Despite its proximity to Europe and its status as a major African oil producer, Libya‘s sparse population and relative isolation from its neighbors make the stakes of civil unrest much lower than in other regions of the Arab world.
Libya returned to the headlines Saturday when a protest in front of the headquarters of the National Transitional Council (NTC) turned violent. A group of demonstrators in Benghazi broke into the building, vandalized and looted the property and reportedly drove NTC head Mustafa Abdel-Jalil to flee through a back exit. A leading member of the council has since resigned, and Abdel-Jalil has warned that the country risks heading toward civil war if protests continue to intensify. The euphoria many Libyans felt at the death of former leader Moammar Gadhafi last October has faded, and though elections for a constituent assembly are scheduled for June, it is hard to see a stable, democratic government on the horizon in Libya.
The young men at the protest shared a general feeling of discontent with Libya’s direction more than three months after Gadhafi’s death. But they also share another trait: they all live in Benghazi, the city where the NTC was formed and is supposed to have the highest level of support. Benghazi is where the Libyan revolution started, and many of the NTC leaders come from the city. In less than a year, the council’s self-appointed leaders — many are still involved in the governance of the country — have gone from beloved to vilified in the eyes of many who supported the revolution, including those from Benghazi. Continue reading