Libya History

Libya History and Politics

First residents

Homo erectus lived in what is now Libya around two million years ago. Modern man developed from it about 200,000 years ago. Rock paintings and stone carvings attest to the presence of humans around 12,000 years ago. They also show that the area used to be wetter and even elephants lived here. In 2014, many rock carvings were destroyed by Islamists.

From about 8000 BC onwards, hunters and gatherers finally became Settled farmers. Cultures known as Libyans existed from around 4000 BC. They are probably the ancestors of today’s Berber peoples. The Egyptians called the land west of them Lebu. The Greeks then called the area and its inhabitants Libya and Libyans.

Ancient conquerors

North Africa was conquered by various conquerors in ancient times. In the 7th century BC The Greeks founded the city of Cyrene on the Mediterranean Sea. The region of eastern Libya was therefore given the name Cyrenaica. Further to the west the Phoenicians founded the places Sabratha, Oea and Leptis Magna. These three cities gave the region its name Tripolitania and the later capital the name Tripoli (“three cities”). From at least the 5th century BC lived in Fessan. The Garamanten, a Berber tribe.

146 BC Tripolitania came under the rule of the Romans, 96 BC. Also the Cyrenaica. Then in 429 the Vandals conquered North Africa and established their empire. It ended itself in the year 534 when Byzantium took the area and made it its province.

Arab expansion and Islamization

In the 7th century, the Arabs advanced west and also conquered what is now Libya. The Arabs brought their religion with them, Islam. Most of the Berbers were Islamized, others fought against the new conquerors in revolts.

Several ruling families came to power over the next few centuries. They ruled the region of what is now Tunisia and Tripolitania. The Aghlabids (800-909) are followed by the Fatimids (909-973), these are the Zirids (973-1152), the Almohads (1152-1229) and the Hafsids (1229-1574). The Cyrenaica, the east of today’s Libya, was under Egyptian control.

Ottoman rule (1551-1911) and Barbarian Wars

In 1509 the Spaniards conquered Tripoli to combat piracy from there. Spain then ceded the area to the Order of St. John. In the 16th century the area came under Ottoman rule. In 1551 the Ottomans conquered Tripoli and gradually brought further areas under their control.

Although the region was officially subject to Ottoman rule from the 17th century, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli formed largely independent states. Pirates used the coast as a base. Kidnapping and slave trade were the order of the day. US merchant ships were also affected. You could only protect yourself from attacks by paying tribute. That is why the Barbarian Wars took place from 1801 to 1805 and in 1815. The USA fought against the barbarian states with the capitals Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli in order to fight this piracy. She won the wars.

Italian Colony (1911-1943) and UN Trust Territory (1943-1951)

Italian troops invaded Ottoman Libya in September 1911. Italy won the war that followed in 1912. The conquest of the whole country, which resulted in many deaths, lasted until 1932. In 1934 Italy declared the area to be its colony of Italian Libya.

During the Second World War there were also fighting in the territory of Libya. Italian soldiers fought the British with German support, but eventually had to give up. Libya came under the administration of Great Britain and France as a UN trust territory. The UN finally decided to give Libya independence.

History of Libya from independence until today

Kingdom of Libya (1951-1969)

In 1951 Libya was given independence. It became a kingdom under King Idris I. He was the head of the Sanussi Brotherhood, an Islamic brotherhood. This had ruled the Cyrenaica, i.e. the east of today’s Libya, since 1843.┬áTo get more information on Libya and Africa, check loverists.

Libya’s historical provinces of Tripolitania, Fezzan and Cyrenaica became federal states of the country. But this made the government cumbersome. In 1963 the federal states were abolished and now ten provinces were created, but they were centrally ruled from Tripoli.

Libya sought a bond with the western states. The country received financial and military support from Great Britain and the USA, for which these countries were allowed to set up military bases in Libya in return. But Arab nationalism grew in the population. In 1959, rich oil deposits were discovered on Libyan soil. There was an enormous economic upswing.

Arab Republic under Muammar al-Gaddafi (1969-2011)

On September 1, 1969, a coup by several officers ended the time of the Kingdom of Libya. Idris was currently abroad. Muammar al-Gaddafi led this coup. He proclaimed Libya as the Arab Republic. A revolutionary command council under his leadership took power.

Parties were not allowed. The oil companies were nationalized. In 1970, Libya joined Egypt and Syria to form a federation of states (Federation of Arab Republics), which broke up again in 1977. In 1977 Gaddafi made the country a socialist people ‘s republic. There was a war over border disputes with Egypt in 1977 and with Chad between 1978 and 1987. Gaddafi resigned from all state offices in 1979, but remained a “revolutionary leader” and continued to hold power in the state. He ruled dictatorially. Political opponents were persecuted, tortured and executed. There was no freedom of the press.

Libya supported terrorist organizations, most of which carried out attacks against the United States and Israel. The USA therefore imposed an economic embargo on Libya in 1986. In 1992 the United Nations passed an embargo following further terrorist attacks (in particular the Lockerbie attack in 1988). These were valid until 1999.

In 2000 the central administration was given up in favor of regional parliaments. The last embargo measures were lifted in 2003. In terms of foreign policy, the country has now opened up. Economically, the course was changed, as state companies were increasingly privatized.

Civil War 2011 and Civil War from 2014

In February 2011, Gaddafi’s rule began to crumble. Due to the privatization of companies, unemployment had risen sharply. More and more people moved to the cities, there were more and more young people who were dissatisfied. The so-called Arab Spring began in Tunisia as early as December 2010. Now there were riots in Libya too. Benghazi was taken by Gaddafi’s opponents.

The Libyan military violently suppressed the demonstrations. Militias formed the Libyan National Liberation Army to overthrow Gaddafi. A civil war broke out. The United Nations decided to create a no-fly zone over Libya to protect the civilian population. Because this was not complied with, an international military operation began on March 19, 2011. After several months, Gaddafi was finally overthrown on August 22nd. He was arrested on October 20th and died in unknown circumstances.

A National Transitional Council took power. A national congress was finally elected on July 7, 2012. However, the situation did not stabilize. Several groups are fighting for power. In 2014 another civil war broke out. The elected government was pushed to the east of the country and declared Tobruk to be the seat of their government. Your opponents also declared themselves government. This Islamist counter-government kept its seat in Tripoli.

The terrorist organization “Islamic State” is also fighting for power in the country. In autumn 2014 she declared an emirate in Libya and fought both government camps. She was able to bring some areas under her control. In her stronghold of Sirte in particular, she established a reign of terror that was marked by atrocities and crimes against humanity.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees set off in 2015 and fled within the country to safer areas or out of the country, particularly to Tunisia.

Political situation today

Peace negotiations took place from June 2015. On December 17, 2015, a peace treaty was signed between the Tobruk and Tripoli camps. The reconstruction of the Libyan state should take place by 2018. A unity government rules under Fayiz al-Sarradsch. He has been the internationally recognized Prime Minister of Libya since March 15, 2016. However, Libya remains divided into a sphere of power of as-Sarradsch in the western part of the country and one of Khalifa Haftar in the east.

Many people still live in refugee camps. Many are starving and in need of humanitarian aid. In addition to the refugees in their own country, there are people from other countries who want to flee to Europe via Libya.

Libya History

About the author