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hen we talk about Gaddafi and his long reign over Libya, it is very difficult to frame this dictatorship and this personality in certain patterns. There is a typology of twentieth-century dictatorships and dictators, but Gaddafi has long since passed any pattern and has come to discuss the “Libyan type” dictatorship as a typical innovation of this character that formed from 1969 until his assassination.

The history of the Libyan state was similar to that of the other states in northern Africa. Under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, following the Italian-Turkish war of 1911–1912, the Italian invasion of Libya took place. The resistance of the population and the vast desert made it only in 1933 that the Italian troops occupied Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, turning them into a colony, Libya. In 1943 the Italian rule ended. Defeated in war, Italy overthrew the Allies and gave up its colonies.

Libyan territories came under British rule: Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, and French Fezzan. This mandate came to an end in December 1951 when the UN General Assembly decided to withdraw the mandate, recognizing the independent Libyan state: the United Kingdom of Libya. For more than four decades (1969–2011), the history of Libya was identified with only one character Colonel Gaddafi.

Rise of Colonel Gaddafi

Colonel Mummar Gaddafi 1969 — Wikimedia Commons

Gaddafi was born in 1942 into a family of peasants in Sirte, a desert area. He attended a traditional religious school between 1956 and 1961 in the province of Fezzan. In this school, the young Gaddafi together with a group of colleagues, formed the hardcore of a revolutionary group that intended to lead the country. Gaddafi’s model was the Egyptian leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, who had gathered around him a group of young officers and had come to power, being elected president on behalf of the Arab unit.

In 1961, Gaddafi was expelled from the Sebha school for political activism, which did not prevent him from attending the Law School of Libyan University. He was one of the outstanding students, finishing with the best grades, which allowed him to enter the Benghazi Military Academy in 1963. He formed a group of militants, both at the University and within the Military Academy, a secret group. which aimed to overthrow through a revolution the pro-western Libyan monarchy and to establish a popular republican regime.

He graduated from the Military Academy in 1965, when he was sent off due to good results in England, and attended 1966, British Army Staff College. On his return to Libya, he was enlisted in the Royal Army. Charisma and determination made Gaddafi the leader of a group of officers determined to take a coup and overthrow the Libyan monarchy.

The Coup

The moment of the coup came in August 1969, when King Idris I, the patient, went to treatment, leaving Prince Sahyd Hasan ar-Rida al-Mahdi as-Sanussi asking. A small group of officers led by Gaddafi gave a bloody coup on September 1, 1969; the new king was arrested at home, and the monarchy was abolished and proclaimed the Libyan Arab Republic.

Gaddafi did not become a general after the coup, they only promoted himself from the rank of captain to the rank of colonel and remained at this military rank. The colonel ruled Libya on behalf of the people, justifying his “modesty” by the fact that the Libyan state is “ruled by the people” and does not personally require pompous titles or a high military rank.

Colonel Gamar Nasser (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Gaddafi imitated his mentor, Colonel Nasser, who, after taking power in Egypt, remained at this military rank. The colonel created a new political system: Islamic socialism, an amazing amalgam of Arab nationalism, which was the basis for accepting the coup, the consumer society, and the popular democracy.

He accepted the existence of a small private property, but on September 1, 1973, 51% of the shares of Western companies were nationalized, taking over control of large companies, mainly those that owned oil fields.

Libya was a socialist state led by the Revolutionary Command Council, in fact, a colonel and a handful of close friends. The unique party, called the Arab Socialist Union, had existed since June 1971, reduced to the role of the instrument in the hands of the new dictator. One of the party’s initiatives was the imposition of a system based on Islamic morals, which prohibited alcohol and gambling.

The colonel created a political philosophy according to which Libya was a socialist — Islamic state. Its leadership was collective and in the hands of the people represented by a single party. These ideas were published in the Green Paper published in three volumes between 1975 and 1979, an example of demagogy and utopia.

The Revolutionary Committee decided in April 1980 to punish Libyan dissidents living abroad and sent Libyan Brigades to assassinate them. On April 26, 1980, Gaddafi gave dissidents an ultimatum that by 11 June, they would return to the country and make themselves available to the revolutionary committees.

In the immediate period, nine dissidents were murdered, of which 5 were refugees in Italy. There have been disagreements, but until the mid-1990s, the Gaddafi regime did not tolerate the emergence of any protest movement on Libyan territory, justifying the punishment of any opponents by “popular will.”

In 2011, the Libyan state ruled authoritatively, this is when the civil war began, and it has lasted almost four years which has led to over 40% of the Lybian population losing their lives either fighting for freedom or being murdered by Gaddafi extremists.

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