Anatomy of the Libyan Crisis


Insight Turkey Volume 19 No. 3, 2017

Muammar Qaddafi, the Libyan leader deposed in 2011, monopolized the politics, society, economy, culture and even the forms of socialization in Libya during his 42-year rule but the “February Revolution” changed the equilibrium. While Muammar Qaddafi did not allow opposition, he also prevented the middle classes from gaining strength. A small part of the Libyan public opposed Qaddafi and some of them were arrested and jailed or executed whereas others fled abroad to continue their opposition. Large masses of the public that socialized via tribal organizations chose to stay quiet assuming a dormant but stable attitude. The unrest experienced for long years by the Libyan public against Qaddafi turned into a civil uprising with the help of the Arab revolutions that started in 2011. As is the nature of all revolutions, the whole system established during the Qaddafi period collapsed as a result of the civil uprising known as the “February Revolution” by the Libyans; many Libyan elites fled the country and those that stayed behind went underground. The individuals who led the opposition against the Qaddafi regime at home and abroad, the tribes that had to take a backseat during the Qaddafi regime, the leaders of some tribes who had to stay in the background during that period and the youth who demanded change became the new actors of Libya.

As a part of the Arab World, Libya was deeply affected by the developments in the region while the “February Revolution,” a part of the 2011 Arab revolutions, was also deeply affected by the transitions in the region. The new Libyan actors developed regional alliances with the governments which had differing positions regarding the Arab revolutions and the political engagements necessitated by these alliances affected their political positions in Libya. All the parameters that were determinative in regional politics had an effect on Libyan politics whereas Libya’s historical parameters also affected the developments following the “February Revolution.” Therefore, many local, regional and international actors are determinant in the Libyan crisis which has a complex structure with many interwoven religious, tribal, military and economic parameters. Taking these characteristics of the Libyan crisis into consideration, this article addresses all the actors in the crisis separately and assesses their claims of legitimacy, goals, local and regional allies and international supporters. Overall; the Libyan crisis is examined in the article by addressing the developments in Libyan domestic policy in the framework of regional transformations experienced following the Arab revolutions.

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