Four years on, there is nothing but pain and struggle in Libya
It is now four years since the revolution began in Libya, but does the country have anything worthwhile to show for such events?
Libya is now home to thousands of displaced people. Tawergha, a coastal town east of Misurata, is a stark example of what happened. Its 40,000 people still cannot return as their homes and businesses were destroyed by militias in 2011. Thousands of other families in the south, east and in Tripoli itself live away from their homes. Since last summer Benghazi, where the revolution started four years ago, has become like a ghost city.
Thousands of Libyans, including myself, fled to Tunisia, Egypt, the Gulf and European countries for security and peace.
An unknown number of innocent Libyans are languishing in jails outside the government’s control, while dozens of former regime officials – including Saif Al Islam, Muammar Qaddafi’s son – are stuck in limbo with the judiciary failing to convict anyone over the past four years. The number and fate of those who went missing is unknown.
Economically, the picture is no better. The oil sector, the country’s only source of hard currency, is in disarray. Production and exports are less than a quarter of the pre-war level. The sites of major infrastructure projects have been ransacked.
Daily life for ordinary Libyans is one of unending struggle. In Tripoli, as well as in other parts of the country, power and fuel shortages add to the misery.
When I visited Tripoli in October, I faced a 12-hour power blackout. Although the situation has improved marginally since then, some villages get electricity every other day.
Society has also been badly hit, which is reflected in increasingly weakening family relations. This, in particular, has given rise to new types of behaviour. For example, Libyans tended to be helpful and respectful, especially towards women. It was unthinkable a few years ago for a man to turn his back on a woman in need of help. Now, however, screams of help often go unanswered.
Politically, the country also faces many problems. Libya has two governments, two parliaments and two armies. Both are unable to protect citizens, solve problems or provide basic necessities, including medical care.
As both sides bicker, Libyans face a hopeless and desperate situation. It is little wonder that extremist organisations and armed gangs and militias find plenty of recruits in the country.
To be fair, Libya has made some gains, but it will take many years for those gains to make any positive impact on the lives of ordinary Libyans.
For example, there are more than a dozen television stations, more than 20 newspapers and tens of regional radio stations. There are dozens of political parties and hundreds of NGOs serving almost every imaginable cause.
Yet, very little is being said or done to alleviate the pain and suffering of ordinary people. On the other hand, there are hundreds of religious preachers poisoning the minds of young Libyans as they vie for their hearts and minds.
In the past, I rarely used to lock my car or house. Back then women could move around Tripoli’s high streets without any worries. Families would gather in cafes by the seafront until the early hours.
In the new Libya, you are likely to be declared missing if you are not home by 10pm. Women hardly drive even during the day and many stay indoors for weeks on end.
Mustafa Fetouri is a Libyan analyst at PIR centre, an author and award winning freelance journalist
Published: February 21, 2015 04:00 AM