Winds of Spring in Libya and the issue of the ‘forcibly displaced’ - YASIN AKTAY

Winds of Spring in Libya and the issue of the ‘forcibly displaced’

Libya was one of the three main Arab Spring countries in North Africa. Gaddafi, who ruled Libya single-handedly with an iron fist for 40 years through a unique management style and a ruthless regime, became the third dictator after Ben Ali of Tunisia and Mubarak of Egypt to be overthrown.

Unlike the previous two, however, Gaddafi opted to stand up to the popular uprising and wage war on his people. He even accused Mubarak and Ben Ali, who were overthrown before him, of cowardice and submission, and announced that he would never choose their path. That's why his end was even more disastrous than the other two.

The revolution in Egypt ended on Jan. 25, and Mohammed Morsi was elected President in the second round in the elections held after more than two years of transition. However, less than a year later, he was overthrown after a bloody coup. The same coup was attempted in Tunisia, albeit via different means, but it has proven unsuccessful.

The people of Tunisia, in reference to being the country that initiated the Arab Spring, specifically addressed to the United Arab Emirates, the financier and mastermind of counter-revolutions: "We have exported revolution to our neighbors, we have no intention of importing coups," and declared that they will not stray from the path of the revolution.

Libya, meanwhile, was unable to prevent the coup that took place next door from penetrating it through sheer force and insidious plotting. Former General Haftar, who had been living in the United States for a long time, re-imported the Egyptian-model coup to Libya with the logistical and military support of Egypt's putschist Sisi.

In 2014, less than a year after the coup in Egypt, Haftar announced that the National General Congress, which was elected in Libya, was dissolved. Military uniform-clad and through the command he appointed, he announced a new roadmap for the transition period.

Haftar, who started to work by accusing the legitimate administration in Tripoli of terrorism, also resorted to a type of wooden discourse that would carve out a space for him at the world stage. The armed force he seized somehow gave him the opportunity to have a say and impose his will. What he was looking for was never a new, pluralistic, participatory Libya that would create an environment for dialogue that would include the entire Libyan people.

Haftar, who set out by carrying out his coup in the East, waged war against those in Tripoli and Misrata, yet his first showdown took place in the very same place he started from, in the same Eastern part of the country where he is based today. Initially, he fought against the people of Benghazi, where he embarked on his reign of terror. He managed to subjugate and intimidate the people of Benghazi by either massacring, imprisoning or deporting everyone who opposed him. The path he followed was that of Gaddafi’s, yet his was even more brutal and violent than his predecessor. Just as his chief supporter and supplier, Sisi, is even more brutal and vicious than previous Egyptian dictators.

He displaced at least 250,000 people from Benghazi, Dernah, Al-Marj, and Bayda Ajdabiya, which he had captured after he just seized power. Most of them are now internally displaced in Benghazi and Misrata. Many of them sought the open waters of the Mediterranean through illegal immigration, news of which we have now grown accustomed to hearing every day, and many of them fell victim to Europe's brutal anti-immigration operations before reaching European shores, drowning in the waters of the Mediterranean.

I recently had the pleasure of receiving Saad Yassin al-Oubeyidi, the head of the Association of Benghazi’s Forcibly Displaced, and what he had to say on this matter makes one’s blood boil.

Saad Yassin has been drawing attention to the state of desperation experienced at the dialogue sessions over the future of Libya that are held under the auspices of the UN in Morocco and Tunisia.

He also had the following to say about the matter: “It is out of injustice and desperation that Haftar, who does not even recognize anyone else in any way and whose sole goal is to establish his rule over everything, is treated as a party in these meetings. Because Haftar has never pursued dialogue. His only goal has always only been to annihilate anyone who can share power. Today, he’s only holding on to dialogue because it’s the only thing that could save him after Turkey entered the scene, but he does not deserve to be a part of this dialogue in any way. Take a look at the mass graves he left behind in Tarhuna. This is his modus operandi. Due to all that, he is seen as the representative of the East today. In fact, how can the fact that he has established his rule by committing countless crimes against humanity be disregarded? The military superiority he achieved there was through practices that would require him to stand trial in human rights courts. These actions should only result in him being convicted, as opposed to being granted the right to represent the East. "

Said Yasin continued as follows: "Here, we are living witnesses of how Haftar does not represent the East and the way he established his dominance there, after at least 150,000 people have been forcibly displaced from Benghazi to Tripoli and Misrata. We have been displaced, and don’t for a second think that those who stayed there are pleased with him. Haftar, as a putschist, is someone who has no claim to representation and no right to authority like all coup plotters.”

Despite this being the case, there is still no representation for the displaced in any of the platforms where the future of Libya is being discussed today.

However, in such cases, one of the most important problems has to be the issue of "forcibly displaced people". As such a matter is considered a very secondary one in all meetings, not a single seat to represent them is allocated in any of the assemblies that have been formed. While the criteria for the list of 75 people formed in Tunisia under the supervision of Stephanie Williams, Deputy Special Envoy of Libya to the United Nations (UN) Secretary General was already problematic to begin with, the absence of any representatives for such an important segment of the people raises its own question mark.

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