Libya: 10 years on

A decade on from the NATO backed coup in Libya which resulted in chaos, Islamist militias, slave markets and a migrant crisis, Challenge correspondent Ellis Hassan Garvey, speaks with Mohamed Benayad, a refugee forced to flee Libya and now living in Turkey, to counter the way Libyans and the Green Libya are portrayed in Western media.

Mohammed Benayad is a Libyan who spent his early years in ‘Green Libya’ and is now witnessing the deterioration of his country from nearby Turkey, having fled with the almost one-third of Libya’s population that have become refugees in neighbouring countries following the years of NATO’s intervention at a fairly young age.

It is almost ten years have passed since the overthrow of the ‘Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya‘ (also known as Green Libya) at the hands of NATO, US and EU backed imperialist forces. Following this intervention, we have seen an all-out attack against a progressive elements which once stood at the heart of the Libyan state which included a dedication to direct democracy, public ownership of industry (including retail) with workers self-management, a strong welfare state which saw housing (with landlords being outlawed) and healthcare as a human right.

On top of this the harshest aspects of Islamic law against women were removed, women where thus provided with what was the best representation and opportunities given in the Arab world, no longer subject (formally) to harsh repression. To no surprise this led to Libya having the highest standards of living in all of Africa with the 2010 UNDP Human Development Index showing that Libya’s HDI was on par with several European states. Libya also dedicated itself to an anti-imperialist foreign policy which sought to unite countries that had been victims of imperialism, one example was a new gold standard for a united African currency which was in the works to remove Africa’s reliance on the dollar. 

To no surprise , this conflicted with the agenda of the imperialist nations of Europe and NATO which sought to utilise the ‘Arab Spring’ against the most progressive nations in the Arab world. This swiftly became a pretext for intervention and the arming of a variety of right-wing and ‘liberal’ groups to achieve a regime change. Following this intervention Libya has seen living standards plummet and the country plundered with its leading figures murdered and imprisoned. Landlords are now able to buy up more and more land causing a housing crisis in the middle of a civil war. The mass privatisation of worker-held industry to multi-nationals in Europe and the USA completely removed the sovereignty of the Libyan people and disempowered their working class to a subordinate role in the thrall of US and French corporations. On top of this there has been a return to far-right interpretations of Islamic laws which has contributed to the total decline of women’s rights.  Libya has also become a hotbed of fundamentalism housing several of the world’s leading figures of fundamentalist militancy who had been armed and encouraged by NATO to overthrow the Jamahiriya.

We can often be removed from the human impact of what the imperialist nations have conducted through years of mass media fabrications and slander (many of which have now been completely disproven). This process has led to the most progressive Arab states becoming an existential threat to the public.

Ellis: Hello Mohamed it is a pleasure to interview you.

Mohamed: My pleasure to meet you.

Ellis: Tell me about yourself.

Mohamed: My name is Mohamed I am from Libya and I currently live in Turkey.

Ellis: Following the years of regime change in your country; tell me what you look back on in the days of the Jamahiriya?

Mohamed: I think they were good days for us Libyans, our country was safe back then! The Jamahiriya used to offer so much more compared to now, for example we had free healthcare, free education and much more. We were considered the topmost developed countries in Africa and the Arab world.

Ellis: Does any memory stand out to you that defined your life as a young person?

Mohamed: I lived through the war that is all I can say.

Ellis: Since then what has been the mood amongst the younger generation through the ongoing conflict?

Mohamed: This young generation has grown up to see war, gangs and much more. They got affected so much in this situation and they are starting to grow up to look at the militias and then join one of them. Most of this generation should have had a childhood but unfortunately bombs have gone off everywhere and with no money and no food, the government unfortunately does not offer that much for this young generation. They have no hope that Libya comes back in peace they just think it is a normal thing now.

Ellis: Since the regime change what losses have hit you the most? Does any one thing stand out, such as the reintroduction of capitalism or the increasingly right-wing social policies?

Mohamed: I lost so many things I mean the regime change was absolutely terrible my house got robbed and I have migrated so many times. I just know one thing is for sure; capitalism is not the way.

Ellis: Whom do you put the blame on for the ongoing problems in your country, are there any sources of accountability you believe must be held accountable for what has happened?

Mohamed: I blame it on USA, particularly on Obama and Hillary Clinton alongside Al Qaeda. I think other Arab states should have cared about us a little more, the Arab league is going downhill because of the gulf countries, we should have united and helped each other.

Ellis: What positive changes do you hope for the future? Can we learn from what happened in your country in the future to be able to criticise imperialism and its human impact on the peoples of different countries?

Mohamed: I hope they can change their [the government’s and people’s] political beliefs and offer people the food and money for their hard work and improve the economy. Indeed, we should learn about what happened to our country. We should criticise Western Imperialism, they always claim they are the ones who are under attack while we are the ones who are getting attacked. This must be understood in every Arab or Islamic country in the face of imperialism.

Ellis Garvey

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