ISSN 2330-717X

Libya: A Nation Suspended Between End And Rebirth


“If 200 men armed men from Yefren aboard fifty armored vehicles were able to reach Tripoli and take up seats in the government one can hypothesize the involvement of Islamic groups that control the capital of Libya. There are essentially three access roads to Tripoli and they are controlled by checkpoints … The point is instead another: the events of yesterday have shown, if there was any need of further evidence, that the road to democracy is uphill and that the control of the land is rooted in the hands of local groups.”

Reached by MISNA, Professor Karim Mezran, emphasizes this aspect, he speaks of a signal behind which sits the current situation in Libya, which is characterized as ”more than tribalism, by geographic localisms,” in which each group is competing with others for division of powers and influences.

Professor of Middle East Studies at the Johns Hopkins University (Bologna and Washington) School of Advanced International Studies and at John Cabot University in Rome, Mezran has just published a book together with Arturo Varvelli (‘Libya. End or rebirth of a nation? ‘, Donzelli publisher) which gives an overview of the “many anomalies” that marked the revolt against the Qaddafi regime given signals indicating – even before the riots began – the possible preparation of a coup, which was then aborted taking advantage of the first protests in the east.

“The former rebels from Yefren who entered Tripoli yesterday – says Karim Mezran – have asked the government to resume payments of ‘rewards’ to which they are entitled and which, had been suspended in the last two months. And when they got there it was thanks to the Islamic armed groups whcih maintain de-facto control over the city”.

Speaking of Islamic groups, Mezran noted that these are different groups that have much in common, however, especially at the leadership level.

“The main Islamic leaders in Libya – he continues – are close to the Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi, a charismatic figure who now lives in Qatar, and a reference point for cultural and political Islamists across the Arab world. It was with Tripoli’s liberation that the Islamist military commanders have emerged powerfully, especially Abdelhakim Belhadj and Ali al-Syllabi. Between them and the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood there is mutual respect and closeness: should the June elections for the National Assembly actually go ahead, the Islamists would surely prevail as happened in neighboring countries.”

But in Libya, says Professor Mezran, Islamists, even as they are the best prepared militarily, have not yet managed to gain a matching degree of political clout: “Beyond them, there is a group close to the former head of the transitional government, Mahmoud Jibril, whih enjoys support especially from France. And there are groups of former combatants. Basically you can say that the National Transitional Council (CNT, the organization that led the revolt against Gaddafi) contains within itself all of Libya’s elements and contradictions”.

According Mezran, the democratic process in the North African country is yet to be agreed: “Internal divisions are consierable, and there the absence of the United States is also felt, while divisions and competition between European countries directly involved in Libya, Italy, France and Great Britain adds yet another weight.

In this complex framework, in which the situation is difficult to interpret and the results are not easily predictable, there is a strong Islamic component that could take the helm of the country and there are a whole series of formations characterized by a strong local character.

“Maybe – concludes Mezran – the many interests at stake, oil and other natural resources, which will help Libya overcome this and move beyond the Qaddafi era as well as moving beyond  this colonial intervention transformed into popular revolt by some international media.”

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MISNA, or the Missionary International Service News Agency, provides daily news ‘from, about and for’ the 'world’s Souths', not just in the geographical sense, since December 1997.

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