As I write, there is ‘euphoria’ in Libya. Yes ‘euphoria’! Not the type reported after October 20, 2011. This ‘euphoria’ is of a different nature. It incarnates the battered country’s hope for an eventual ousting of the much dreaded Islamic State extremist group, ISIS.
Libyan forces are being applauded for successfully retaking parts of Sirte, late Col. Gadaffi’s hometown, from militants of the deadly extremist group. Sirte has been one of ISIS’ most significant strongholds outside of Syria and Iraq-hence the euphoria.
A General Instability
News from Libya in the last few years has centered around little more than gun battles, power struggles and human right’s abuses. The reason is almost clear. The 2011 fall of the country’s strongman, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, left a power vacuum which is yet to be effectively filled. The excitement that followed the regime’s toppling was soon overtaken by uncertainty. In just five years, Libya has suffered two civil wars and the second is yet to be declared over. Many militia groups still operate in the country making sporadic gunfire, arbitrary arrests, kidnappings and murder common.
The country which, once, was perceived as the most self-sufficient nation in the whole of Africa now lies in ruins. Libya’s major cities have suffered great destruction. According to Amnesty International, Libya has 435.000 internally displaced people and up to 100.000 of them reside in makeshift camps, schools and warehouses. Besides, almost 1 million of its citizens have been forced to seek refuge abroad.
A Glaring Social Difference
Libya today is almost only a shadow of its old self. The prosperous nations of yesterday now can barely feed itself. Oil production is down by nearly three quarters and its UN-brokered government faces opposition on several fronts. Prices of goods and services are skyrocketing and there is very little to be used in subsidizing food and other basic necessities.
Education, electricity and healthcare, which used to be free for all Libyan citizens, can now barely be afforded. Basic medical services are almost non-existent, forcing many Libyans to seek treatment in neighbouring Tunisia. Nonetheless, Libya’s 2016 situation shows a considerable improvement from what was between 2011 and 2014. A lot has gotten better and there is hope for a better tomorrow. The dictatorship has fallen and ‘Western style’ democracy is in process.
More Freedom in View
Despite present-day hardships in Libya, the country is gaining in freedom. For the first time in its history, Libya got rated by Freedom House as ‘Partly free’ for two consecutive years, 2013 and 2014 Freedom House Rankings for Libya. However, its freedom index for 2015 dropped to ‘Not and Freedom House has evoked Libya’s second civil war as an influencing factor.
There is no denying that rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly are still, to an extent, restricted but Libyans seem to be experiencing greater freedom than in the yesteryear.
Libyan women, whose voices were the most silenced, are now being heard louder and clearer. Their works testify of spirits that have refused to be broken. In this series, I am unveiling the efforts furnished by some young and talented Libyan women who have picked themselves up quicker than the state of Libya itself.
Join me in part two of Beaten but not Broken: Hope in the ‘New’ Libya for an amazing adventure into the lives of some of the women who have found the motivation to move on and are now encouraging other Libyan women to follow suit.