New Old Libya Essay Example
New Old Libya Essay Example

New Old Libya Essay Example

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  • Pages: 12 (3215 words)
  • Published: August 6, 2017
  • Type: Essay
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In a museum warehouse, hidden in darkness, rested the bronze likeness of Septimius Severus, the nemesis of Muammar Qaddafi. Like Qaddafi, Severus was of Libyan descent and had ruled over the Roman Empire for 18 years during the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. His birthplace, Leptis Magna, had become a second Rome in every way that mattered. As colonial rulers of Libya, Italy had erected a statue of Severus in Tripoli's main square (now Martyrs' Square) in 1933, which stood there for half a century until another Libyan ruler took offense. The statue then became a symbol of resistance against the government, as it was something Qaddafi could not punish. Regardless, he banished it to a rubbish pile, but it was later rescued by the people of Leptis Magna and returned to its rightful place. The statue now lay i


n a wooden crate amidst garden tools and discarded window frames, waiting to see what the future held for Libya and its new destiny. Qaddafi saw the statue as a threat to his regime.The memory of Libya's Mediterranean past, with its immense cultural and economic wealth, is embodied by Septimius Severus. While consisting of over 1,100 miles of coastline bracketed by highlands and eventually into the vast emptiness of the desert, Libya was far from isolated from the world beyond the sea. It had been a corridor for commerce, art, and societal aspirations for a long period of time. The tri-city area of Tripolitania - Leptis Magna, Sabratah, and Oea - once supplied Rome with wheat and olives.

However, Qaddafi wasted the country's benefits: its location just south of Italy and Greece made it one of Africa'

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gateways to Europe, its manageable population despite size made it a unique asset, and its vast oil reserves. Qaddafi suppressed innovation and free expression. According to schoolchildren who were taught Qaddafi's convoluted ideology as inscribed in his Green Book, their country's history only included two chapters: the dark days under the Western imperialist boot heel followed by the glory days of the Brother Leader.

As a result, the state is currently undergoing spasmodic changes to reinvent itself after Qaddafi's death and his warped vision for Libya has died with him. Laws and court processes are being reformed as temporary prisons overflow with thousands of Qaddafi loyalists waiting for their fate to be decided. Walda stated that "The journey of discovery has just begun. In many ways, this moment is more dangerous than wartime."Although militias control large areas of the state and guns are now less visible than during the war, this simply means that the hundreds of thousands who possess them have learned to keep them out of sight. Roads in rural areas are mostly unmonitored, with the exception of checkpoints manned by former rebels or thuwwar. Despite this, Libya continues to attract immigrants from both its western and southern borders, and key Qaddafi associates, as well as his wife and some children, remain at large. Moreover, several new ministers have been appointed and last year's terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi has left the country teetering on the brink. Nevertheless, Libya is not yet completely lawless. The newly elected General National Congress is working on a new constitution and much of Tripoli remains calm. In Martyrs' Square, which was a battlefield during the

revolution, motorcyclists can be seen careening around newly installed children's rides. The city center is teeming with activity and to the east, Libyans gather at a chic cafe below an Ottoman-era clock tower to enjoy lattes and crescent rolls. On banners and graffiti alike, one can see the red-black-and-green flag of Libya.Buildings across Libya, which were banned by Qaddafi for 42 years due to their association with King Idris, now showcase these long-hidden architectural treasures. Billboards display images of fallen rebels, with slogans that express the profound sacrifice Libya made for its newfound freedom. Even passersby express their enthusiasm, welcoming visitors to the new and liberated Libya. However, beneath the surface of this optimism lies a sense of uncertainty and naivety. While rebuilding efforts are underway, as Professor Salaheddin Sury explains, the country needs to start from nothing. Terrorist attacks, such as the one that occurred last September, continue to hinder Libya’s progress towards stability. Only time will tell if protests against reserves will predict Libya's future. Despite the challenges, Libya eagerly anticipates what is to come, basking in the unforgiving light of newfound freedom and independence.In February 2011, when the revolution reached Misratah, Omar Albera told his family, "I am going to take off my uniform and fight Qaddafi." His wife was worried that as a police officer for Qaddafi's government, other rebels would not trust him. His son also had fears. However, the eldest son of the police colonel supported him and later died in battle at age 23. At first, the inexperienced rebels had no weapons and resorted to throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails. The police colonel taught some rebels how to

shoot, including former felons who had once been in his custody. After a long three-month siege on Misratah by Qaddafi's troops, which resulted in significant losses for Libya's third largest city, Albera put on his police uniform again, now as the head of police in Misratah. He wants to introduce a new concept of police work for his city's residents.It is important for boys to aspire to wear a uniform as an emblem of self-respect instead of associating it with criminality. Wearing a uniform can signify a person as a defender rather than a thief or hood. While the new head may not be a cheery dreamer, he recognizes the importance of credibility in a historically corrupt police force. At 58 years old, he holds the brooding composure of a much older man and faces the challenge of leading law enforcement in Misratah, where the real power lies with the Thuwwar and not with him. The police department's equipment was destroyed during the war, and many of the young men who fought in the revolution are now armed and taking on leadership roles despite being untrained. Some are honest, while others are susceptible to corruption, leading to a delicate situation. This is made more challenging by the fact that Qaddafi's supporters remain in hiding, some of whom are neighbors, like Tawurgha, a town 25 miles away from Misratah.The authorities launched a strong attack on Misratah, in accordance with Qaddafi’s vision for Libya, which aimed to undermine urban centers that posed a threat to his power base. This involved promoting a divide-and-conquer strategy that pitted different towns, cultural groups, and tribes against each other throughout the

country. The revolution exacerbated these divisions, resulting in conflicts between towns and tribal groups. For instance, Riqdalin and Al Jumayl became bases for attacks on the larger neighboring Zuwarah, while the city of Az Zintan was suddenly besieged by the adjacent tribal Mashashiya town of Al Awaniya. Tuareg reserves supported by Qaddafi suppressed a rebel uprising in Ghadames, while Tawurgha volunteers joined Qaddafi’s forces in attacking Misratah, killing their neighbors and some of them also raping their neighbors’ women. Reports of these assaults on women have sparked outrage among the Misratans, leading to wild speculation about the number of victims. However, some Tawurgha sympathizers deny these reports and suggest that hostility towards them is due to racial bias. Regardless of the veracity of these claims, Tawurgha is now a ghost town as the Misratans forced its evacuation and destroyed most of its buildings. As a result, almost all 30,000 Tawurghans now live primarily in displacement camps in Benghazi and Tripoli.During my visit to Tawurgha, I found the town to be empty, with only remnants of war such as heavy weapon shells, ragged garments, and a half-starved cat. The town is heavily guarded by Misratan reserves, and no one is allowed to return. Local merchant Mabrouk Misurati explained that reconciliation is being requested from the new government, and justice must be served for those who committed crimes before allowing them to return. Misratah's new police head, Albera, believes in following the law and avoiding mass penalties. The security council has been formed to control arms and reduce violence, including accidental shootings and blood feuds. The issue of unlicensed cars on the streets also needs to be

addressed.Amidst the chaos of the revolution, countless criminals were released and remain at large. Despite this, the head acknowledges that many of those same individuals fought bravely alongside him during the conflict. The issue of drug use among young people is also prevalent, and the head recognizes that many of these individuals may require psychological assistance in the aftermath of such traumatic events. The head's own son was witness to the death of his older brother during the fighting.

With regards to the country's collective healing process, Misratah schoolchildren are now being taught to forget about the author of The Green Book, who was responsible for killing their family members. In fact, all references to the former Qaddafi regime have been entirely erased from textbooks and daily conversations. Despite these attempts to erase the past, remnants of Libya's rich history can still be seen in ancient archaeological sites like Leptis Magna, which display an urban dynamism that stands in stark contrast to the current state of the country.The marble's brilliance is highlighted when considering how it was once stripped by the French for use at Versailles. Monumental imperial sculptures of Claudius, Germanicus, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius, once located in the city but now situated in Tripoli's museum, are also evidence of its shine. Sabratah, a former coastal center of commerce in the west, boasts a sandstone theater constructed at the end of the second century A.D. The Corinthian pillars behind the theater's elevated stage frame the sea as a magnificent representation of Roman might. After an earthquake destroyed the theater in A.D. 365, Il Duce ordered it to be restored under his rule in 1937. Oedipus

Rex was performed during its reopening, and local people were forced to clap so hard that their hands bled by Italian soldiers. In the east, Cyrene is Libya's most durable archaeological rival to Roman sites; a significant breadbasket of ancient Greece where an amphitheater and a robust 2,500-year-old Temple of Zeus remains. Following centuries of foreign rule, Bedouin tribes invaded Libya in the seventh century and brought with them Islam, which has persisted through all subsequent external forces: Ottomans, Italian residents, British and American armed forces, and foreign oil companies.Gaddafi came to power in Libya following the military overthrow of King Idris in 1969, and immediately set about rewriting the country's history. He disregarded the indigenous Berber or Amazigh people of North Africa, and instead championed Arab identity as the true Libyan identity, positioning himself, the son of an Arab nomadic Bedouin, at the center of this version of Libyan identity. The Greek and Roman ruins of Libya held no significance for Gaddafi, whom instead regarded them as symbols of Italian colonialism. Despite neglecting archeological sites like Leptis Magna, Sabratah and Cyrene, the Brother Leader was immortalized in displays at Tripoli's museum, which included his Jeep and Volkswagen Beetle. Gaddafi subscribed to an outdated version of Bedouin morality in which sedentary values were suppressed in favor of nomadic ones, a viewpoint that focused on negative aspects of Bedouin life while ignoring their progress in adopting systems and governance. His reign was marked by orchestrated chaos.According to Walda, things were constantly changing without any routine, which could destabilize everything in a matter of minutes. Suddenly, people were unable to have a second house, travel overseas, play

on sports teams, or study foreign languages. Many of the country's brightest minds were taken to the Abu Salim prison, where 1,200 were massacred by prison guards in 1996. Muslim religious leaders were imprisoned for appearing more loyal to Islam than their leader. Gaddafi loyalists belonging to radical committees monitored classrooms and workplaces. Government payrolls grew with hundreds of thousands of workers who were paid meager wages for doing nothing. Lackeys lived luxuriously, while even the regime's mildest critics were "taken behind the Sun". Libya's geography was not spared either as Gaddafi even pushed back the sea from Tripoli, filling it with sand and palm trees to show the country had turned away from the Mediterranean. Mustafa Turjman, an archaeological specialist at the Department of Antiquities since 1979 called him "the God of ugliness!" In a single symbolic gesture to the outside world, Gaddafi completed a new lifeline in 2004: a submarine pipeline to deliver natural gas to Sicily and cut all other connections.Following the arrival of the first gunshot victims at Benghazi's Al Jala Hospital's emergency room on February 17, 2011, doctors were given instructions to ignore treating Rebels. Despite this, Maryam Eshtiwy, a 31-year-old female doctor, continued to work tirelessly at the infirmary for three days straight, tending to the numerous injured young men who flooded the hospital. Initially hesitant due to her ex-husband's advice of men as decision-makers, Maryam disregarded this and remained steadfast in her commitment to her patients. Libya had previously been a moderate Islamic state that allowed for women's education and employment, and it appears that these values have now shifted drastically.The article discusses the potential impact on women's

rights in a Mediterranean state seeking to strengthen its ties to Europe, and whether the country will benefit or suffer by either embracing or rejecting gender equality. The focus is on one woman, Eshtiwy, who faced challenges in her profession as a surgeon due to entrenched Arab traditions. Despite pressure from her family and male colleagues, she remained dedicated to her career and refused to compromise on her goals, even in her personal life. Her semi-arranged marriage initially seemed supportive of her ambitions, but her husband's attitude changed once they were wed. Eshtiwy reflects that some men are uncomfortable with having wives who are more accomplished than they are.During one morning, he called her to inform her that he was separating from her. According to Islamic law in Libya, the woman had no legal recourse, even though she was three months pregnant at the time. When the war broke out a year later, some of her family and friends encouraged her to return to her husband, hoping that he had learned his lesson. However, the rebel soldiers did not seem to have any issue with the gender of the surgeon who treated them and some even preferred the emotional availability of the female surgeon. Today, many husbands express their relief that a woman - like Eshtiwy - is examining their wives instead of a man. Eshtiwy feels relatively secure in her position and believes that Libyan women are strong and capable. However, she worries about the state of the country as a whole and would prefer to see Libya as a fully integrated nation, whereas others demand more autonomy for the southern and eastern regions

of Tripoli. There is a tense atmosphere on the streets about declaring war and exchanging heated rhetoric.Eshtiwy expresses her uncertainty in regards to whom or what to trust as she reflects on the passing of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens in her city. The accusatory allegations against the Ansar al-Sharia brigade responsible for protecting her hospital lead her to feel both frustrated and disheartened. Despite being a devout Muslim who approves of arranged marriages and has never traveled outside Benghazi, her once consistent world is now in disarray. Nevertheless, she finds reasons for optimism when reminiscing about her hospital's camaraderie during the revolution. The experience of working tirelessly to care for both rebels and Qaddafi supporters while civilians brought food and blankets revealed something profound about Libyans. In contrast, the city's post-traumatic stress is palpable and unsustainable for Eshtiwy, who is unable to watch images of the battle or even watch the news. The question that remains is one that she often poses: why did so many people have to die?“Did we have to pay with precious blood for all this chaos?” It’s even worse than that - there is still more blood. Too much of it. Prior to the revolution, Al Jala Hospital would only see three or four cases of gunshot wounds per year. However, due to the widespread violence in new Libya, the hospital now treats three or four such cases every day. The doctor remarks that they have become so accustomed to dealing with these cases. When I think about the future of Libya, a struggling country, my mind goes back to Mustafa Gargoum. He made a living selling vintage photos of

Benghazi. He occupied a street corner just a few hundred steps from the Mediterranean coast where he used to fish as a child. His makeshift exhibit was the first of its kind in Benghazi and possibly in all of Libya. Crowds would gather around to ponder the images from a distant past: mules carrying jugs of olive oil down back streets, the Ottoman-era Hadada Square now overrun by jewelry sellers, and the Italianate parliament building, destroyed by Qaddafi’s orders and now a parking lot. Elderly men would crouch in front of Gargoum's photos and gaze for a long time. Their eyes said what their mouths could not express. Some of the photos included outdated visuals such as the old Libyan flag, which is now the new Libyan flag.Gargoum's gallery on the street featured postings with intentionally provocative statements, including "Those who sacrifice autonomy for security deserve neither," "Free heads of America and Europe. you have ever disappointed us," and "The Libyan people are more important." As a result, he faced ongoing torment, with Ministry of Interior officials escorting him to a police station every September to make him stay overnight. However, he continued to display his images and messages, hiding the exposure he had collected of Qaddafi's enemies in his home office. There, he wrote bitter complaints on the walls, such as "The ceiling of the government is too low for me to stand!" When peaceful protests began in mid-February, Gargoum closed his gallery and joined the demonstrations, but later retreated to his house. Eight months later on the day Qaddafi was killed, he returned to the souk with not only his usual images but

also photographs of artists, intellectuals, and soldiers who had defied and been executed by the dictator.

Displayed in the extensive exhibit was a photo that Gargoum had created in 1996, marking the first year he shared his photos and clever slogans with the apprehensive population of Benghazi. While originally meant to represent himself, the photograph unintentionally mirrored the exiled statue of Septimius Severus and depicted a solitary, towering figure shrouded in darkness with a raised torch in hand and back turned away.

Later, on a day of newfound freedom, Gargoum placed the photograph on an easel and used brushes to add wispy figures in the background. After carefully finishing the piece, he admired the portrayal of an unfinished state where the people stood united on the evening after the revolution while momentarily blinded by torchlight and waiting for a new vision to penetrate the darkness.

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