mustafa Abu Shagur, who had served as a deputy to el-Keib, was chosen as prime minister, but he proved unable to form an acceptable government. Ali Zidan, a former diplomat and exile, was chosen to replace him in October, and formed a government. Also in September the U.S. ambassador was killed in an attack by Islamic militants on the Benghazi embassy. The attack led to a crackdown on Libyan militias, but they remained a significant force and problem in the country, and in subsequent months were a factor in a number of deadly clashes. In Jan., 2013, the president of the national congress survived an attempted assassination.
The congress in May passed a law banning senior officials in the Qaddafi regime from the government; its enactment was forced by armed groups that surrounded government offices. In December the congress voted to make Islamic law the basis of Libyan law, and also voted to extend its mandate by a year, adopting a plan that called for a new constitution to be drafted by Aug., 2014, and a parliament to be elected by Dec., 2014. Meanwhile, groups favoring a federal state sought to establish a government in Cyrenaica and seize control of the region's oil resources; Berbers also interrupted oil and gas shipments in an attempt to win political recognition. Such political, and significant religious, regional, and tribal, divisions have thwarted the establishment of a unified national government, and stoked violence and insecurity.
Copyright (c) 2012 Columbia University Press.
Used by permission of Columbia University Press.
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- The Last Jews of Libya By and for the entire community of Jews of Libya
- Leptis Magna A peek into one of Libya's most amazing archeological and historical sites
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- Omar Al-Mukhtar in Arabic Poetry By Libyan writer Mustafa Saad el-Hayen
- Arab Film Distribution - Libya Features a wide range of narrative films, documentaries, visual essays and ethnographic films
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- Libya Music Singers & songs
- Nasser Mizdawi biography, discography, photos, in the press - fusion of local Arabic music with European pop
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- Al-Madina Social, Cultural and Sports Club - Triploi
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- Garyounis University Benghazi - Serving the nation's need for professionals and research excellence
- Omar Al-Mokhtar University Al-Baidaa
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- Society for Libyan Studies
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Ancient & Modern....
- BBC Timeline A chronology of key events
- Adam Abdelnabi Sabrah Libyan Mujahid
- A Day to Remember 21 February 1973 - an unforgettable terrorist act
- The Italian Occupation and the Libyan Resistance >
- Lepcis Magna Roman ruins in the Tripolitania region of Libya. Site plan, kids' zone, virtual museum, library....
- Libya's Independence P1 The 50th Anniversary, 24 December, 2001
- Libya's Independence P2 The 50th Anniversary, 24 December, 2001
- Mohammed Bou-Najwa el-Mismari Libyan Mujahid
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- Constitution Background, history & news (1969)
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- Libyan Press includes the following publications....
- Al-Biyt Weekly home magazine....
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OnLine News, Newsletters, News Agencies....
- Akhbar Libya News, views and articles....
- AllAfrica.Com News plus, news wire....
- JANA The Jamahiriya News Agency, Libya's official news provider
- Libya1 News & views
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- LJBC Libyan Jamahiriyah Broadcasting Corporation
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- Libyan Cartoon Gallery A selection from Mohamed Zwawi. Social, political, medical & health themes
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- Permanent Mission of Libya to the U.N. Lockerbie issue documents, resolutions & U.N. documents, press releases....
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- General Electricity Company Of Libya (GECOL) Generation, transport and distribution of electric power
- Libyan Iron and Steel Company (LISCO) Designed to produce 1,324,000 tons of liquid steel annually
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- National Center for Research and Scientific Studies Conducts political, economic and social research
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- Afriqiyah Airways Link the African continent. Destinations, timetables, cargo....
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- ABC Libya Offer the classic range of visits to cultural sites and/or desert
- Arkno Tours Tourism and cultural trips all around the country....
- Azar Travel and Tours Group and individual tours....
- Badran Tours Sahara Desert Tours & Adventures
- Medusa Libyan Travel & Tourism Offer services for group and individual tours in Libya
- Sea Desert Tours Dedicated to maximizing the ease and comfort for travelers both within Libya , Egypt and Sudan
- Shati Zuara Travel & Tourism Expertise in different field of tourism: Sahara Tourism, Archeological Tourism and Cultural Tourism
- Temehu Tours Information on Libya, cities & sites, prehistoric art, tours, Zwara
- Wadi Tidwa Tours Specialising in overland tours including, Sahara desert adventures, cultural tours, prehistoric art explorations and adventures in the Libyan Sahara
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- Tripoli Apartments A fully furnished luxury self-catering studio apartment that is available for short-term rent at very affordable prices
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