In 2015, the population of Libya was estimated to be around 6.4 million people. The majority of the population were Arabs and Berbers, with other ethnic groups including Tuareg, Tebu, and Toubou. The economy of Libya in 2015 was largely dependent on its hydrocarbon resources such as oil and gas. Its main trading partners were Italy, Germany, Turkey and India. See ehealthfacts for Libya in the year of 2005.
The foreign relations of Libya in 2015 were mainly focused on strengthening ties with its neighbours such as Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria. It also had diplomatic relations with other countries in Africa and beyond. In terms of politics, Libya was a presidential republic headed by President Muammar Gaddafi who had been ruling since 1969 following a military coup d’état. His government faced numerous challenges including an unstable security situation due to rebel forces as well as economic problems resulting from the fall in global oil prices.
Libya. According to COUNTRYAAH, Tripoli is the capital of Libya which is located in Northern Africa. The security situation in Libya continued to be very unstable, and fighting between Libya’s two rival governments and fighting between hundreds of rival militias continued. Media reported on a lawless country in disrepair, where the fight for oil wealth intensified and where government representatives were threatened to life. In Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, the situation was acute. There, people, with whom the civil rights organization Amnesty International talked, testified about the dead being dumped in cemeteries, on roadsides and outside hospitals. The turmoil in the outside world was great, especially in Italy, after the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization took root in the country and threatened with attacks against Italy and Europe via Libya. Both Italy and NATO strengthened their readiness in the area. At the same time, UN-led peace talks were held in Morocco between representatives of the country’s two rival governments and serious attempts at a political solution were made. The UN Security Council unanimously called on the two camps to settle their dispute and form a unifying government.
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In February, 21 Christian Egyptians were kidnapped in Libya and IS took on the act. A video was released showing how Egyptians have been beheaded. It was believed to be about poor workers kidnapped in two raids in the city of Sirte in northwestern Libya. A few hours after its publication, Egypt said it had bombed IS’s positions in Libya, whose air force commander stated that at least 50 people were killed.
In March, the disputed General Khalifa Haftar was appointed army chief by the internationally recognized government, which since 2014 has its seat in the port city of Tobruk. In the same month, Omar al-Hassi, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Islamist government in the capital Tripoli was deposed.
In May, fierce battles south of the coastal city of Sirte were fought between IS and the Tripoli-based government forces calling themselves Libya’s dawn, formerly the Misratamilis. IS said later that same month to have taken the airport in Sirte. After five members of Libya’s dawn were killed in a suicide attack, the Tripoli government called for mobilization against IS.
In July, Muammar al-Khadaffi’s son Saif al-Islam al-Khadaffi was sentenced to death in his absence by a court in Tripoli. Another eight people were sentenced to death for crimes committed in connection with the 2011 uprising. Saif al-Islam al-Khadaffi was not present in the courtroom because he was held by a militia group called the Zintan Brigades in the city of Zintan, a group loyal to the internationally recognized government. The other eight were in the Tripoli government’s custody. The UN Commissioner for Human Rights voiced sharp criticism of the judicial process.
In August, UN envoy Bernardino León noted that the humanitarian situation in Libya was very difficult as 1.2 million Libyans suffered food shortages and 435,000 were forced to flee their homes, while 250,000 migrants from other countries were estimated to be on the way towards Europe across the Mediterranean. According to the UNHCR, during the first eight months of the year, over 300,000 people had fled in overloaded inflatables across the Mediterranean, 2,500 of them drowned. According to the UNHCR, the Mediterranean had become a mass grave for boat refugees.
After nearly a year of UN-led peace talks, at a press conference in October, Bernardino León announced that the two rival governments had reached agreement on a unifying government. A member of Parliament in Tripoli was to be nominated as prime minister. But representatives from both camps immediately opposed the plans.
In the same month, a helicopter with just over 16 people was shot down near Tripoli. In the helicopter were representatives of the Tripoli government. All on board were believed to have perished. A spokesman for the Tripoli government accused the Tobruk government of being behind the shooting and promised revenge. In Tobruk, the charges were denied.
In December, during mediation by the UN, delegates from several of Libya’s fighting groups signed an agreement to form a unity government. However, the leaders of both rival parliaments refused to accept the agreement, as did groupings in both camps. The UN Security Council unanimously approved the deal. At the same time, IS was reported to have taken the ancient city of Sabratha near the capital Tripoli.
The Gaddafi regime implemented a number of economic reforms made possible by increased oil revenues in the 1970s. Already by the revolution, Libya had one of the most advanced oil infrastructures in the world, and oil accounted for up to 99 percent of the country’s revenue.
Private business was gradually banned. In 1970 Italian and Jewish property was seized. The approximately 12,000 Italians and remaining members of the Jewish community were expelled. Libya relied on foreign companies to operate the oil sector, and allowed both foreign ownership and expertise. Western banks and the oil industry were nationalized in 1970-71.
The foremost of Gaddafi’s economic prestige projects was the so-called man-made river; a well and pipe arrangement to collect fresh water from the Sahara Desert inland for coastal use, commissioned from 1991.
With the oil revenues, the regime was able to implement a social policy that brought Libya from being a small developed country when the coup took place, to achieving a high standard of living on both Arab and African scale, with a developed welfare system. An equalization policy was promoted with large investments in housing construction, health care and education, and public sector employment.
Women were given equal rights by law, but were still subject to discrimination as a result of social norms in a traditionally bound society.
In 1970, 75 percent of the population were illiterate, and a large-scale literacy program was implemented. Literacy among Libyan women went from one of the lowest to one of the highest in the region.
National regime resistance
There was initially little resistance to the coup and the new rulers. This changed when the new regime pursued at least as oppressive a policy as the previous one. The revolutionary regime also met resistance from the West, which felt both its political and economic interests were threatened.
Opposition was not allowed, but was expressed through a lack of active participation in his democracy experiment, by isolated protests, and by attempts to oust Gaddafi. In exile, a fragmented opposition emerged, with both secular and religious organizations.
Like other countries in the region, radical Islamism was emerging in the 1980s. Some of the groups are linked to armed actions against the Gaddafi regime in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1984, the largest, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL), launched an attack on a military camp, but plans to kill Gaddafi failed. Some of the resistance came from tribes that traditionally supported the Sanusians, an Islamic order in Kyrenaika. This is where Islamism grew, including the most significant group of the 1990s: the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). Scattered riots occurred several times, especially in the east.
Several foreign states opposed the Libyan regime. This was especially true of the United States, especially after Ronald Reagan took over as president in 1981. The United States regarded Libya as a state linked to international terrorism. The regime also supported radical groups from the Philippines, Ireland, Japan and Spain, as well as more far-reaching Palestinian groups. Libya was also a supporter of several African liberation movements.
Reagan sought confrontation with Gaddafi to destabilize the regime. In 1981, the United States shot down two Libyan fighter jets over the Sirte Gulf. In 1986, the United States bombed targets in Tripoli and Benghazi, including Gaddafi’s residence.
Britain broke relations with Libya in 1984 after British politician Yvonne Fletcher was killed by a gunshot fired from the Libyan embassy in London. In 1988, a Pan American passenger plane crashed over Lockerbie in Scotland as a result of a bomb blast; in 1989 one from the French company UTA over Niger. The clues pointed to Libya, which later acknowledged responsibility.
The regime was in conflict with several Arab countries, including Egypt (including a brief war in 1977) and Saudi Arabia. At the same time, Gaddafi sought to enter into union with Arab states.
From 1986 to 1987, Gaddafi moderated his political rhetoric and gradually changed his policy: he disbanded the revolutionary committees and started economic liberalization.
From the second half of the 1990s, relations with the outside world were normalized. The terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, helped to improve relations with the United States in that Gaddafi was among the first leaders to condemn the attack and supported the fight against terror.