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|State of Libya
and largest city
|Government||Provisional parliamentary republic|
|-||President of the General National Congress||Mohammed al-Magariaf|
|-||Prime Minister||Ali Zeidan|
|Legislature||General National Congress|
|-||Independence from Italy||10 February 1947|
|-||Released from British and French oversight||24 December 1951|
|-||Coup d'état by Muammar Gaddafi||1 September 1969|
|-||Revolution Day||17 February 2011|
|-||Total||1,759,541 km2 ( 17th)
679,359 sq mi
|-||Density||3.6/km2 ( 218th)
|GDP ( PPP)||2012 estimate|
|-||Total||$66.941 billion ( 81st)|
|GDP (nominal)||2012 estimate|
|-||Total||$79.691 billion ( 64th)|
|HDI (2013)|| 0.769
high · 64th
|Currency|| Dinar (
|Time zone||CET ( UTC+1)|
|-||Summer ( DST)||CEST ( UTC+2)|
|Drives on the||right|
|a.||^ Libyan Arabic and other varieties. Berber languages in certain low-populated areas. The official language is simply identified as " Arabic" ( Constitutional Declaration, article 1).|
|b.||^ Included 350,000 foreign nationals residing in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.|
|c.||^ The UK and France held a joint condominium over Libya through the United Nations Trusteeship Council.|
Libya (Arabic: ليبيا Lībyā, Berber: ⵍⵉⴱⵢⴰ Libya), officially the State of Libya, is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west. With an area of almost 1.8 million square kilometres (700,000 sq mi), Libya is the 17th largest country in the world.
The largest city and capital, Tripoli, is home to 1.7 million of Libya's 6.4 million people. The three traditional parts of the country are Tripolitania, Fezzan and Cyrenaica. In 2009 Libya had the highest HDI in Africa and the fifth highest GDP (PPP) per capita in Africa, behind Equatorial Guinea, Seychelles, Gabon, and Botswana. Libya has the 10th-largest proven oil reserves of any country in the world and the 17th-highest petroleum production.
A civil war and NATO-led military intervention in 2011 resulted in the ousting and death of the country's former leader, Muammar Gaddafi, and the collapse of his 42-year "First of September Revolution" and 34-year-old Jamahiriya state. As a result, Libya is currently undergoing political reconstruction, and is governed under an interim constitution drawn up by the National Transitional Council (NTC). Elections to a General National Congress were held on 7 July 2012, and the NTC handed power to the newly elected assembly on 8 August. The assembly has the responsibility of forming a constituent assembly to draft a permanent constitution for Libya, which will then be put to a referendum.
The name Libya ( / / or / /; Arabic: ليبيا Līb(i)yā [ˈliːb(i)jæ]; Libyan Arabic: [ˈliːbjæ]) was introduced in 1934 for Italian Libya, after the historical name for Northwest Africa, from the ancient Greek Λιβύη (Libúē). The name was based on earlier use in 1903 by Italian geographer Federico Minutilli.
Libya gained independence in 1951 as the United Libyan Kingdom (Arabic: المملكة الليبية المتحدة al-Mamlakah al-Lībiyyah al-Muttaḥidah), changing its name to the Kingdom of Libya (Arabic: المملكة الليبية al-Mamlakah al-Lībiyyah) in 1963. Following a coup d'état led by Muammar Gaddafi in 1969, the name of the state was changed to the Libyan Arab Republic (Arabic: الجمهورية العربية الليبية al-Jumhūriyyah al-‘Arabiyyah al-Lībiyyah). The official name was "Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" from 1977 to 1986, and "Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" (Arabic: الجماهيرية العربية الليبية الشعبية الاشتراكية العظمى al-Jamāhīriyyah al-‘Arabiyyah al-Lībiyyah ash-Sha‘biyyah al-Ishtirākiyyah al-‘Uẓmá listen) from 1986 to 2011.
The National Transitional Council, established in 2011, referred to the state as simply "Libya". The UN formally recognized the country as "Libya" in September 2011, based on a request from the Permanent Mission of Libya citing the Libyan interim Constitutional Declaration of 3 August 2011. In November 2011, the ISO 3166-1 was altered to reflect the new country name "Libya" in English, "Libye (la)" in French.
The current name, "State of Libya" (Arabic: دولة ليبيا Dawlat Libya), was adopted unanimously by the General National Congress in January 2013.
The coastal plain of Libya was inhabited by Neolithic peoples from as early as 8000 BC. The Afro-Asiatic ancestors of the Berber people are assumed to have spread into the area by the Late Bronze Age. The earliest known name of such a tribe is that of the Garamantes, who were based in Germa. The Phoenicians were the first to establish trading posts in Libya. By the 5th century BC, the greatest of the Phoenician colonies, Carthage, had extended its hegemony across much of North Africa, where a distinctive civilization, known as Punic, came into being.
In 630 BC, the Ancient Greeks colonized Eastern Libya and founded the city of Cyrene. Within 200 years, four more important Greek cities were established in the area that became known as Cyrenaica. In 525 BC the Persian army of Cambyses II overran Cyrenaica, which for the next two centuries remained under Persian or Egyptian rule. Alexander the Great was greeted by the Greeks when he entered Cyrenaica in 331 BC, and Eastern Libya again fell under the control of the Greeks, this time as part of the Ptolemaic Kingdom.
After the fall of Carthage the Romans did not occupy immediately Tripolitania (the region around Tripoli), but left it under control of the kings of Numidia, until the coastal cities asked and obtained its protection. Ptolemy Apion, the last Greek ruler, bequeathed Cyrenaica to Rome, which formally annexed the region in 74 BC and joined it to Crete as a Roman province. As part of the Africa Nova province, Tripolitania was prosperous, and reached a golden age in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, when the city of Leptis Magna, home to the Severan dynasty, was at its height. On the other side, Cyrenaica's first Christian communities were established by the time of the Emperor Claudius but was heavily devastated during the Kitos War and almost depopulated of Greeks and Jews alike, and, although repopulated by Trajan with military colonies, from then started its decadence.
The decline of the Roman Empire saw the classical cities fall into ruin, a process hastened by the Vandals' destructive sweep though North Africa in the 5th century. When the Empire returned (now as East Romans) as part of Justinian's reconquests of the 6th century, efforts were made to strengthen the old cities, but it was only a last gasp before they collapsed into disuse. Cyrenaica, which had remained an outpost of the Byzantine Empire during the Vandal period, also took on the characteristics of an armed camp. Unpopular Byzantine governors imposed burdensome taxation to meet military costs, while the towns and public services—including the water system—were left to decay. By the beginning of the 7th century, Byzantine control over the region was weak, Berber rebellions were becoming more frequent, and there was little to oppose Muslim invasion.
Under the command of 'Amr ibn al-'As, the Rashidun army conquered Cyrenaica. In 647 an army led by Abdullah ibn Saad took Tripoli from the Byzantines definitively. The Fezzan was conquered by Uqba ibn Nafi in 663. The Berber tribes of the hinterland accepted Islam, however they resisted Arab political rule.
For the next several decades, Libya was under the purview of the Umayyad Caliph of Damascus until the Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads in 750, and Libya came under the rule of Baghdad. When Caliph Harun al-Rashid appointed Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab as his governor of Ifriqiya in 800, Libya enjoyed considerable local autonomy under the Aghlabid dynasty. By the end of the 9th century, the Shiite Fatimids controlled Western Libya, and ruled the entire region in 972 and appointed Bologhine ibn Ziri as governor. Ibn Ziri's Berber Zirid dynasty ultimately broke away from the Shiite Fatimids, and recognised the Sunni Abbasids of Baghdad as rightful Caliphs. In retaliation, the Fatimids brought about the migration of thousands from two troublesome Arab Bedouin tribes, the Banu Sulaym and Banu Hilal to North Africa. This act drastically altered the fabric of the Libyan countryside, and cemented the cultural and linguistic Arabisation of the region. Ibn Khaldun noted that the lands ravaged by Banu Hilal invaders had become completely arid desert.
Zirid rule in Tripolitania was short-lived though, and already in 1001 the Berbers of the Banu Khazrun broke away. Tripolitania remained under their control until 1146, when the region was overtaken by the Normans of Sicily. It was not until 1159 that the Moroccan Almohad leader Abd al-Mu'min reconquered Tripoli from European rule. For the next 50 years, Tripolitania was the scene of numerous battles between the Almohad rulers and insurgents of the Banu Ghaniya. Later, a general of the Almohads, Muhammad ibn Abu Hafs, ruled Libya from 1207 to 1221 before the later establishment of a Tunisian Hafsid dynasty independent from the Almohads. The Hafsids ruled Tripolitania for nearly 300 years. By the 16th century however, the Hafsids became increasingly caught up in the power struggle between Spain and the Ottoman Empire.
After a successful invasion of Tripoli by Habsburg Spain in 1510, and its handover to the Knights of St. John, the Ottoman admiral Sinan Pasha finally took control of Libya in 1551. His successor Turgut Reis was named the Bey of Tripoli and later Pasha of Tripoli in 1556. By 1565, administrative authority as regent in Tripoli was vested in a pasha appointed directly by the sultan in Constantinople. In the 1580s, the rulers of Fezzan gave their allegiance to the sultan, and although Ottoman authority was absent in Cyrenaica, a bey was stationed in Benghazi late in the next century to act as agent of the government in Tripoli.
In time, real power came to rest with the pasha’s corps of janissaries. In 1611 the deys staged a coup against the pasha, and Dey Sulayman Safar was appointed as head of government. For the next hundred years, a series of deys effectively ruled Tripolitania. The two most important Deys were Mehmed Saqizli (r. 1631–49) and Osman Saqizli (r. 1649–72), both also Pasha, who ruled effectively the region. The latter conquered also Cyrenaica.
Lacking direction from the Ottoman government, Tripoli lapsed into a period of military anarchy during which coup followed coup and few deys survived in office more than a year. One such coup was led by Turkish officer Ahmed Karamanli. The Karamanlis ruled from 1711 until 1835 mainly in Tripolitania, but had influence in Cyrenaica and Fezzan as well by the mid 18th century. Ahmad's successors proved to be less capable than himself, however, the region's delicate balance of power allowed the Karamanli. The Libyan Civil War of 1791–1795 occurred in those years. In 1793, Turkish officer Ali Benghul deposed Hamet Karamanli and briefly restored Tripolitania to Ottoman rule. However, Hamet's brother Yusuf (r. 1795–1832) reestablished Tripolitania's independence.
In the early 19th century war broke out between the United States and Tripolitania, and a series of battles ensued in what came to be known as the First Barbary War and the Second Barbary War. By 1819, the various treaties of the Napoleonic Wars had forced the Barbary states to give up piracy almost entirely, and Tripolitania's economy began to crumble. As Yusuf weakened, factions sprung up around his three sons; civil war soon resulted. Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II sent in troops ostensibly to restore order, marking the end of both the Karamanli dynasty and an independent Tripolitania. Anyway, order was not recovered easily, and the revolt of the Libyan under Abd-El-Gelil and Gûma ben Khalifa lasted until the death of the latter in 1858. The second period of direct Ottoman rule saw administrative changes, and what seemed as greater order in the governance of the three provinces of Libya.
After the Italo-Turkish War (1911–1912), Italy simultaneously turned the three regions into colonies. From 1912 to 1927, the territory of Libya was known as Italian North Africa. From 1927 to 1934, the territory was split into two colonies, Italian Cyrenaica and Italian Tripolitania, run by Italian governors. Some 150,000 Italians settled in Libya, constituting roughly 20% of the total population.
In 1934, Italy adopted the name "Libya" (used by the Greeks for all of North Africa, except Egypt) as the official name of the colony (made up of the three provinces of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan). Idris al-Mahdi as-Senussi (later King Idris I), Emir of Cyrenaica, led Libyan resistance to Italian occupation between the two world wars. Ilan Pappé estimates that between 1928 and 1932 the Italian military "killed half the Bedouin population (directly or through disease and starvation in camps)." Italian historian Emilio Gentile sets to about 50,000 the number of victims of the repression.
From 1943 to 1951, Libya was under Allied occupation. The British military administered the two former Italian Libyan provinces of Tripolitana and Cyrenaïca, while the French administered the province of Fezzan. In 1944, Idris returned from exile in Cairo but declined to resume permanent residence in Cyrenaica until the removal of some aspects of foreign control in 1947. Under the terms of the 1947 peace treaty with the Allies, Italy relinquished all claims to Libya.
On 24 December 1951, Libya declared its independence as the United Kingdom of Libya, a constitutional and hereditary monarchy under King Idris, Libya's only monarch. The discovery of significant oil reserves in 1959 and the subsequent income from petroleum sales enabled one of the world's poorest nations to establish an extremely wealthy state. Although oil drastically improved the Libyan government's finances, resentment among some factions began to build over the increased concentration of the nation's wealth in the hands of King Idris.
On 1 September 1969, a small group of military officers led by 27-year-old army officer Muammar Gaddafi staged a coup d'état against King Idris, launching the Libyan Revolution. Gaddafi was referred to as the "Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution" in government statements and the official Libyan press.
In 1977, Libya officially became the "Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya". Gaddafi officially passed power to the General People's Committees and henceforth claimed to be no more than a symbolic figurehead, but domestic and international critics claimed the reforms gave him virtually unlimited power. Dissidents against the new system were not tolerated, with punitive actions including capital punishment authorized by Gaddafi himself. The new "jamahiriya" governance structure he established was officially referred to as a form of direct democracy, though the government refused to publish election results.
In February 1977, Libya started delivering military supplies to Goukouni Oueddei and the People's Armed Forces in Chad. The Chadian–Libyan conflict began in earnest when Libya's support of rebel forces in northern Chad escalated into an invasion. Later that same year, Libya and Egypt fought a four-day border war that came to be known as the Libyan-Egyptian War, both nations agreed to a ceasefire under the mediation of the Algerian president Houari Boumediène. Hundreds of Libyans lost their lives in the war against Tanzania, when Gaddafi tried to save his friend Idi Amin. Gaddafi financed various other groups from anti-nuclear movements to Australian trade unions.
From 1977 onward, per capita income in the country rose to more than US $11,000, the fifth-highest in Africa, while the Human Development Index became the highest in Africa and greater than that of Saudi Arabia. This was achieved without borrowing any foreign loans, keeping Libya debt-free. The Great Manmade River was also built to allow free access to fresh water across large parts of the country. In addition, financial support was provided for university scholarships and employment programs.
Much of the country’s income from oil, which soared in the 1970s, was spent on arms purchases and on sponsoring dozens of paramilitaries and terrorist groups around the world. An airstrike failed to kill Gaddafi in 1986. Libya was finally put under United Nations sanctions after the bombing of a commercial flight killed hundreds of travellers.
Gaddafi assumed the honorific title of "King of Kings of Africa" in 2008 as part of his campaign for a United States of Africa. By the early 2010s, in addition to attempting to assume a leadership role in the African Union, Libya was also viewed as having formed closer ties with Italy, one of its former colonial rulers, than any other country in the European Union. The eastern parts of the country have been "ruined" due to Gaddafi's economic theories, according to The Economist.
Civil war and aftermath
After the Arab Spring movements overturned the rulers of Tunisia and Egypt, Libya experienced a full-scale revolt beginning on 17 February 2011. By 20 February, the unrest had spread to Tripoli. On 27 February 2011, the National Transitional Council was established to administer the areas of Libya under rebel control. On 10 March 2011, France became the first state to officially recognise the council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people.
Pro-Gaddafi forces were able to respond militarily to rebel pushes in Western Libya and launched a counterattack along the coast toward Benghazi, the de facto centre of the uprising. The town of Zawiya, 48 kilometres (30 mi) from Tripoli, was bombarded by air force planes and army tanks and seized by Jamahiriya troops, "exercising a level of brutality not yet seen in the conflict."
Organs of the United Nations, including United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the United Nations Human Rights Council, condemned the crackdown as violating international law, with the latter body expelling Libya outright in an unprecedented action urged by Libya's own delegation to the UN.
On 17 March 2011 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1973 with a 10–0 vote and five abstentions. The resolution sanctioned the establishment of a no-fly zone and the use of "all means necessary" to protect civilians within Libya. On 19 March, the first Allied act to secure the no-fly zone began when French military jets entered Libyan airspace on a reconnaissance mission heralding attacks on enemy targets.
By 22 August 2011, rebel fighters had entered Tripoli and occupied Green Square, which they renamed Martyrs' Square in honour of those killed since 17 February 2011.
The liberation of Libya was celebrated on 23 October 2011. At least 30,000 Libyans died in the civil war.
On 7 July 2012, Libyans voted in their first parliamentary elections since the end of Gaddafi's rule. On 8 August 2012, the National Transitional Council officially handed power to the wholly elected General National Congress, which is tasked with the formation of an interim government and the drafting of a new Libyan Constitution to be approved in a general referendum.
On 25 August 2012, in what "appears to be the most blatant sectarian attack" since the end of the civil war, unnamed organized assailants bulldozed a Sufi mosque with graves, in broad daylight in the centre of the Libyan capital Tripoli. It was the second such razing of a Sufi site in two days.
On 7 October 2012, Libya's Prime Minister-elect Mustafa A.G. Abushagur stepped down after failing a second time to win parliamentary approval for a new cabinet. On 14 October 2012, the General National Congress elected former GNC member and human rights lawyer Ali Zeidan as prime minister-designate. Zeidan will be sworn in after his cabinet has been approved by the GNC.
Libya extends over 1,759,540 square kilometres (679,362 sq mi), making it the 17th largest nation in the world by size. Libya is somewhat smaller than Indonesia in land area, and roughly the size of the US state of Alaska. It is bound to the north by the Mediterranean Sea, the west by Tunisia and Algeria, the southwest by Niger, the south by Chad and Sudan and to the east by Egypt. Libya lies between latitudes 19° and 34°N, and longitudes 9° and 26°E.
At 1,770 kilometres (1,100 mi), Libya's coastline is the longest of any African country bordering the Mediterranean. The portion of the Mediterranean Sea north of Libya is often called the Libyan Sea. The climate is mostly dry and desertlike in nature. However, the northern regions enjoy a milder Mediterranean climate.
Natural hazards come in the form of hot, dry, dust-laden sirocco (known in Libya as the gibli). This is a southern wind blowing from one to four days in spring and autumn. There are also dust storms and sandstorms. Oases can also be found scattered throughout Libya, the most important of which are Ghadames and Kufra.
The Libyan Desert, which covers much of Libya, is one of the most arid places on earth. In places, decades may pass without rain, and even in the highlands rainfall seldom happens, once every 5–10 years. At Uweinat, as of 2006 the last recorded rainfall was in September 1998. There is a large depression, the Qattara Depression, just to the south of the northernmost scarp, with Siwa Oasis at its western extremity. The depression continues in a shallower form west, to the oases of Jaghbub and Jalu.
Likewise, the temperature in the Libyan desert can be extreme; on 13 September 1922 the town of 'Aziziya, which is located southwest of Tripoli, recorded an air temperature of 57.8 °C (136.0 °F), considered to be a world record. In September 2012, however, the world record figure of 57.8°C was overturned by the World Meteorological Organization.
There are a few scattered uninhabited small oases, usually linked to the major depressions, where water can be found by digging to a few feet in depth. In the west there is a widely dispersed group of oases in unconnected shallow depressions, the Kufra group, consisting of Tazerbo, Rebianae and Kufra. Aside from the scarps, the general flatness is only interrupted by a series of plateaus and massifs near the centre of the Libyan Desert, around the convergence of the Egyptian-Sudanese-Libyan borders.
Slightly further to the south are the massifs of Arkenu, Uweinat and Kissu. These granite mountains are ancient, having formed long before the sandstones surrounding them. Arkenu and Western Uweinat are ring complexes very similar to those in the Aïr Mountains. Eastern Uweinat (the highest point in the Libyan Desert) is a raised sandstone plateau adjacent to the granite part further west. The plain to the north of Uweinat is dotted with eroded volcanic features. With the discovery of oil in the 1950s also came the discovery of a massive aquifer underneath much of the country. The water in this aquifer pre-dates the last ice ages and the Sahara desert itself. This area also contains the Arkenu structures, which have been hypothesized to be double impact craters.
Government and politics
The legislature of Libya is the unicameral General National Congress, which has 200 seats.
On 7 July 2012, Libyans voted in parliamentary elections, the first free elections in almost 40 years. Around thirty women were elected to become members of parliament. Early results of the vote showed the National Forces Alliance, led by former interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril, as front runner. The Justice and Construction Party, affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, has done less well than similar parties in Egypt and Tunisia. It won 17 out of 80 seats that were contested by parties, but about 60 independents have since joined its caucus.
As of January 2013, there was mounting public pressure on the National Congress to set up a drafting body to create a new constitution. Congress had not yet decided whether the members of the body would be elected or appointed.
Following the 2012 elections, Freedom House improved Libya's rating from Not Free to Partly Free, and now considers the country to be an electoral democracy.
Gaddafi merged civil and sharia courts in 1973. Civil courts now employ sharia judges who sit in regular courts of appeal and specialise in sharia appellate cases. Laws regarding personal status are derived from Islamic law.
The Libyan National Army comprises a ground army, an air force and a navy. It is currently being re-established by the Libyan government, as Libya's previous national army was defeated in the Libyan civil war and disbanded. As of May 2012, an estimated 35,000 personnel have joined its ranks.
As of November 2012, it was deemed to be still in the embryonic stage of development. President Mohammed el-Megarif promised that empowering the army and police force is the government’s biggest priority. President el-Megarif also ordered that all of the country's militias must come under government authority or disband.
Militias have so far refused to be integrated into a central security force. Many of these militias are disciplined, but the most powerful of them answer only to the executive councils of various Libyan cities. These militias make up the so-called Libyan Shield, a parallel national force, which operates at the request, rather than at the order, of the defence ministry.
Libya's foreign policies have fluctuated since 1951. As a Kingdom, Libya maintained a definitively pro-Western stance, and was recognized as belonging to the conservative traditionalist bloc in the League of Arab States (the present-day Arab League), of which it became a member in 1953. The government was also friendly towards Western countries such as the United Kingdom, United States, France, Italy, Greece, and established full diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in 1955.
Although the government supported Arab causes, including the Moroccan and Algerian independence movements, it took little active part in the Arab-Israeli dispute or the tumultuous inter-Arab politics of the 1950s and early 1960s. The Kingdom was noted for its close association with the West, while it steered a conservative course at home.
After the 1969 coup, Muammar Gaddafi closed American and British bases and partly nationalized foreign oil and commercial interests in Libya.
Gaddafi was known for backing a number of leaders viewed as anathema to Westernization and political liberalism, including Ugandan President Idi Amin, Central African Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa, Ethiopian strongman Haile Mariam Mengistu, Liberian President Charles Taylor, and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević.
Relations with the West were strained by a series of incidents for most of Gaddafi's rule, including the killing of London policewoman Yvonne Fletcher, the bombing of a West Berlin nightclub frequented by U.S. servicemen, and the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which led to UN sanctions in the 1990s, though by the late 2000s, the United States and other Western powers had normalised relations with Libya.
Gaddafi's decision to abandon the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction after the Iraq War saw Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein overthrown and put on trial led to Libya being hailed as a success for Western soft power initiatives in the War on Terror.
Historically the area of Libya was considered three provinces (or states), Tripolitania in the northwest, Barka (Cyrenaica) in the east, and Fezzan in the southwest. It was the conquest by Italy in the Italo-Turkish War that united them in a single political unit.
Since 2007, Libya has been divided into 22 districts ( baladiyat):
The Libyan economy depends primarily upon revenues from the oil sector, which accounts for 80% of GDP and 97% of exports. Libya holds the largest proven oil reserves in Africa and is an important contributor to the global supply of light, sweet crude. Apart from petroleum, the other natural resources are natural gas and gypsum. The International Monetary Fund estimated Libya's real GDP growth at 122% in 2012 and 16.7% in 2013, after a 60% plunge in 2011.
The World Bank defines Libya as an 'Upper Middle Income Economy', along with only seven other African countries. Substantial revenues from the energy sector, coupled with a small population, give Libya one of the highest per capita GDPs in Africa. This allowed the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya state to provide an extensive level of social security, particularly in the fields of housing and education.
Libya faces many structural problems including a lack of institutions, weak governance, and chronic structural unemployment. The economy displays a lack of economic diversification and significant reliance on immigrant labour. Libya has traditionally relied on unsustainably high levels of public sector hiring to create employment. In the mid-2000s, the government employed about 70% of all national employees. Unemployment is the highest in the region at 21%, according to the latest census figures. According to an Arab League report, unemployment for women stands at 18% while for the figure for men is 21%, making Libya the only Arab country where there are more unemployed men than women. Libya has high levels of social inequality, high rates of youth unemployment and regional economic disparities. Water supply is also a problem, with some 28% of the population not having access to safe drinking water in 2000.
Libya imports up to 90% of its cereal consumption requirements, and imports of wheat in 2012/13 was estimated at about 1 million tonnes. The 2012 wheat production was estimated at about 200,000 tonnes. The government hopes to increase food production to 800,000 tonnes of cereals by 2020. However, natural and environmental conditions limit Libya’s agricultural production potential. Before 1958, agriculture was the country’s main source of revenue, making up about 30% of GDP. With the discovery of oil in 1958, the size of the agriculture sector declined rapidly, comprising less than 5% GDP by 2005.
The country joined OPEC in 1962. Libya is not a WTO member, but negotiations for its accession started in 2004.
In the early 1980s, Libya was one of the wealthiest countries in the world; its GDP per capita was higher than some developed countries.
In the early 2000s officials of the Jamahiriya era carried out economic reforms to reintegrate Libya into the global economy. UN sanctions were lifted in September 2003, and Libya announced in December 2003 that it would abandon programs to build weapons of mass destruction. Other steps have included applying for membership of the World Trade Organization, reducing subsidies, and announcing plans for privatization. Authorities privatized more than 100 government owned companies after 2003 in industries including oil refining, tourism and real estate, of which 29 were 100% foreign owned. Many international oil companies returned to the country, including oil giants Shell and ExxonMobil. After sanctions were lifted there was a gradual increase of air traffic, and by 2005 there were 1.5 million yearly air travellers. Libya had long been a notoriously difficult country for Western tourists to visit due to stringent visa requirements.
In 2007 Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the second-eldest son of Muammar Gaddafi, was involved in a green development project called the Green Mountain Sustainable Development Area, which sought to bring tourism to Cyrene and to preserve Greek ruins in the area.
In August 2011 it was estimated that it would take at least 10 years to rebuild Libya's infrastructure. Even before the 2011 war, Libya's infrastructure was in a poor state due to "utter neglect" by Gaddafi's administration. By October 2012, the economy had recovered from the 2011 conflict, with oil production returning to near normal levels. Oil production was more than 1.6 million barrels per day before the war. By October 2012, the average oil production has surpassed 1.4 million bpd. The resumption of production was made possible thanks to the quick return of major Western companies, like Total, Eni, Repsol, Wintershall and Occidental.
Libya is a large country with a relatively small population, but the population is concentrated very narrowly along the coast. Population density is about 50 persons per km² (130/sq. mi.) in the two northern regions of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, but falls to less than one person per km² (2.6/sq. mi.) elsewhere. Ninety percent of the people live in less than 10% of the area, primarily along the coast. About 88% of the population is urban, mostly concentrated in the three largest cities, Tripoli, Benghazi and Misrata. Libya has a population of about 6.5 million, 27.7% of whom are under the age of 15. In 1984 the population was 3.6 million, an increase from the 1.54 million reported in 1964.
There are about 140 tribes and clans in Libya. Family life is important for Libyan families, the majority of which live in apartment blocks and other independent housing units, with precise modes of housing depending on their income and wealth. Although the Libyan Arabs traditionally lived nomadic lifestyles in tents, they have now settled in various towns and cities. Because of this, their old ways of life are gradually fading out. An unknown small number of Libyans still live in the desert as their families have done for centuries. Most of the population has occupations in industry and services, and a small percentage is in agriculture.
According to the World Refugee Survey 2008, published by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Libya hosted a population of refugees and asylum seekers numbering approximately 16,000 in 2007. Of this group, approximately 9,000 persons were from Palestine, 3,200 from Sudan, 2,500 from Somalia and 1,100 from Iraq. Libya reportedly deported thousands of illegal entrants in 2007 without giving them the opportunity to apply for asylum. Refugees faced discrimination from Libyan officials when moving in the country and seeking employment.
The original inhabitants of Libya belonged predominantly to various Berber ethnic groups; however, the long series of foreign invasions – particularly by Arabs and Turks – have had a profound and lasting influence on Libya's demographics. Today, Libyans are primarily Arab or a mixture of Arab and Berber ethnicities, or a mixture of Arab and Turkish ethnicities. The Turkish minority are often called " Kouloughlis" and are concentrated in and around villages and towns. Other ethnic minorities include Libyan blacks, the Tuaregs, and the Tebou.
Among foreign residents, the largest groups are citizens of other African nations – including North Africans (primarily Egyptians) – and Sub-Saharan Africans. In 2011, there were also an estimated 60,000 Bangladeshis, 30,000 Chinese and 30,000 Filipinos in Libya. Libya is home to a large illegal population which numbers more than one million, mostly Egyptians and Sub-Saharan Africans. Libya has a small Italian minority. Previously, there was a visible presence of Italian settlers, but many left after independence in 1947 and many more left in 1970 after the accession of Muammar Gaddafi.
The main language spoken in Libya is Arabic (the Libyan dialect) by 95% of Libyans, and Modern Standard Arabic is also the official language; the Berber languages spoken by 5% (i.e. Berber and Tuareg languages), which do not have official status, are spoken by Berbers and Tuaregs in the south part of the country beside the Arabic language. Berber speakers live above all in the Jebel Nafusa region ( Tripolitania), the town of Zuwara on the coast, and the small city-oases of Ghadames and Awjila. In addition, Tuaregs speak Tamahaq, the only known Northern Tamasheq language such as Ghat, also Toubou is spoken in some pockets in Qatrun and Kufra. Italian and English are sometimes spoken in the big cities, although Italian speakers are mainly among the older generation.
By far the predominant religion in Libya is Islam with 97% of the population associating with the faith. The vast majority of Libyan Muslims adhere to Sunni Islam, which provides both a spiritual guide for individuals and a keystone for government policy, but a minority (between 5 and 10%) adhere to Ibadism (a branch of Kharijism), above all in the Jebel Nafusa and the town of Zuwara, west of Tripoli. A Libyan form of Sufism is also common in parts of the country.
Before the 1930s, the Senussi Movement was the primary Islamic movement in Libya. This was a religious revival adapted to desert life. Its zawaaya (lodges) were found in Tripolitania and Fezzan, but Senussi influence was strongest in Cyrenaica. Rescuing the region from unrest and anarchy, the Senussi movement gave the Cyrenaican tribal people a religious attachment and feelings of unity and purpose.
This Islamic movement, which was eventually destroyed by both Italian invasion and later the Gaddafi government, was very conservative and somewhat different from the Islam that exists in Libya today. Gaddafi asserted that he was a devout Muslim, and his government was taking a role in supporting Islamic institutions and in worldwide proselytising on behalf of Islam.
There are small foreign communities of Christians. Coptic Orthodox Christianity, which is the Christian Church of Egypt, is the largest and most historical Christian denomination in Libya. There are over 60,000 Egyptian Copts in Libya, as they comprise over 1% of the population. There are an estimated 40,000 Roman Catholics in Libya who are served by two Bishops, one in Tripoli (serving the Italian community) and one in Benghazi (serving the Maltese community). There is also a small Anglican community, made up mostly of African immigrant workers in Tripoli; it is part of the Anglican Diocese of Egypt. People have been arrested on suspicion of being Christian missionaries, as proselytising is illegal.
Libya was until recent times the home of one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world, dating back to at least 300 BC. In 1942 the Italian Fascist authorities set up forced labor camps south of Tripoli for the Jews, including Giado (about 3,000 Jews) and Gharyan, Jeren, and Tigrinna. In Giado some 500 Jews died of weakness, hunger, and disease. In 1942, Jews who were not in the concentration camps were heavily restricted in their economic activity and all men between 18 and 45 years were drafted for forced labor. In August 1942, Jews from Tripolitania were interned in a concentration camp at Sidi Azaz. In the three years after November 1945, more than 140 Jews were murdered, and hundreds more wounded, in a series of pogroms. By 1948, about 38,000 Jews remained in the country. Upon Libya's independence in 1951, most of the Jewish community emigrated.
|Largest cities or towns of Libya
|4||Bayda||Jabal al Akhdar||250,000|
Libya is culturally similar to its neighboring Maghrebian states. Libyans consider themselves very much a part of a wider Arab community. This is strengthened by Arabic being the only official language of the state. Under dictatorship the teaching of foreign languages previously taught in academic institutions was forbidden, along with even the use of the Berber language, leaving entire generations of Libyans with limitations in their comprehension of the English language.
Libyan Arabs have a heritage in the traditions of the previously nomadic Bedouin tribes and most Libyans will associate themselves with a particular family name originating from tribal or conquest based, typically from Ottoman forefathers, heritage.
There are few theaters or art galleries due to cultural repression and lack of infrastructure development under the regime of dictatorship. For many years there have been no public theaters, and only very few cinemas showing foreign films. The tradition of folk culture is still alive and well, with troupes performing music and dance at frequent festivals, both in Libya and abroad.
A large number of Libyan television stations are devoted to political review, Islamic topics and cultural phenomena. A number of TV stations air various styles of traditional Libyan music. Tuareg music and dance are popular in Ghadames and the south. Libyan television broadcasts air programs mostly in Arabic though usually have time slots for English and French programs. A 1996 analysis by the Committee to Protect Journalists found Libya’s media was the most tightly controlled in the Arab world during the country's dictatorship. However as of 2012 hundreds of TV stations have begun to air due to the collapse of censorship from the old regime and the initiation of "free media".
Many Libyans frequent the country's beach and they also visit Libya's archaeological sites—especially Leptis Magna, which is widely considered to be one of the best preserved Roman archaeological sites in the world. The most common form of public transport between cities is the bus, though many people travel by automobile. There are no railway services in Libya, but these are planned for construction in the near future (see rail transport in Libya). The nation's capital, Tripoli, boasts many museums and archives; these include the Government Library, the Ethnographic Museum, the Archaeological Museum, the National Archives, the Epigraphy Museum and the Islamic Museum. The Red Castle Museum located in the capital near the coast and right in the city centre, built in consultation with UNESCO, may be the country's most famous.
Libyan cuisine is a vibrant fusion between the different Italian, Bedouin and traditional Arab culinary traditions. Pasta is a staple diet of the Western side of Libya whereas rice is generally the food staple of the east.
Common Libyan foods include several variations of red (tomato) sauce based pasta dishes (similar to the Italian Sugo all'arrabbiata dish); rice, usually with lamb or chicken (typically stewed, fried, grilled, or boiled in-sauce); couscous which is steam cooked whilst held over boiling red (tomato) sauce and meat (sometimes also containing courgettes and chickpeas) which is typically served with it along with cucumber slices, lettuce and olives.
Bazeen, a dish made from barley flower and served with red tomato sauce, is customarily eaten communally, with several people sharing the same dish, usually by hand. This dish is commonly served at traditional weddings or festivities. Ousba`an is a sweet version of Bazeen, made from white flower and served with a mix of honey, ghee or butter. shurba is a red tomato sauce based soup, usually served with small grains of pasta.
A very common snack eaten by Libyan is known as 'khubs bi' tun' literally meaning bread with tuna fish, served as usually a baked baguette or pita bread stuffed with tuna fish that has been mixed with Harissa (chili sauce) and usually olive oil. Many snack vendors prepare these sandwiches and they can be found all over Libya. Libyan restaurants may serve international cuisine, or may serve simpler fare such as lamb, chicken, vegetable stew, potatoes and macaroni. Due to severe lack of infrastructure, many under-developed areas and small towns do not have restaurants and instead food stores may be the only source to obtain food products. Alcohol consumption is illegal in the entire country.
There are four main ingredients of traditional Libyan food: olives (and olive oil), palm dates, grains and milk. Grains are roasted, ground, sieved and used for making bread, cakes, soups and bazeen. Dates are harvested, dried and can be eaten as they are, made into syrup or slightly fried and eaten with bsisa and milk. After eating, Libyans often drink black tea. This is normally repeated a second time (for the second glass of tea), and in the third round the tea is served with roasted peanuts or roasted almonds known as 'shahi bil louse' (mixed with the tea in the same glass).
Libya's population includes 1.7 million students, over 270,000 of whom study at the tertiary level. Basic education in Libya is free for all citizens, and is compulsory up to the secondary level. The adult literacy rate in 2010 was 89.2%.
After Libya's independence in 1951, its first university – the University of Libya – was established in Benghazi by royal decree. In the 1975–76 academic year the number of university students was estimated to be 13,418. As of 2004, this number has increased to more than 200,000, with an extra 70,000 enrolled in the higher technical and vocational sector. The rapid increase in the number of students in the higher education sector has been mirrored by an increase in the number of institutions of higher education.
Since 1975 the number of universities has grown from two to nine and after their introduction in 1980, the number of higher technical and vocational institutes currently stands at 84 (with 12 public universities). Since 2011 some new private universities such as the Libyan International Medical University have been established. Although before 2011 a small number of private institutions were given accreditation, the majority of Libya's higher education has always been financed by the public budget. In 1998 the budget allocation for education represented 38.2% of the Jamahiriya's total national budget.
In 2010, spending on healthcare accounted for 3.88% of the country's GDP. In 2009, there were 18.71 physicians and 66.95 nurses per 10,000 inhabitants. The life expectancy at birth was 74.95 years in 2011, or 72.44 years for males and 77.59 years for females.