Libya Finds Liberation with the Death of Gaddafi

by M-Gillies

Muammar Gaddafi shown with his Amazonian guards was killed on October 20, 2011 in Sitre, Libya.

His tyrannical rule has gone down throughout history as barbaric, he’s been called the “Mad Dog of the Middle East” and declared an International Pariah. He’s a man known for his flamboyant presence, for surrounding himself amidst Amazonian bodyguards, ostracized for his erratic and violent acts of terrorism and violations of human rights abuses. His reign of terror saw the obstruction of social reform, however, in what has now become known as a historical moment since the beginning of the Arab Spring revolutionary wave, Libya has now seen the end of a two-month siege, an eight month revolution and over four decades of autocratic dictatorship with the death of Muammar Gaddafi.

It was on October 20, 2011, that celebrations broke out in the capital of Tripoli and Sirte as news of Gaddafi’s death spread around the world. Libyans gathered to the renamed Martyr Square, their cheers of excitement barely contained as they clapped, waved flags, danced and fired off their weapons in a celebratory display at the revelation of their newly obtained liberation. For the Libyans this is the dawn of a promising new era in governmental reform, in what many hope will be a shift to a new democratic system.

For the last eight months, Libya has been in a state of civil war, coinciding with the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt that ignited on December 21, 2010. With many North African and Middle Eastern countries seeing concurrent uprisings erupting over dictatorship, absolute monarchy, violations of human rights, corrupt governments, economic decline, unemployment and poverty, Gaddafi is the first dictatorial death since the Arab Spring revolution began. However, it was February 17, 2011, which saw the beginnings of a civil war erupt over the dictatorship of Gaddafi and his regime.

Since February 17, 2011, rebel forces have fought tirelessly in an aggressive assault against Gaddafi loyalists. From protests in Benghazi to scrimmages in Tripoli and Sitre, rebels have fought long and hard to take control of the civil war. It was only after reaching Gaddafi’s hometown known as Sirte, that they found themselves battling heavily armed loyalists barricaded in the last remaining buildings. It took many of these anti-Gaddafi fighters two days to capture a single building, however, they managed to lock Gaddafi’s forces into a residential area of about 700 square yards on October 20, 2011.

During the next 90 minutes, rebel forces pushed a final assault on Gaddafi loyalists, forcing five carloads to flee the enclave in an attempt to reach the coastal highway. However, as a convoy attempted to flee, they were met with gunfire from revolutionaries, followed by a blast from a NATO airstrike, which struck two vehicles, ceasing any chances for pro-Gaddafi loyalists to escape.

While details of Gaddafi’s last remaining hours remain unclear, initial reports have indicated he had been hiding in a hole, after the convoy made its way back to an opulent compound. While the compound was besieged by several hundred fighters, initial reports indicate that Gaddafi was recovered with injuries to both legs before a final declaration of his death was made public.

With the fall of Sirte, so ends the final bastion of resistance for Gaddafi loyalists and weeks of tireless street fighting ended as rebels took this final opportunity to overthrow the dictator, who many feared would flee deeper into Libya’s southern deserts.

The revolutionary control of Sirte came months after the fall of the breezy Mediterranean seaport of Tripoli on August 21, where many Gaddafi loyalists mounted a fierce resistance.

For 42 years, Libya has struggled within the iron grip of a leader known for barbaric tyranny. Since seizing power in a military coup in 1969, Gaddafi has earned numerous titles, has had numerous assassination attempts made on his life and has garnered contempt from many critics over his abuse of power. It was after retaining absolute authoritarian control over Libya, that Gaddafi’s reputation as a notorious leader became more prevalent.

When the rising international oil prices in Libya saw high domestic product revenues increase, he was the first Middle Eastern leader to take control of his country’s oil reserves, demanding re-negotiation of oil contracts and threatening to shut off oil production if companies refused to meet his demands. Despite increasing the profitability of Libya, it was many of Gaddafi’s family and elites who amassed vast fortunes and adopted lavish lifestyles, while a large section of the population lived in poverty. For those who dared defy his authority, Gaddafi had student protestors publicly hanged in Bengazi, Tripoli and other areas of Libya for marching, demonstrating and demanding their rights.

But his reputation didn’t end there. His sense of self-importance increased when he published his manifesto on solving major problems of modern politics, economics and society with his Green Book. Soon after, monuments were built in honor of his book, however, many have been torn down since the 2011 revolt.

During the mid-seventies, Gaddafi became known for bankrolling internationally recognized terrorist Carlos the Jackal, to whom he gave a hero’s welcome to in Tripoli after Carlos took OPEC oil ministers hostage during a meeting in Vienna in 1975.

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan denounced Gaddafi as the “Mad Dog of the Middle East”, after Gaddafi had ordered the bombing of a Berlin nightclub which saw frequent attendance by US servicemen. But it was in December of 1988, when Libya had a bomb planted on Pan AM Jumbo Jet Flight 103 which killed 270 people, that earned Gaddafi the title of “International Pariah”.

However, it was Gaddafi’s brutal massacre of 1,200 unarmed prisoners of Abu Salim who were executed in less than three hours that is perhaps his most notorious act of human rights violation.

In recent years, Gaddafi had been attempting to turn his reputation and improve his relations with the West, with the help of South African President Nelson Mandela. In turning a new leaf, Gaddafi recognized Libya’s responsibilities in the deaths of terrorist victims, and paid reimbursements to families, however, once revolution began in Libya, Gaddafi showed a dark side.

Declaring himself a “warrior” and vowing to fight and die a martyr, Gaddafi said that “those who don’t love him do not deserve to live”. In response to the growing uprising, he employed snipers, artillery, helicopter gunships, warplanes, anti-aircraft weaponry and warships against demonstrations and funeral processions. He ordered military commanders to summarily execute soldiers who refused to fire upon protesters and had thousands of residents in Tripoli imprisoned.

As rebels showed no signs of slowing, Gaddafi’s government began hiring foreign mercenaries to replace the military units who refused to shoot protesters.

With the country of Libya no longer ruled by an autocratic leader, the country will see an interim government in place for the next eight months until democratic parties can be put in place.

Read more:

Gaddafi’s intoxication with power | Telegraph

Gadhafi: Picasso of the Middle East | The Star

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