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Een democratische omwenteling in de Arabische Wereld? Deel 9– 9 ثورة ديمقراطية في العالم العربي؟ جزء


nieuws en artikelenoverzicht van de actuele gebeurtenissen in de Arabische wereld deel 9 (zie ook deel 1, deel 2, deel 3, deel 4, deel 5deel 6, deel 7 en deel 8)



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Gaddafi loses more Libyan cities


Protesters wrest control of more cities as unrest sweeps African nation despite Muammar Gaddafi’s threat of crackdown.

Last Modified: 23 Feb 2011 17:36 GMT
Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s long-standing ruler, has reportedly lost control of more cities as anti-government protests continue to sweep the African nation despite his threat of a brutal crackdown.Protesters in Misurata said on Wednesday they had wrested the western city from government control. In a statement on the internet, army officers stationed in the city pledged “total support for the protesters”.The protesters also seemed to be in control of much of the country’s east, and an Al Jazeera correspondent, reporting from the city of Tobruk, 140km from the Egyptian border, said there was no presence of security forces.”From what I’ve seen, I’d say the people of eastern Libya are the ones in control,” Hoda Abdel-Hamid, our correspondent, said.She said there were no officials manning the border when the Al Jazeera team crossed into Libya.‘People in charge’“All along the border, we didn’t see one policeman, we didn’t see one soldier and people here told us they [security forces] have all fled or are in hiding and that the people are now in charge, meaning all the way from the border, Tobruk, and then all the way up to Benghazi.


“People tell me it’s also quite calm in Bayda and Benghazi. They do say, however, that ‘militias’  are roaming around, especially at night. They describe them as African men, they say they speak French so they think they’re from Chad.”

Major-General Suleiman Mahmoud, the commander of the armed forces in Tobruk, told Al Jazeera that the troops led by him had switched loyalties.

 “We are on the side of the people,” he said. “I was with him [Gaddafi] in the past but the situation has changed – he’s a tyrant.”

Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, was where people first rose up in revolt against Gaddafi’s 42-year long rule more than a week ago. The rebellion has since spread to other cities despite heavy-handed attempts by security forces to quell the unrest.

With authorities placing tight restrictions on the media, flow of news from Libya is at best patchy. But reports filtering out suggest at least 300 people have been killed in the violence.

But Franco Frattini, the Italian foreign minister, said there were “credible’ reports that at least 1,000 had died in the clampdown.

Defiant Gaddafi

Amid the turmoil, a defiant Gaddafi has vowed to quash the uprising.

He delivered a rambling speech on television on Tuesday night, declaring he would die a martyr in Libya, and threatening to purge opponents “house by house” and “inch by inch”.

He blamed the uprising in the country on “Islamists”, and warned that an “Islamic emirate” has already been set up in Bayda and Derna, where he threatened the use of extreme force.


Twitter Reaction

Libya Protests

Jnoubiyeh profile

Jnoubiyeh The death toll keeps rising in #Libya. At least 500 Libyans are estimated to have been murdered by #Gaddafi since the uprising began. #Feb17 3 days ago · reply 700+ recent retweets

NSlayton profile

NSlayton Saif #Gaddafi just blamed #Canada for chaos. I think that’s the first time someone’s blamed Canada for war outside of South Park. #libya 3 days ago · reply 1000+ recent retweets

AJELive profile

AJELive Al Jazeera receiving reports live ammunition being fired on protesters marching on #Gaddafi compound in Tripoli #Libya http://aje.me/fwtYjF 2 days ago · reply 100+ recent retweets

He urged Libyans to take to the streets and show their support for their leader.

Several hundred government loyalists heeded his call in Tripoli, the capital, on Wednesday, staging a pro-Gaddafi rally in the city’s Green Square.

Fresh gunfire was reported in the capital on Wednesday, after Gaddafi called on his supporters to take back the streets from anti-government protesters.

But Gaddafi’s speech has done little to stem the steady stream of defections from his side.

Libyan diplomats across the world have either resigned in protest at the use of violence against citizens, or renounced Gaddafi’s leadership, saying that they stand with the protesters.

Late on Tuesday night, General Abdul-Fatah Younis, the country’s interior minister, became the latest government official to stand down, saying that he was resigning to support what he termed as the “February 17 revolution”.

He urged the Libyan army to join the people and their “legitimate demands”.

On Wednesday, Youssef Sawani, a senior aide to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, one of Muammar Gaddafi’s sons, resigned from his post “to express dismay against violence”, Reuters reported.

Earlier, Mustapha Abdeljalil, the country’s justice minister, had resigned in protest at the “excessive use of violence” against protesters, and diplomat’s at Libya’s mission to the United Nations called on the Libyan army to help remove “the tyrant Muammar Gaddafi”.

A group of army officers has also issued a statement urging soldiers to “join the people” and remove Gaddafi from power.





Al Jazeera and agencies



Gaddafi struggles to keep control


Pro-democracy protesters take over eastern part of the country, as state structure appears to be disintegrating.

Last Modified: 24 Feb 2011 12:15 GMT
Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, is struggling to maintain his authority in the country, as major swathes of territory in the east of the vast North African country now appear to be under the control of pro-democracy protesters.On Thursday, state television reported that he was due to make a public address to residents of Az Zawiyah, a town that saw fierce clashes between pro- and anti-government forces through the day.Ali, an eyewitness to the shooting, told Al Jazeera by phone that soldiers began shooting at the protesters with heavy artillery at around 6am and had continued for 5 hours.”They were trying to kill the people, not terrify them,” he said, explaining that the soldiers had aimed at the protesters’ head and chest.He estimated as many as 100 protesters had been killed. Approximately 400 people had been injured and were now in the town’s hospital. He said he had filmed the bodies after the shooting had stopped, but was unable to send the footage because internet access has been cut off.”The people here didn’t ask for anything, they just asked for a constitution and democracy and freedom, they didn’t want to shoot anyone,” he said.Gunfire could be heard in the background as Ali spoke, and he said the protesters were expecting the soldiers to launch another direct attack on Martyrs’ Square later in the evening.Despite the risk of more shooting, he said he and the other protesters would continue their protest, even if it cost their lives.Earlier, a Libyan army unit led by Gaddafi’s ally, Naji Shifsha, blasted the minaret of a mosque being occupied by protesters in Az Zawiyah, according to witnesses. They said that protesters had sustained , but exact figures remain unclear.


According to witnesses, pro-Gaddafi forces also attacked the town of Misrata, which was under the control of protesters. They told Al Jazeera that “revolutionaries had driven out the security forces”, who had used “heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft guns”.

They said the pro-Gaddafi forces were called the “Hamza brigade”.

Similar clashes have also been reported in the cities of Sabha in the south, and Sabratha, near Tripoli, which is in the west.

Also on Thursday, anti-government protesters appeared to be in control of the country’s eastern coastline, running from the Egyptian border through to the cities of Tobruk and Benghazi, the country’s second largest city.

Franco Frattini, the Italian foreign minister, said on Wednesday that protesters also held the city of Cyrenaica.

Other towns that appear to no longer be under Gaddafi’s control include Derna and Bayda, among others across the country’s east.

Reuters news agency, quoting Egyptian nationals fleeing the town of Zoura in the country’s west, reported that anti-government protesters had taken over the city.

Ahmed Gadhaf al-Dam, one of Gaddafi’s top security official and a cousin, defected on Wednesday, saying in a statement issued by his Cairo office that he left the country “in protest and to show disagreement” with “grave violations to human rights and human and international laws”.

Al-Dam was travelling to Syria from Cairo on a private plane, sources told Al Jazeera. He denied allegations that he was asked to recruit Egyptian tribes on the border to fight in Libya and said he went to Egypt in protest against his government’s used of violence.

‘People in control’

Soldiers in the cities controlled by the protesters have switched sides, filling the void and no longer supporting Gaddafi’s government. In a statement posted on the internet, army officers stationed in Misurata pledged their “total support” for the protesters.

Major-General Suleiman Mahmoud, the commander of the armed forces in Tobruk, earlier told Al Jazeera that the troops led by him had switched loyalties.

“We are on the side of the people,” he said. “I was with him [Gaddafi] in the past but the situation has changed – he’s a tyrant.”

Thousands gathered in Tobruk to celebrate their taking of the city on Wednesday, with Gaddafi opponents waving flags of the old monarchy, honking cars and firing in the sky.

“In 42 years, he turned Libya upside-down,” said Hossi, an anti-government protester there. “Here the leader is a devil. There is no one in the world like him.”

Armed opponents of the government are also patrolling the highway that runs along the country’s Mediterranean coast. Al Jazeera’s correspondent said that even in the towns under anti-government forces’ control, gangs of pro-Gaddafi militias had been reported to be roaming the streets at night.

Follow more of Al Jazeera’s special coverage here 

“From what I’ve seen, I’d say the people of eastern Libya are the one’s in control,” Hoda Abdel-Hamid, Al Jazeera’s correspondent who is in Libya, reported. She said that no Libyan officials had been manning the border where Al Jazeera’s team crossed into the country.

Capital paralysed

Tripoli, the Libyan capital, meanwhile, is said to be virtually locked down, and streets remained mostly deserted, even though Gaddafi had called for his supporters to come out in force on Wednesday and “cleanse” the country from the anti-government demonstrators.

Libyan authorities said food supplies were available as “normal” in the shops and urged schools and public services to restore regular services, although economic activity and banks have been paralysed since Tuesday.

London-based newspaper the Independent reported, however, that petrol and food prices in the capital have trebled as a result of serious shortages.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Muammar Gaddafi’s son, said on Thursday that an international investigation committee and media will be invited to tour Tripoli. During a tour of a state television channel, he emphasised that life was “normal” in the city.


Twitter Reaction

Libya Protests

ABCnewsIntern profile

ABCnewsIntern Not sure who is making more sense, #Assange or #Gaddafi. #libya #wikileaks about 1 minute ago · reply

habibahamid profile

habibahamid RT @AhmadHKh: I feel bad for any person who is doing instant translation of this speech #WTF #Libya #Gaddafi #Feb17 about 1 minute ago · reply


  12 new tweets

Echo2Zs profile

Echo2Zs It’s not the drugs, #Gaddafi, it’s the #KFC, the Meal of Champions! #Libya about 1 minute ago · reply

tweetableman profile

tweetableman RT @AlArabiya_Eng: “I only have a ‘moral’ power on Libya”, Gaddafi says #AlArabiya #gaddafi #Libya about 1 minute ago · reply

Jnoubiyeh profile

Jnoubiyeh The death toll keeps rising in #Libya. At least 500 Libyans are estimated to have been murdered by #Gaddafi since the uprising began. #Feb17 4 days ago · reply 700+ recent retweets

On Wednesday, an army general told Al Jazeera that two pilots had ejected from their air force jet near the town of Agdabia after refusing to bomb civilians in Benghazi, which has been a stronghold of the anti-government protesters.

In addition to desertions by many army troops, Gaddafi has also been faced with several diplomats in key posts, as well as cabinet ministers, refusing to recognise his authority and calling for him to be removed.

Hundreds killed

Foreign governments, meanwhile, continue to rush to evacuate their citizens, with thousands flooding to the country’s borders with Tunisia and Egypt. The United States, Britain, France, Italy, Turkey, China, France and India, among others, have made arrangements for their nationals to leave the country.

James Bays, Al Jazeera’s correspondent, reported that there was “a desperate scene at Tripoli’s airport”. He said that there was a “log-jam” there, with some saying that they have been trying to leave the country for three days.

“The airport is still very firmly under the control of Gaddafi’s people,” he reported, adding that secret police are patrolling the area, and several checkpoints have been set up on the road leading there.

The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights put the number of people killed at 640, though Nouri el-Mismari, a former protocol chief to Gaddafi, and Frattini, the Italian foreign minister, put the number closer to 1,000.

Denying these figures as “fabrications,” the Libyan interior ministry on Wednesday said the death toll since the violence began is only 308 people.

Since making statements against Gaddafi, el-Mismari’s lawyer has said that his daughters, who live in Libya, were “abducted … and forcibly taken to the [state] television [station] to deny their father’s statements”.



Gaddafi blames unrest on al-Qaeda


Libyan leader says protesters are young people being manipulated by al-Qaeda, as violence continues across the country.

Last Modified: 24 Feb 2011 16:02 GMT
Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, has said in a speech on Libyan state television that al-Qaeda is responsible for the uprising in Libya.”It is obvious now that this issue is run by al-Qaeda,” he said, speaking by phone from an unspecified location on Thursday.He said that the protesters were young people who were being manipulated by al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden, and that many were doing so under the influence of drugs.”No one above the age of 20 would actually take part in these events,” he said. “They are taking advantage of the young age of these people [to commit violent acts] because they are not legally liable!”At the same time, the leader warned that those behind the unrest would be prosecuted in the country’s courts.

                       He called on Libyan parents to keep their children at home.

“How can you justify such misbehaviour from people who live in good neighbourhoods?” he asked.

The situation in Libya was different to Egypt or Tunisia he said, arguing that unlike people in the neighbouring countries, Libyans have “no reason to complain whatsoever”.

Libyans had easy access to low interest loans and cheap daily commodities, he argued. The one reform he did hint might be possible was a raise in salaries.

‘Symbolic’ leader

Gaddafi argued that he was a purely “symbolic” leader with no real political power, comparing his role to that played by Queen Elizabeth II in England.

He also warned that the protests could cut off Libya oil production. “If [the protesters] do not go to work regularly, the flow of oil will stop,” he said.

Ibrahim Jibreel, a Libyan political activist, said that the fact that Gaddafi was speaking by phone showed that he did not have the courage to appear publically, and proved that he remained “under self-imposed house arrest in Tripoli”.

Jibreel said there were similarities between Thursday’s speech and one Gaddafi gave earlier in the week.

“The theme of people who have taken pills and hallucinations is one that continues to occur,” he said.
Jibreel noted Gaddafi’s reference to loans and that he would reconsider salaries. “I think that there [are] some concessions that he wants to make, in his own weird way,” he said.


Gaddafi is struggling to maintain his authority in the country, as major swathes of territory in the east of the vast North African country now appear to be under the control of pro-democracy protesters.

Follow more of Al Jazeera’s special coverage here 

Ali, an eyewitness to the shooting, told Al Jazeera by phone that soldiers began shooting at peaceful protesters on Martyrs’ Square with heavy artillery at around 6am and had continued for 5 hours.

“They were trying to kill the people, not terrify them,” he said, explaining that the soldiers had aimed at the protesters’ heads and chests.

He estimated as many as 100 protesters had been killed. Approximately 400 people had been injured and were now in the town’s hospital. He said he had filmed the bodies after the shooting had stopped, but was unable to send the footage because internet access has been cut off.

“The people here didn’t ask for anything, they just asked for a constitution and democracy and freedom, they didn’t want to shoot anyone,” he said.

Gunfire could be heard in the background as Ali spoke, and he said the protesters were expecting the soldiers to launch another direct attack on Martyrs’ Square later in the evening.

Despite the risk of more shooting, he said he and the other protesters would continue their protest, even if it cost their lives.

Mosque ‘attacked’

Also on Thursday, a Libyan army unit led by Gaddafi’s ally, Naji Shifsha, blasted the minaret of a mosque being occupied by protesters in Az Zawiyah, according to witnesses.


Twitter Reaction

Libya Protests

libyafreedomnew profile

libyafreedomnew Strong differences between Gaddafi’s sons … about the father prefers to Saif al-Islam and make it in the interface..#Libya #Gaddafi 5 minutes ago · reply

NadeenR profile

NadeenR #Gaddafi has shares in #Juventus football club. Seriously. #LOL #Libya 4 minutes ago · reply

nihonmama profile

nihonmama RT @libyafreedomnew: Resigned Libyan Justice Minister: There’s no presence for AlQaeda or any terroristic cells here. #Libya #Gaddafi 4 minutes ago · reply


  6 new tweets

DebateFaith profile

DebateFaith – I bet Qaddafi and Pir Pagara have the same ancestors. #Pakistan #Libya: – I bet Qaddafi and Pi… http://bit.ly/h603oe #libya #gaddafi 5 minutes ago · reply

DebateFaith profile

DebateFaith RT @ChangeInLibya: Don’t put sanctions on #libya government. Impose a no fly zone ASAP and start… http://bit.ly/hT8z9v #libya #gaddafi 5 minutes ago · reply

According to witnesses, pro-Gaddafi forces also attacked the town of Misrata, which was under the control of protesters.

They told Al Jazeera that “revolutionaries had driven out the security forces”, who had used “heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft guns”.

They said the pro-Gaddafi forces were called the “Hamza brigade”.

Similar clashes have also been reported in the cities of Sabha in the south, and Sabratha, near Tripoli, which is in the west.

Anti-government protesters appeared to be in control of the country’s eastern coastline, running from the Egyptian border through to the cities of Tobruk and Benghazi, the country’s second largest city.

Ahmed Gadhaf al-Dam, one of Gaddafi’s top security official and a cousin, defected on Wednesday evening, saying in a statement issued by his Cairo office that he left the country “in protest and to show disagreement” with “grave violations to human rights and human and international laws”.

Al-Dam was travelling to Syria from Cairo on a private plane, sources told Al Jazeera. He denied allegations that he was asked to recruit Egyptian tribes on the border to fight in Libya and said he went to Egypt in protest against his government’s used of violence.

Communications blocked

Libyan authorities are working hard to prevent news of the events in the country from reaching the outside world.

Thuraya, a satellite phone provider based in the United Arab Emirates, has faced continuous “deliberate inference” to its services in Libya, the company’s CEO told Al Jazeera.

Samer Halawi, the company’s CEO, said his company will be taking legal action against the Libyan authorities for the jamming of its satellite.

“This is unlawful and this in uncalled for,” he said.

The company’s engineers have had some success in combating the jamming, and operations were back on almost 70 per cent of the Libyan territory on Thursday, Halawi said. The blocking was coming from a location in Tripoli.

The Libyan government has blocked landline and wireless communications, to varying degrees, in recent days.

Some phone services were down again on Thursday. In the town of Az Zawiyah, phone lines were working but internet access was blocked.

Nazanine Moshri, reporting from the northern side of the Tunisian-Libyan border near the town of Ras Ajdir, said that security forces were confiscating cellphones and cameras from people crossing into Tunisia.

“The most important thing to them is to not allow any footage to get across the border into Tunisia,” she reported.

Capital paralysed

Tripoli, the Libyan capital, meanwhile, is said to be virtually locked down, and streets remained mostly deserted, even though Gaddafi had called for his supporters to come out in force on Wednesday and “cleanse” the country from the anti-government demonstrators.

Libyan authorities said food supplies were available as “normal” in the shops and urged schools and public services to restore regular services, although economic activity and banks have been paralysed since Tuesday.

London-based newspaper the Independentreported, however, that petrol and food prices in the capital have trebled as a result of serious shortages.

Foreign governments, meanwhile, continue to rush to evacuate their citizens, with thousands flooding to the country’s borders with Tunisia and Egypt.

Al Jazeera and agencies



Gaddafi addresses crowd in Tripoli


Libyan leader speaks to supporters in the capital’s Green Square, saying he will arm people against protesters.

Last Modified: 25 Feb 2011 18:00 GMT
 Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, has appeared in Tripoli’s Green Square, to address a crowd of his supporters in the capital.”We can defeat any aggression if necessary and arm the people,” Gaddafi said, in footage that was aired on Libyan state television on Friday.”I am in the middle of the people.. we will fight … we will defeat them if they want … we will defeat any foreign aggression.


“Dance … sing and get ready … this is the spirit … this is much better than the lies of the Arab propaganda,” he said.

The speech, which also referred to Libya’s war of independence with Italy, appeared to be aimed at rallying what remains of his support base, with specific reference to the country’s youth.

His last speech, on Thursday evening had been made by phone, leading to speculation about his physical condition.

The footage aired on Friday, however, showed the leader standing above the square, waving his fist as he spoke.

Tarik Yousef, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington, told Al Jazeera that most of the individuals on Green Square are genuine Gaddafi supporters.

“Most of these people have known nothing else but Gaddafi. They don’t know any other leader. And many of them stand to lose when Gaddafi falls,” Yousef said.

“I am not completely surprised that they still think that he is the right man for Libya. What is striking is that [Gaddafi] did not talk about all the liberated cities in his country.

“This was a speech intended show his defiance and to rally against what he calls foreign interference. But even his children have admitted that the east of the country is no longer under the regime’s control.”

Anti-Gaddafi protesters shot

Gaddafi’s speech came on a day when tens of thousands of Libyans in the capital and elsewhere in the country took to the streets calling for an end to his rule.

As demonstrations began in Tripoli following the midday prayer, security forces loyal to Gaddafi reportedly began firing on them. There was heavy gun fire in various Tripoli districts including Fashloum, Ashour, Jumhouria and Souq Al, sources told Al Jazeera.

“The security forces fired indiscriminately on the demonstrators,” said a resident of one of the capital’s eastern suburbs.

“There were deaths in the streets of Sug al-Jomaa,” the resident said.

The death toll since the violence began remains unclear, though on Thursday Francois Zimeray, France’s top human rights official, said it could be as high as 2,000 people killed.

Dissent reaches mosques

Violence flared up even before the Friday sermons were over, according to a source in Tripoli.

“People are rushing out of mosques even before Friday prayers are finished because the state-written sermons were not acceptable, and made them even more angry,” the source said.

Libyan state television aired one such sermon on Friday, in an apparent warning to protesters.

“As the Prophet said, if you dislike your ruler or his behaviour, you should not raise your sword against him, but be patient, for those who disobey the rulers will die as infidels,” the speaker told his congregation in Tripoli.

During Friday prayers a cleric in the town of Mselata, 80km to the east of Tripoli, called for the people to fight back.

Immediately after the prayers, more than more than 2,000 people, some of them armed with rifles taken from the security forces, headed towards Tripol to demand the fall of Gaddafi, Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri reported.

The group made it as far as the city of Tajoura, where it was stopped by a group loyal to Gaddafi.

They were checked by foreign, French-speaking mercenaries and gunfire was exchanged. There were an unknown number of casualties, Moshiri reported, based on information from witnesses who had reached on the Libyan-Tunisian border.

Special forces

People in eastern parts of the country, a region believed to be largely free from Gaddafi’s control, held protests in support for the demonstrations in the capital.

“Friday prayer in Benghazi have seen thousands and thousands on the streets. All the banners are for the benefit of the capital, [they are saying] ‘We’re with you, Tripoli.'” Al Jazeera’s Laurence Lee reported.

In the town of Derna, protesters held banners with the messages such as “We are one Tribe called Libya, our only capital is Tripoli, we want freedom of speech”.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Libya reported on Friday that army commanders in the east who had renounced Gaddafi’s leadership had told her that military commanders in the country’s west were beginning to turn against him.

They warned, however, that the Khamis Brigade, an army special forces brigade that is loyal to the Gaddafi family and is equipped with sophisticated weaponry, is currently still fighting anti-government forces.

The correspondent, who cannot be named for security reasons, said that despite the gains, people are anxious about what Gaddafi might do next, and the fact that his loyalists were still at large.

“People do say that they have broken the fear factor, that they have made huge territorial gains,” she said. “[Yet] there’s no real celebration or euphoria that the job has been done.”

Pro-democracy protesters attacked

On Friday morning, our correspondents reported that the town of Zuwarah was, according to witnesses, abandoned by security forces and completely in the hands of anti-Gaddafi protesters.

Checkpoints in the country’s west on roads leading to the Tunisian border, however, were still being controlled by Gaddafi loyalists.

In the east, similar checkpoints were manned by anti-Gaddafi forces, who had set up a “humanitarian aid corridor” as well as a communications corridor to the Egyptian border, our correspondent reported.

Follow more of Al Jazeera’s special coverage here 

Thousands massed in Az Zawiyah’s Martyr’s Square after the attack, calling on Gaddafi to leave office, and on Friday morning, explosions were heard in the city.

Witnesses say pro-Gaddafi forces were blowing up arms caches, in order to prevent anti-government forces from acquiring those weapons.

Clashes were also reported in the city of Misurata, located 200km east of Tripoli, where witnesses said a pro-Gaddafi army brigade attacked the city’s airport with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

They told Al Jazeera that pro-democracy protesters had managed to fight off that attack. “Revolutionaries have driven out the security forces,” they said, adding that “heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft guns” had been used against them.

Mohamed Senussi, a resident of Misurata, said calm had returned to the city after the “fierce battle” near the airport.

“The people’s spirits here are high, they are celebrating and chanting ‘God is Greatest’,” he told the Reuters news agency by telephone.

Another witness warned, however, that protesters in Misurata felt “isolated” as they were surrounded by nearby towns still in Gaddafi’s control.

Government loses oil terminals


Twitter Reaction

Libya Protests

Soloveo profile

Soloveo Dictator Muammar #Gaddafi stated that he “will fight until the very end.” #Libyans have bravely responded, “And so will we.” #Libya #Feb17 23 seconds ago · reply


  4 new tweets

kingst profile

kingst RT @s0mk: 正如那句话所说:“卡扎菲完成了不可能的任务:他让穆巴拉克显得高贵,让本.阿里显得就是一个天才…”摊上这么一个极品的主,利比亚人,唉…早点结束吧,流血够多了,够判不知道多少个反人类罪了… #Libya #Gaddafi about 1 minute ago · reply

parvezsharma profile

parvezsharma The surreal #Jamahiriya of #Libya unravels. For 40+years #Faustian tyrant #Gaddafi hung out w/ #Shaitan, the devil He now kills with relish. about 1 minute ago · reply

baraneshgh profile

baraneshgh hey, authorities in #italy #Turkey and #theUK #china #russia #venezuala, open yr eyes& look at this MONSTER, #Gaddafi, in #libya #benghazi 3 minutes ago · reply

Protesters and air force personnel who have renounced Gaddafi’s leadership also overwhelmed a nearby military base where Gaddafi loyalists were taking refuge, according to a medical official at the base.

They disabled air force fighter jets at the base so that they could not be used against protesters.

Soldiers helped anti-Gaddafi protesters take the oil terminal in the town of Berga, according to Reuters.

The oil refinery in Ras Lanuf has also halted its operations and most staff has left, according to a source in the company.

Support for Gaddafi within the country’s elite continues to decline. On Friday, Abdel Rahman Al Abar, Libya’s Chief Prosecutor, became one of the latest top officials to resign in protest over the bloodshed.

“What happened and is happening are massacres and bloodshed never witnessed by the Libyan people. The logic of power and violence is being imposed instead of seeking democratic, free, and mutual dialogue,” he said.

His comments came as UN’s highest human-rights body held a special session on Friday to discuss what it’s chief had earlier described as possible “crimes against humanity” by the Gaddafi government. 

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, urged world leaders to “step in vigorously” to end the violent crackdown.

The United Nations Security Council was to hold a meeting on the situation in Libya later in the day, with sanctions the possible imposition of a no-fly zone over the country under Chapter VII of the UN charter on the table.

Al Jazeera and agencies


Anti-terrorism and uprisings


North African leaders have worked with the West against Islamists and migrants – becoming more repressive as a result.

Yasmine Ryan Last Modified: 25 Feb 2011 17:47 GMT
Security forces in Tunisia and other North African countries were armed and given incentives to become more repressive in the name of the fight against ‘terrorism’, activists argue [EPA]

The string of uprisings in North Africa have laid bare Western governments’ relationships with regimes in the region, which pro-democracy activists argue have long been fixated on anti-terrorism, immigration and oil.

Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, appears to be on the brink of joining Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak – both ousted by their own people. In Algeria, meanwhile, Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s government is holding firm, clamping down on protests and carrying out limited reforms in a bid to lull anti-regime rage.

The four men have co-operated to varying degrees with the West in the post 9/11 era, offering their services against the perceived twin menaces of political Islam and migration from the African continent to Europe.

Salima Ghezali, a well-known Algerian journalist and rights activist, says that politicians have used these supposed threats to justify state violence. Elites in the West, she argues, have attempted to distract voters by playing up threats to security, whilst sidestepping debate on their economies. Their counterparts in the developing world have used the same arguments to draw attention away from “institutional chaos”.

“It is this chaos which is provoking and fuelling the anger of the people,” she says.

By focusing on security, leaders have found a means to legitimise state violence, withhold rights and freedoms and neglect political and social management, Ghezali says. “Violence has even become a means of social and political advancement. Murderers have become heroes and hold power in public institutions.”

Jeremy Keenan, a professorial research associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, agrees that the uprisings are, in some way, related to the prevalence of anti-terrorist policy.

“I think that whole ‘war on terror’ syndrome has had a potentially significant role in what we’re seeing today,” Keenan says. “These states have become more repressive in the knowledge that they have the backing of the West.”

Demographic disconnect

Many youthful protesters are no longer willing to swallow their leaders’ use of anti-colonialist ideology to justify their political power.

Far from fighting imperialism, these leaders, their opponents say, have been complicit with the West: Acting as its torturers, buying its arms and patrolling the Mediterranean Sea to stem the tides of young people desperate to flee their homelands. All were partners in the CIA’s controversial ‘extraordinary rendition programme’ and Libya has been a pro-active partner in a secretive Rome-Tripoli deal, signed in 2009, to intercept boats carrying migrants. In return for the sea patrols, Italy pledged to pay Libya $7bn over 20 years.

“The young generation of Algerians, and the not-so-young, don’t have any illusions about the convictions of their leaders,” Ghezali explains.

Despite being sceptical of their leaders’ ideological leanings, Ghezali says the youth do still respect authentic symbols of the Algerian War of Independence. Anti-government protesters in Libya have taken to waving the pre-Gaddafi, post-independence flag – a reference to the country’s struggle against colonial rule.

With the exception of Ben Ali, all of these leaders have been in government since before most of their people were born. Bouteflika, for example, first became a minister in 1962, yet rules over a country where the average age is 27, according to the CIA World Factbook. Gaddafi took power in 1969, while the average Libyan is just 24.

Playing the ‘Islamist card’

The region’s leaders have repeatedly tried to portray the current wave of uprisings as somehow terrorist-related.

In a recently released report, Martin Scheinin, the UN special rapporteur on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism, details how Tunisia’s counterterrorism laws and policies played a central part in the former government’s crushing of political opposition.

And, as Scheinin notes in an interview with Al Jazeera, this was the very language Ben Ali turned to when he responded to the Tunisian uprising.

“I think it is important that when the people started to revolt in Tunisia, the initial reaction by the president and by the government was to say this is terrorists,” the UN Rapporteur says.

Ben Ali accused demonstrators in the centre of the country of “unpardonable terrorist acts” on January 10, two days after Tunisian security forces had begun deliberately killing protesters in the centre of the country. The Libyan leader’s son, Saadi Gaddafi, told the Financial Times on Wednesday that bombing in the east of Libya was necessary because “thousands” of al-Qaeda fighters were taking control of the region. His father elaborated on these allegations in a speech on Thursday night, accusing Osama bin Laden of brainwashing, and even drugging, the country’s youth.

Ghezali points to Gaddafi’s most recent threats to end his co-operation on immigration, as well as his attempts to blame protests on al-Qaeda, as a particularly “ludicrous” example of what has become a standard form of blackmail.

Tunisian activists interviewed by Al Jazeera cited ending corruption and tyranny and the right to employment, democracy and freedom of expression as the motivations that drove their uprising, while Libyans likewise dismissed Gaddafi’s assertion that Osama bin Laden was working to incite dissent against his rule.

Keenan says that the absence of Islamist ideology in the protest movements has underlined the extent to which the “Islamist card” has been overplayed by politicians and the media. “These revolts have nothing much to do with Islamism, they are to do with young people fighting for their rights.

“All of these countries, to varying degrees, have exaggerated the menace of terrorism,” says the author of The Dark Sahara: America’s War on Terror in Africa.

The birth of an ideology

While it became most pronounced post-9/11, the West’s fear of the rise of political Islam in North Africa predates the ‘war on terror’ by a decade.


When Algeria embarked on its first democratic elections in the early 1990s, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), was heading towards a likely victory.
Many commentators in the West feared Algeria would become the next Iran, and that political Islam might then become an unstoppable force, spreading to neighbouring countries.

The Algerian military staged a coup d’état and embarked on a “dirty war” to purge the country of the “Green Peril”. During the decade-long civil war that followed, 200,000 Algerians were killed, many by the security forces, and approximately 15,000 were forcibly disappeared.

Western governments were largely silent. In the case of France, in particular, support for the “eradication” campaign was explicit.

By early 2001, pressure for an investigation into the role of the security forces in fostering the violence was increasing, after a series of allegations that the Algerian security establishment had deliberately falsified terrorism to justify its own violence.

Then came the 9/11 attacks, and the ‘war on terror,’ and Algerian dissidents once again found themselves sidelined.

“After twenty years of security policy – including 10 years of war – Algerian society has been seriously traumatised,” Ghezali says, adding that the lack of justice or reconciliation has prevented many from being able to move on.

In contrast, post-January 14, Tunisia has opened a commission to investigate the human rights abuses committed by the security forces during the uprising and is seeking Ben Ali’s extradition from Saudi Arabia.

Libya’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, meanwhile, is calling for the International Criminal Court to investigate Gaddafi for war crimes, while Navi Pillay, the UN human rights chief, is urging an international investigation into the violence against protesters.

Awkward baggage

The first suggestion that Western leaders may be moving to untangle themselves from the increasingly awkward baggage of their ‘war on terror’ ties to North Africa came during William Hague’s visit to Tunisia, on February 8, as the uprising in Egypt was well underway.

In response to a question from Al Jazeera, the British foreign secretary acknowledged that it was time to move beyond the anti-terrorism framework.

Hague has promised the UK will be moving beyond a security-centred relationship with Tunisia [Reuters] 

“I think now there is an opportunity for a much broader relationship than a security relationship,” he said.

Bolstering his comments came the announcement of an $8.1mn fund to support economic and political reform in North Africa and the Middle East.

Hague also distanced his government from Tunisia’s controversial anti-terrorism law, which has long drawn criticism from rights activists who argued that it was used to imprison political dissidents.

“We hope that legislation will comply with international laws on human rights, will respect freedom of expression, and of course we hope in any country that anti-terror laws are not used to stifle legitimate political debate and activity,” Hague said.

Yet even as the death toll in Libya continues to rise – possibly to over 1,000 – the anti-terrorist ideology is far from dismantled, as Gaddafi’s attempts to bring al-Qaeda into the equation suggest.

On Tuesday, Algeria lifted its controversial state of emergency, which had been in force since 1992 and which the government had argued was necessary to facilitate its fight against “terrorists”. Activists had long criticised the law, arguing that its real goal was to quell dissent and to extinguish the political freedoms that had been won by protesters in the wake of the October 1988 anti-government riots.

But the state of emergency is being replaced by new anti-terrorist legislation, meaning little genuine change. Protest marches will remain forbidden and the military will retain its contested right to intervene in domestic security enforcement.

A spokesperson for Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth office said by telephone on Wednesday that Hague’s comments in Tunis also applied to any anti-terrorist legislation in Algeria. However, Keenan points to Algeria’s role as an “absolutely critical ally” for the US during the ‘war on terror’. The country has strong historic ties to France and, in the past two years, has grown closer to Britain.

Algeria has the third-largest oil reserves in Africa and is the sixth-largest producer of natural gas in the world, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

“The West is desperate that Algeria, the regime, can stay in place by making the necessary reforms,” Keenan says, adding that a cabinet shuffle could be on the horizon and that Bouteflika might eventually be replaced. But such reforms would be “purely cosmetic” and would serve only to maintain the present regime, he argues, noting that the lifting of the state of emergency should be interpreted in this context.

Arming the oppressors

And regardless of any change in tone, European governments seem unlikely to cut back on growing arms sales to North Africa and the Middle East.

Michele Alliot-Marie, the French foreign minister, is still suffering the political repercussions of her offer to support Tunisian and Algerian security forces with protest-suppressing “know-how” on January 12, even as Tunisian protesters were being killed.

Western arms exports to the region have drawn particular attention in the light of the killing of protesters in Libya and Bahrain in recent days, leading the UK and France to halt arms sales to the two countries. But the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), a UK-based organisation, argues that the bans are temporary and unlikely to lead to any long-term changes in some European governments’ active promotion of its arms export sector.

“As soon as public attention has moved on, they’ll be back supplying them,” Sarah Waldron, a spokesperson for CAAT, says.

Arms exports from EU member countries to Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco have risen significantly over the past five years. Arms export licences from the EU to the four countries rose from $1.3bn to $2.7bn in 2009, according to CAAT.

Coming in the context of co-operation on border control and anti-terrorism, the arms sales have risen for both strategic and economic reasons, Keenan says. “The equipment that is given to these countries in export arrangements in the name of counterterrorism is the same equipment that is used by these countries in the repression of their own people.”


Many North African activists are conscious of years of what they consider hypocrisy from the West and are sceptical about whether the uprisings will have a transformative effective on foreign policy.
For the past decade, only two things have mattered for Europeans and the US when it comes to Tunisia, Mokhtar Trifi, the president of the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH), says.

“The European Parliament and European governments were silent, and many of them were complicit. We never stopped drawing attention to the dictatorship. ‘Tunisia is good because Ben Ali was fighting terrorism and clandestine immigration.’ That was the argument [from Western governments],” Trifi says.

Jean-Philippe Chauzy, a spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which works with governments to manage international migration flows, says that Gaddafi’s threats to open the floodgates has succeeded in worrying European governments. Yet he notes that in recent days, Europeans have been facing up to the reality of the role that migration has played in relations with Libya.

“I think there’s recognition, in Italy at least, that realpolitik really dictated Italy’s relationship with Libya,” Chauzy says.

In the wake of the regime changes in North Africa, combined with the rise in unemployment in Europe, he says that policymakers are likely to consider a new approach to migration management. Ideally, Chauzy would like it to be one that focuses more on tackling the socio-economic factors at the root of migration and relies less on policing the seas.

Keenan says that by focusing on terrorism and immigration, Western countries have damaged their own interests. Whether it is the French, the Americans or the British, he argues that the preoccupation with Islamists and terrorism has undermined Western intelligence services’ ability to understand political and social dynamics in the region.

“If one got rid of the intelligence services, and just listened to Twitter or Facebook, we have more of an idea what’s going on.”

Oil supplies from Libya are already being disrupted. The same could happen in Algeria if serious unrest were to spread, he notes.

“The West, as a whole, has been wrong footed. I think it’s desperately trying to play catch-up. We could be paying a very high price for the strategy of the West towards these countries,” Keenan says.

Western leaders are now scrambling to build relationships with civil society in the region, after years of downplaying such ties at the bequest of its all-powerful leaders.

Yet members of the Tunisian Democratic Women’s Association are unlikely to forget that Rama Yade, as France’s secretary of human rights, cancelled her meeting with them for unexplained reasons during her visit to Tunisia in 2008. Nor will Trifi forget the fact that France’s last ambassador shunned the Tunisian Human Rights League, never once paying a visit.

Pro-democracy opposition parties, such as Algeria’s Socialist Forces Front (FFS), are commonly called upon by Western diplomats and politicians behind closed doors, but rarely do private expressions of concern for trampled political rights translate into public support.

For Abed Charef, an Algerian writer and journalist, North African countries would be more democratic if Western countries stopped interfering.

“People aspire to freedom, and they haven’t been able to enjoy that freedom, partly thanks to the support of Western countries,” Charef says. “In Algeria, we are suffocated by a political system that stifles economic growth, that stifles political opposition, that stifles everything.”

“[Western countries] act out of their own interest, they support anti-democratic leaders, they support corruption. That isn’t help, it’s been destroying us.”


Pressure mounts on Libya’s Gaddafi


Demonstrators remain on the streets as leader defies international condemnation.

Last Modified: 26 Feb 2011 08:45 GMT

Amateur video appears to show soldiers joining protesters in the city of Az Zawiyah [Al Jazeera] 

Internal and international pressure is mounting on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to stand down from power as protests continue against his 42-year rule.

Within the country, anti-government protesters said the demonstrations were gaining support, and footage believed to be filmed on Friday appeared to show soldiers in uniform joining the protesters.

The footage showed soldiers being carried on the shoulders of demonstrators in the city of Az Zawiyah, after having reportedly turned against the government – a scene activists said is being repeated across the country.


Al Jazeera, however, is unable to independently verify the content of the video, which was obtained via social networking websites.

Our correspondent in Libya reported on Friday that army commanders in the east who had renounced Gaddafi’s leadership had told her that military commanders in the country’s west were also beginning to turn against him.

They warned, however, that the Khamis Brigade, an army special forces brigade that is loyal to the Gaddafi family and is equipped with sophisticated weaponry, is currently still fighting anti-government forces.

Our correspondent, who cannot be named for security reasons, said that despite the gains, people are anxious about what Gaddafi might do next, and the fact that his loyalists were still at large.

Abu Yousef, speaking from the town of Tajoura, told Al Jazeera on Saturday that live ammunition was being used against anti-government protesters.

“Security forces are also searching houses in the area and killing those who they accuse of being against the government,” he said.

Crackdown after prayers

Security forces loyal to Gaddafi reportedly also opened fire on anti-government protesters in the capital, Tripoli, after prayers on Friday.

Follow more of Al Jazeera’s special coverage here 

Heavy gun fire was reported in the districts of Fashloum, Ashour, Jumhouria and Souq Al, sources told Al Jazeera.

The offensive came after Gaddafi appeared in Tripoli’s Green Square on Friday, to address a crowd of his supporters.

The speech, which also referred to Libya’s war of independence with Italy, appeared to be aimed at rallying what remains of his support base, with specific reference to the country’s youth.

An earlier speech, on Thursday evening had been made by phone, leading to speculation about his physical condition. But the footage aired on Friday showed the leader standing above the square, waving his fist as he spoke.

In the rooftop address Gaddafi urged his supporters below to “defend Libya”.

“If needs be, we will open all the arsenals. We will fight them and we will beat them,” he said.

International condemnation

The eastern region of the oil-rich North African nation is now believed to be largely free of Gaddafi control since the popular uprising began on February 14, with protests in the city of Benghazi inspired by revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia.

Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from the town of Al-Baida in eastern Libya on Saturday, said that while many parts of the country’s east is no longer government controlled, local residents do not want to separate from the rest of Libya.

“They still want a united Libya, and want Tripoli to remain its capital,” she said.

Our correspondent added that many in the country’s east have felt abandoned by the Gaddafi government, despite the vast oil wealth located in the region, and they feel they have no future in the country.


Hundreds of people have been killed in a brutal crackdown on the protests, though the official death toll remains unclear.

The crackdown has sparked international condemnation, with Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, becoming the first world leader to openly demand Gaddafi’s ouster.

Meanwhile, as Western governments scrambled to craft a collective response to the unrest, the United States said it was moving ahead with sanctions against the regime.

Barack Obama, the US president,  issued an executive order, seizing assets and blocking any property in the United States belonging to Gaddafi or his four sons.

In a statement, Obama said the measures were specifically targeted against the Gaddafi government and not the wealth of the Libyan people.

The European Union also agreed to impose an arms embargo, asset freezes and travel bans on Libya.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said on Friday that decisive action by the Security Council against the crackdown must be taken, warning that any delay would add to the growing death toll which he said now came to over 1,000.

The official death toll in the violence remains unclear. Francois Zimeray, France’s top human rights official, said on Thursday that it could be as high as 2,000 people killed.

Ban’s call, as well as an emotional speech by the Libyan ambassador to the United Nations, prompted the council to order a special meeting on Saturday to consider a sanctions resolution against Gaddafi.

Britain, France, Germany and the United States have drawn up a resolution which says the attacks on civilians could amount to crimes against humanity. It calls for an arms embargo and a travel ban and assets freeze against Gaddafi, and members of his government.

Al Jazeera and agencies




Mubarak and decaf coffee


Until now Western foreign policy in the Middle East has gotten the substance without the true cost.

Abbas Barzegar Last Modified: 26 Feb 2011 10:08 GMT
Is the era of Western ‘decaf coffee foreign policy’ over? [GALLO/GETTY] 

The renegade philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Zizek once noted the absurdity of certain items in our modern consumer culture: The chocolate laxative, non-alcoholic beer and decaf coffee. What these products have in common is that each one offers you a much desired substance without its negative side effects. It is a way of enjoying, consuming something but avoiding the potential harm it might cause. The same tendency, according to Zizek, can be found in our politics.

What does this have to do with cascading revolts across the Middle East? Well, Western foreign policy in the region is pretty much like decaf coffee – until now we have gotten the substance without the true cost.

In the era of colonialism we wanted access to the trade routes and natural resources of the Middle East but did not want to have to deal with those nasty Ottomans, so we sent Lawrence of Arabia. Later we wanted oil, but not the Bedouins atop it, so we literally created an elite class of capitalist buddies to have lunch with. During the Cold War we wanted strategic allies in the Middle East, but preferred the Shah and Hosni Mubarak to the likes of Mohammed Mossadeq and Gamal Abdel Nasser.

And just last year, as human rights organisations were condemning Bahraini state (read Sunni) persecution of opposition political figures (read Shia), the US announced a $580mn expansion of its naval base there. After some bullets and a cancelled Formula One season opener, the world has learned a little more about Bahrain’s overwhelming majority Shia population ruled by a Sunni minority, policed by Sunni expats from Pakistan and bankrolled by Western patronage.

And Libya, that not-long-ago pariah oil exporter? Well what we did to land a lucrative BP oil deal and grease some extra arms sales is particularly nauseating now as Muammar Gaddafi declares war on his own citizens using the weapons we sold him.

Countless missed opportunities to learn from our mistakes may be leading to a final and lasting lesson – a Middle East without the US, the UK or Europe.  

What the revolts tell us is not simply that Arabs, like other humans, demand accountability and transparency in their governing institutions, but that they refuse to remain humiliated; that they demand true independence, an independence where national aspiration aligns with government action and not Western political prerogatives. This change comes to the Arab world whose neighbours have already learned how to operate outside of the US’ sphere of influence.

For example, in addition to Turkey emerging as the unlikely power broker in the region, it has increased its strategic ties with Iran in spite of Western efforts to isolate the Islamic Republic. Earlier this month it was announced that it would aim to triple bilateral trade with Iran to $30bn in the next five years. Now Egyptians of all stripes are looking to the Turkish model for inspiration.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah has managed to gain full control of the fragile political system and thereby directly benefit from the hundreds of millions in US military aid to the country since 2006. (FYI: Hezbollah’s strategic use of democratic procedure is likely to be the model for the Muslim Brotherhood, not the quietism of Ankara’s Islamists.) Of course, the fiasco in Iraq where Tehran plays the sole kingmaker hardly needs to be mentioned.

Crumbling pillars of dominance

As Daniel Korski and Ben Judah have rightly pointed out, the West’s three pillars of dominance in the Middle East – military presence, commercial ties and client states – are crumbling in the sand.

This does not mean, however, the absolute end of American and European influence in the region. The US’ economy remains three times the size of China’s, so the feared “look East” policy of the Arab Gulf monarchies is likely an exaggerated concern.

Likewise, although many on the “Arab street” have long admired Tehran’s defiance, it is unlikely that centuries of mutual antagonism and three decades of outright hostility will be undone by a non-ideological shuffling of a few Arab governments.

To be sure, whoever emerges as victors in Tunisia, Egypt or elsewhere, whether of nationalist or Islamist stripe, the last things they will give up are the many perks of engagement with the West.

On its end the West, the US in particular, will need to learn to engage with all groups, not just those it can bribe or coax. A few names will likely need to be erased from the terrorist roll and the reliability of the oldest friends of the West will need to be soberly reassessed.

The changes taking place simply signal that Europe and the US will need to learn to adapt to an increasingly complex and multidimensional political field.

That said, while it has become a cliché to talk about the ways in which the Middle East will never be the same, it should also be clear that the days of American and European decaf coffee foreign policy are over.

Abbas Barzegar is a professor of Islam at Georgia State University and a fellow at the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding. His research includes the history of Sunni-Shia relations, political Islam and Islam in the US. He is co-editor of the book Islamism: Contested Perspectives on Political Islam (Stanford, 2009).
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.




Obama: Gaddafi must leave Libya now


The US administration sharpens stance against Libyan leader, urging him for the first time to step down.

Last Modified: 26 Feb 2011 23:36 GMT
Obama’s call comes a day after the freezing of all Libyan assets in the US belonging to Gaddafi, his government and four of his children[Reuters]       

US President Barack Obama has said that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has lost his legitimacy to rule and urged him to step down from power immediately.

Obama’s call came in a call on Saturday to Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, sharpening US rhetoric after days of deadly violence – and criticism that Washington was slow to respond.

“When a leader’s only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now,” the White House said in a statement, summarising their telephone conversation.

“The president and the chancellor shared deep concerns about the Libyan government’s continued violation of human rights and brutalisation of its people.”

The White House has previously stopped short of calling for Gaddafi to leave, saying – just as in other countries affected by a wave of regional unrest – that only Libya’s citizens had a say in choosing their rulers.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, echoed Obama’s tougher stance, and said Libyans had made their preferences on the issue clear.

US sanctions

“We have always said that the [Gaddafi] government’s future is a matter for the Libyan people to decide, and they have made themselves clear,” Clinton said in a statement.

“[Gaddafi] has lost the confidence of his people and he should go, without further bloodshed and violence.”

The Obama administration had been criticised for its relatively restrained response to Gaddafi’s bloody crackdown on an uprising against his four-decade rule.

But White House officials said fears for the safety of US citizens in Libya had tempered Washington’s response to the turmoil.

Washington announced a series of sanctions against Libya on Friday, after a chartered ferry and a plane carrying US citizens and other evacuees left Libya.

Clinton said she signed an order directing the State Department to revoke US visas held by senior Gaddafi government officials, their family members and others responsible for human rights violations in Libya.

“As a matter of policy, new visa applications will be denied,” she said.

Support for protests

The White House said Obama and Merkel reaffirmed their support for the Libyan people’s demand for universal rights and agreed Gaddafi’s government “must be held accountable”.

“They discussed appropriate and effective ways for the international community to respond,” the White House said.

“The president welcomed ongoing efforts by our allies and partners, including at the United Nations and by the European Union, to develop and implement strong measures.”

Obama has been holding a series of discussions with world leaders about the unrest in Libya. The administration is hoping that the world “speaks with a single voice” against Gaddafi’s violent crackdown, and the president is sending Clinton to Geneva on Sunday to coordinate with foreign policy chiefs from several countries.

Clinton will try to rally support against Gaddafi on Monday at the UN Human Rights Council, where she will to consult a range of foreign ministers on sanctions.

Washington is examining options including sanctions and a no-fly zone to try to stop Gaddafi’s violent suppression of anti-government protests.



Libya’s revolution headquarters


Benghazi, the de facto capital of the opposition, is where much of anti-Gaddafi actions are co-ordinated and executed.

Evan Hill Last Modified: 27 Feb 2011 06:36 GMT
 Pro-democracy activists set up makeshift command centres to co-ordinate revolt [Evan Hill/Al Jazeera]

BENGHAZI, LIBYA  —  In Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, life has entered a new stage of revolutionary normal. Shops have re-opened next to burnt-out regime headquarters; the main justice building still stands, but its rooms are occupied by opposition media centres, and courtrooms have become kitchens.

Follow more of Al Jazeera’s special coverage here 

Several hundred kilometres to the west, military units still loyal to long time leader Muammar Gaddafi guard the roads, detaining journalists and preventing approach to Tripoli, the capital.

But if any concerns remained about whether the opposition’s de facto capital was truly in anti-Gaddafi hands, they melted at the appearance of a child leaning out the window of a passing car wearing an afro wig with a red cap on top.

“Look at my son – Gaddafi!” said the man in the driver’s seat.

Along streets where it once would have been unthinkable to question Colonel Gaddafi, whose rule is now in its 42nd year, spray-painted graffiti covers nearly every wall. Atop a gutted former security headquarters where the opposition now collects turned-in weapons, a huge, red, green and black flag flies – the first banner of post-colonial Libyan independence, which protesters have adopted as a symbol of a second independence from Gaddafi’s rule.

Next door stands Benghazi’s main courthouse. Its exterior remains covered in graffiti but comparatively unscathed. This is the new headquarters and nerve centre for Libya’s opposition. A week after the city fell to the protesters following bloody fighting with the local military garrison, it now features an organised civilian security team at the main entrance, a kitchen and an internet centre where Ahmed Sanalla and a small crew of tech-minded men lean over laptops.

Cyber revolt

The top-floor internet centre began operating on Tuesday, explains Sanalla, a dual British and Libyan citizen who has spent the past four years studying medicine at Benghazi’s Garyounis University.

Graffiti marks the walls in Benghazi [Evan Hill/Al Jazeera] 

Ahmed Sheikh, a 42-year-old computer engineer who works in civil aviation, rigged the room’s internet system. A cable leads from a large satellite dish on the roof through a hole in the wall to a receiver, which then connects to wireless routers. Most of the laptops connect directly to the routers by Ethernet cables, though on Saturday afternoon, the connection was hampered by heavy wind, intermittent rain and cloudy skies.

“You’re getting two kilobytes a second, it’s worthless,” Sanalla told one of the other men trying to upload videos to YouTube.

At another laptop, 26-year-old Ahmed Yacoub was setting up an Arabic-language WordPress blog: “The Voice of the February 17 Revolution” – named after the “day of rage” when the protests in Libya began to turn into a violent uprising.

Yacoub, who studies media and programming at Garyounis, said he and other Libyans gained “courage and guidance” from the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. Egyptians have been assisting the Libyan uprising, not only by ferrying aid across the liberated eastern border between the two countries, but by carrying media out of the internet blackout in Libya to upload in Egyptian border towns and by sharing tactical advice on how to confront a repressive government crackdown, Sanalla said.

Between the onset of heavy fighting on the 17th and the 21st, he said, protesters in Benghazi were suffering under a total internet blackout. Then Sheikh came and arranged his ad-hoc system. On Saturday, they had just arranged to make phone calls through the satellite connection and could now conduct Skype phone calls with the outside world. Sanalla had been reaching out to international media organisations such as CNN and the BBC using the program’s chat capability.

The crew in the room also administers the “Libyans” group on Facebook and tweets from the account “endtyranny01” – Sanalla’s from when he wanted to remain anonymous.

‘Acceptable distortion’

Much of the information about the Libyan uprising that reached the West in recent weeks came from Libyan expatriates who were phoning, emailing or instant messaging with family and friends inside the country. Often, the Libyans abroad would relay incomplete or exaggerated news, as when false reports spread that protesters in Benghazi had found hundreds of political prisoners held underground for decades (in fact, a dozen or so were released, and their internment was several times smaller than had been reported, Sanalla said.)

Much of the equipment is donated [Evan Hill/Al Jazeera] 

“Some of it was well exaggerated,” he said. But in his mind, if it helped the uprising’s cause. It was an acceptable distortion.

“It put more pressure on the international people, it made it even more horrific.”

At the burned-out building next door, where the opposition militia is collecting weapons from citizens, a revolutionary media cell has set up its headquarters. On the second floor, in three cinderblock rooms lit by bare light bulbs, a dozen men and women co-ordinate the effort. In one room, men sit around computers arranged on fold-out tables, collecting videos and photographs from anyone who comes in, screening them for importance and using some for emotional slideshows overlaid with dramatic music. The activists there say they have around 40 gigabytes of data so far.

In an adjacent room sits a large, industrial printer taken from an architect’s office that produces the opposition’s large banners. Mohammed al-Zawam, a 25-year-old media assistant, held one up: In the revolt’s red, green and black colours, it called for free elections and “equality for all”.

Much of the equipment, food and medical aid powering and sustaining the uprising in Benghazi and elsewhere have been donated. The media cell consists of young men who brought their own laptops and desktops in the days after the Benghazi military garrison finally fell. Libyans have come out to volunteer and give their services, and the altruism has even extended to foreign journalists, who have often received room and board for free while covering the unrest.

“It’s important for those outside to know who we are and why we are doing this,” Sheikh said.

‘Big boss remains in power’

While the corniche road in central Benghazi, a city of around 750,000, can’t rival revolutionary Cairo’s Tahrir Square for sheer enormity, the city has taken on a similar sense of excitement and communal sentiment, intermingled with mourning, since protesters took control.

Activists told us they  have marvelled at young people suddenly picking up brooms to clean the streets. In the square facing the courthouse, crowds gathered all day to sing and chant slogans, cheering as Sanalla and others dropped a giant revolutionary flag from the rooftop.

Many brought their own computers [Evan Hill/Al Jazeera] 

Near the water’s edge, medical tents arranged by the Red Crescent and Egyptian volunteers swayed in the stiff, wet wind blowing off the white-capped Mediterranean. Nearby, children climbed on army tanks decorated in graffiti, and a wall of posters and notes commemorated those who had died in the protests.

Despite the euphoria, the opposition’s battle is not yet won. The “big boss,” as one Libyan called Gaddafi, remains in power, and western towns that have risen against him are separated from Benghazi and the east by Sirte – Gaddafi’s birthplace, which remains under his control.
Some activists say they are waiting for the international community to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya’s skies, giving them the security to march onto Tripoli and oust Gaddafi.

In the meantime, Benghazi’s men on Saturday were queueing outside revolutionary headquarters to sign up for the opposition’s new army, and around 300km down the road to Sirte, in the west, returning journalists reported that they had been stopped and briefly detained by a military unit still loyal to Gaddafi.

The journalists had been released, but the soldiers had confiscated their equipment. They had blocked the road with half a dozen jeeps, mounted with anti-aircraft guns. The soldiers wore body armour and appeared confident and calm, the reporters said.

They didn’t look like men going anywhere


Libya’s Gaddafi clings to Tripoli


With much of the oil-producing regions in opposition hands, Gaddafi’s power base shrinks to the capital’s periphery.

Last Modified: 27 Feb 2011 13:48 GMT
Thousands of people are waiting to be evacuated from Libya outside Tripoli airport, many of them for days [Reuters] 

As more cities fall into the hands of the pro-democracy protesters, Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, is hanging on to the capital where security forces loyal to him seem to have a firm hold, even amid reports of sporadic gunfire.

On Sunday, protesters had reportedly taken over the towns of Misurata and Zawiyah, further shrinking the control of Gaddafi’s government.

However, tanks were surrounding Zawiyah, 50km from Tripoli, and locals feared an imminent crackdown by pro-Gaddafi  forces.

Ezeldina, a Zawiyah resident, said people in the city had raided some military camps and were prepared to defend themselves.


“We are expecting an attack at any moment,” he told Al Jazeera. “We are forming rotating watchgroups, guarding the neighbourhood.”

Police stations and government offices inside the city have been torched and anti-Gaddafi graffiti painted of walls.

Hundreds of protesters in the city centre chanted “Gaddafi Out”.  An effigy of Gaddafi hung from a light pole in the main square.

Tripoli showdown

With much of the oil-producing regions, including the second city of Benghazi, in protesters’ hands, the opposition is rapidly gearing up for a showdown in Tripoli.

The UN Security Council imposed a travel and assets ban on Gaddafi’s government and, with exceptional unanimity, ordered an investigation into possible crimes against humanity by the Libyan strongman [See a list of those targeted by the sanctions].

Hana Elgallal, a legal and human rights expert in Benghazi, said some in Libya will be disappointed that the UN did not impose a no-fly zone. 

Australia’s Kevin Rudd speaks to Al Jazeera

“I’m one person who was hoping that we’d get that,” she told Al Jazeera.
“We will not be able to move and help Tripoli because of the fear that he will use his planes. But whatever we get now we will look at it positively and consider it a victory and success.
“Hopefully things will escalate in our benefit soon to defuse the massacres in Tripoli.”

The UN move come amid increased international criticism of Gaddafi’s crackdown on protests. Barack Obama, the US president, has called on Gaddafi to “leave now.”

The foreign minister of Italy, Gaddafi’s closest European ally, said on Sunday that the end of the Libyan leader’s rule was “inevitable”.

Franco Frattini also said a friendship and co-operation treaty between Libya and Italy was “de facto suspended”.

“We have reached, I believe, a point of no return,” Frattini told Sky Italia television.

Australia has also moved to put pressure on the Libyan government by imposing unilateral sanctions. Kevin Rudd, the foreign minister, told Al Jazeera that more measures need to be taken against Gaddafi and his government.

“There is one critical element of the UN Security Council resolution, which we in Australia have strongly argued for, for the last week, and that is a reference to the International Criminal Court,” he said.

“This is critical for the regime in Tripoli to understand. That is, if they take further actions of violence against innocent civilians in Libya, it is not just those who issue orders, but those who pull the trigger who will then become subject to the jurisdiction of the criminal court.”

‘Enemy of God’

His comments came as armed protesters in the eastern city of al-Baida threatened to march on to the capital.

Al Jazeera obtained video of the protesters who said they are planning to march on to Tripoli and claim to have seized tanks and weapons from the army.

Their claims came a day after hundreds of Tripoli residents, shouting “Gaddafi is the enemy of God” and shaking their fists, vowed on Saturday to fight Gaddafi at the funeral of a man killed by the Libyan leader’s soldiers.

In a poor neighbourhood of the Libyan capital that is openly defiant of Gaddafi’s more than 41-year-old rule, hundreds of men gathered to pay tribute to one of five people they said had been killed when troops fired on protesters late on Friday.

The number could not be independently confirmed.

“We will demonstrate again and again, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow,” said Isham, 34, an engineer.

His voice breaking with emotion, another man, Ismail, said: “Gaddafi forces came here, they shot everywhere during a demonstration that was peaceful.”

Diplomats say about 2,000 or more people have been killed across the country.

‘Transitional government’

Meanwhile, Libya’s former justice minister announced he was forming a “transitional government” to replace Gaddafi’s crumbling regime, which now controls only some western areas around the capital and a few long-time bastions in the arid south, reporters and witnesses say.

Follow more of Al Jazeera’s special coverage here 

In al-Baida, Mustafa Abdel Jalil said the new administration would include commanders of the regular army, many of who defected to the opposition, and would pave the way for free and fair elections in three months’ time.

“Our national government has military and civilian personalities. It will lead for no more than three months, and then there will be fair elections and the people will choose their leader,” Abdel Jalil said.

Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley, reporting from Benghazi, said people in the city “realise that at the end of the day, they are going to be responsible for the liberation of their entire country and they are taking steps to do that”.

“There was a big meeting of the former justice minister who is leading this process and the tribal elders,” our correspondent said.

“If anything signals the downfall of Gaddafi it’s the fact that these tribes are coming together and they’re showing unity and solidarity.”

From Misurata, a major city 200km east of Tripoli, residents and exile groups said by telephone that a thrust by forces loyal to Gaddafi, operating from the local airport, had been rebuffed by the opposition.

“There were violent clashes last night and in the early hours of the morning near the airport,” Mohammed, a resident of the town, said. “An extreme state of alert prevails in the city.”

He said several mercenaries from Chad had been detained by the anti-Gaddafi opposition in Misurata. The report could not be verified but was similar to accounts elsewhere of Gaddafi deploying fighters brought in from African states where he has longstanding allies.

Al Jazeera and agencies


US neo-cons urge Libya intervention


Signatories to the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) demand “immediate” military action.

Jim Lobe Last Modified: 27 Feb 2011 16:00 GMT
Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman wants the US to arm Libyan rebels [GALLO/GETTY] 

In a distinct echo of the tactics they pursued to encourage US intervention in the Balkans and Iraq, a familiar clutch of neo-conservatives appealed Friday for the United States and NATO to “immediately” prepare military action to help bring down the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and end the violence that is believed to have killed well over a thousand people in the past week.

The appeal, which came in the form of a letter signed by 40 policy analysts, including more than a dozen former senior officials who served under President George W. Bush, was organised and released by the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), a two-year-old neo-conservative group that is widely seen as the successor to the more-famous – or infamous – Project for the New American Century (PNAC).

Warning that Libya stood “on the threshold of a moral and humanitarian catastrophe”, the letter, which was addressed to President Barack Obama, called for specific immediate steps involving military action, in addition to the imposition of a number of diplomatic and economic sanctions to bring “an end to the murderous Libyan regime”.

In particular, it called for Washington to press NATO to “develop operational plans to urgently deploy warplanes to prevent the regime from using fighter jets and helicopter gunships against civilians and carry out other missions as required; (and) move naval assets into Libyan waters” to “aid evacuation efforts and prepare for possible contingencies;” as well as “(e)stablish the capability to disable Libyan naval vessels used to attack civilians.”

The usual suspects

Among the letter’s signers were former Bush deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Bush’s top global democracy and Middle East adviser; Elliott Abrams; former Bush speechwriters Marc Thiessen and Peter Wehner; Vice President Dick Cheney’s former deputy national security adviser, John Hannah, as well as FPI’s four directors: Weekly Standard editor William Kristol; Brookings Institution fellow Robert Kagan; former Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor; and former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and Ambassador to Turkey, Eric Edelman.

It was Kagan and Kristol who co-founded and directed PNAC in its heyday from 1997 to the end of Bush’s term in 2005.

The letter comes amid growing pressure on Obama, including from liberal hawks, to take stronger action against Gaddafi.

Two prominent senators whose foreign policy views often reflect neo-conservative thinking, Republican John McCain and Independent Democrat Joseph Lieberman, called Friday in Tel Aviv for Washington to supply Libyan rebels with arms, among other steps, including establishing a no-fly zone over the country.

On Wednesday, Obama said his staff was preparing a “full range of options” for action. He also announced that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet fly to Geneva Monday for a foreign ministers’ meeting of the UN Human Rights Council to discuss possible multilateral actions.

“They want to keep open the idea that there’s a mix of capabilities they can deploy – whether it’s a no-fly zone, freezing foreign assets of Gaddafi’s family, doing something to prevent the transport of mercenaries (hired by Gaddafi) to Libya, targeting sanctions against some of his supporters to persuade them to abandon him,” said Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation, who took part in a meeting of independent foreign policy analysts, including Abrams, with senior National Security Council staff at the White House Thursday.


During the 1990s, neo-conservatives consistently lobbied for military pressure to be deployed against so-called “rogue states”, especially in the Middle East.

After the 1991 Gulf War, for example, many “neo-cons” expressed bitter disappointment that US troops stopped at the Kuwaiti border instead of marching to Baghdad and overthrowing the regime of Saddam Hussein.

When the Iraqi president then unleashed his forces against Kurdish rebels in the north and Shia insurgents in the south, they – along with many liberal interventionist allies – pressed President George H.W. Bush to impose “no-fly zones” over both regions and take additional actions – much as they are now proposing for Libya – designed to weaken the regime’s military repressive capacity.

Those actions set the pattern for the 1990s. To the end of the decade, neo-conservatives, often operating under the auspices of a so-called “letterhead organisation”, such as PNAC, worked – often with the help of some liberal internationalists eager to establish a right of humanitarian intervention – to press President Bill Clinton to take military action against adversaries in the Balkans – in Bosnia and then Kosovo – as well as Iraq.

Within days of 9/11, for example, PNAC issued a letter signed by 41 prominent individuals – almost all neo- conservatives, including 10 of the Libya letter’s signers – that called for military action to “remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq”, as well as retaliation against Iran and Syria if they did not immediately end their support for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

PNAC and its associates subsequently worked closely with neo-conservatives inside the Bush administration, including Abrams, Wolfowitz, and Edelman, to achieve those aims.

Liberal hawks

While neo-conservatives were among the first to call for military action against Gaddafi in the past week, some prominent liberals and rights activists have rallied to the call, including three of the letter’s signatories: Neil Hicks of Human Rights First; Bill Clinton’s human rights chief, John Shattuck; and Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic, who also signed the PNAC Iraq letter 10 years ago.

In addition, Anne-Marie Slaughter, until last month the influential director of the State Department’s Policy Planning office, cited the U.S.-NATO Kosovo campaign as a possible precedent. “The international community cannot stand by and watch the massacre of Libyan protesters,” she wrote on Twitter. “In Rwanda we watched. In Kosovo we acted.”

Such comments evoked strong reactions from some military experts, however.

“I’m horrified to read liberal interventionists continue to suggest the ease with which humanitarian crises and regional conflicts can be solved by the application of military power,” wrote Andrew Exum, a counter-insurgency specialist at the Center for a New American Security. “To speak so glibly of such things reflects a very immature understanding of the limits of force and the difficulties and complexities of contemporary military operations.”


Other commentators noted that a renewed coalition of neo- conservatives and liberal interventionists would be much harder to put together now than during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

“We now have Iraq and Afghanistan as warning signs, as well as our fiscal crisis, so I don’t think there’s an enormous appetite on Capitol Hill or among the public for yet another military engagement,” said Charles Kupchan, a foreign policy specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

“I support diplomatic and economic sanctions, but I would stop well short of advocating military action, including the imposition of a no-fly zone,” he added, noting, in any event, that most of the killing in Libya this week has been carried out by mercenaries and paramilitaries on foot or from vehicles.

“There may be some things we can do – such as airlifting humanitarian supplies to border regions where there are growing number of refugees, but I would do so only with the full support of the Arab League and African Union, if not the UN,” said Clemons.

“(The neo-conservatives) are essentially pro-intervention, pro-war, without regard to the costs to the country,” he said. “They don’t recognise that we’re incredibly over- extended and that the kinds of things they want us to do actually further weaken our already-eroded stock of American power.” 

A version of this article first appeared on the Inter Press Service News Agency.



Gaddafi aide ‘to talk to rivals’


Move comes even as Libyan opposition sees no room for negotiation with the regime.

Last Modified: 28 Feb 2011 16:47 GMT
Muammar Gaddafi has reportedly appointed the head of Libya’s foreign intelligence service to speak to the leadership of the anti-government protesters in the east of the country.The appointment of Bouzaid Dordah on Monday comes as the opposition is expanding its grip of the country, holding several cities near the capital, Tripoli.  


Representatives of the opposition, based in Libya’s second biggest city, Benghazi, have formed a “national council” to keep the uprisings in different cities under an umbrella organisation.

A spokesman for the council said on Sunday that he saw no room for negotiation with the regime.

“We will help liberate other Libyan cities, in particular Tripoli through our national army, our armed forces, of which part have announced their support for the people,” Hafiz Ghoga, spokesman for the new National Libyan Council, said.

A prominent figure in the opposition movement is former justice minister Mustafa Mohamed Abdel Jalil, who resigned a week ago in protest against the killing of protesters.

Al Jazeera and agencies

Clinton urges Gaddafi to step down


US secretary of state says Gaddafi’s government must be held to account as EU approves new sanctions against Libya.

Last Modified: 28 Feb 2011 16:27 GMT
The United States is seeking unified global action against Gaddafi and his regime [GALLO/GETTY]  

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has said the government of Muammar Gaddafi must be held to account over atrocities committed in Libya as she reiterated calls for the leader to step down.

Meanwhile, a Pentagon official said the US military was repositioning naval and air forces around Libya.

“We have planners working and various contingency plans and I think it’s safe to say as part of that we’re repositioning
forces to be able to provide for that flexibility once decisions are made … to be able to provide options and flexibility,” Colonel David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said.

Speaking at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday, Clinton said Gaddafi must leave power “now, without further violence or delay”.

“Gaddafi and those around him must be held accountable for these acts, which violate international legal obligations and common decency,” she said.

Clinton also urged the international community to act with one voice against the Libyan administration, and said Washington was keeping “all options on the table” in terms of action against the government.

Her comments came after the European Union approved its own sanctions including an arms embargo and travel bans against Libya.

“We are already working on EU restrictive measures that should come into force quickly,” Catherine Ashton, the bloc’s foreign policy chief, said at the UN human rights meeting.

“Together with that we will adopt additional accompanying measures such as an embargo on equipment which might be used for internal repression and we’re looking at individuals under the travel restrictions and the assets freeze.”

Read more of our Libya coverage 

The 27-nation bloc has agreed to freeze the assets of Gaddafi, his family and government, and ban the sale of goods such as tear gas and anti-riot equipment.

It is believed the EU sanctions are aimed at strengthening a raft of measures passed by the United Nations Security Council on Saturday, which include referring Libya to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the ICC, said a preliminary investigation into possible crimes against humanity committed in Libya would begin on Monday.

“There will be no impunity for leaders involved in the commission of crimes,” he said.

He said he would decide within a few days whether or not to launch a full investigation of alleged crimes committed since February 15, that would enable prosecutors to collect evidence and request an arrest warrant against those identified as responsible.

A growing number of world leaders are placing pressure on Gaddafi to step down amid a violent uprising.

On Sunday Britain and Canada followed moves by the US to freeze the assets of Gaddafi and his family, while on Monday Germany said it is proposing to freeze all financial payments to Libya for 60-days.

‘Exile is an option’

Navi Pillay, the UN human rights chief, told the conference that the international community must support reforms in the Middle East in “words and deeds”.

“The council should not relax its vigilance over Libya as the threat of violent reprisals against civilians still looms,” she said.

The moves come amid growing outrage over the bloodshed in Libya, blamed on forces loyal to Gaddafi. The embattled leader remains defiant despite the opposition gaining ground across the country, and has vowed to purge the country of protesters “city by city, house by house”.

The US is pressing Europe for tough sanctions on the Libyan government to turn up the heat on Gaddafi, saying that sanctions would convince the leader’s remaining loyalists to abandon his regime.

“The US has a wider sanctions regime than the UN has decided and they would like the Europeans to step in on that,” Al Jazeera’s Nick Spicer, reporting from Geneva, said.

Speaking in Cairo, John McCain and Joe Lieberman, two leading US senators, called for the immediate imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya.

They also urged the White House to recognise the “provisional government” set up by Gaddafi opponents in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Ibrahim Sharquieh, the deputy director of the Brookings Doha Centre, said that  a “no-fly zone is certainly a good idea”.

“Although we have not seen credible independent evidence that Gaddafi has used jets to attack the protesters, that doesn’t mean that he will not.”

David Cameron, the British prime minister, said the UK is working with its allies on a plan to establish a military no-fly zone over Libya, a move also mentioned by Jay Carney, a White House spokesman.

Carney added that Gaddafi could go into exile to help satisfy demands by the US for him to step down.

“Exile is certainly one option for him to affect that change,” he said on Monday.



From anthropology to politics: the myth of the fundamentalist Arab Muslim mind

Posted on February 28, 2011 by Dr. Marranci| Leave a comment

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Many would have noticed that western leaders and countries seem to shift from one position to another about the wave of revolts in the Middle East and Arab world. One prime example: Tony Blair, who incidentally is the official envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, shifted from praising Mubarak on Wednesday 2 February 2011, to praising the protests for democracy on 13 February. At the same time, in those interviews, he first presented the Muslim Brotherhood as a dangerous para-terrorist organization and then ending in declaring that politicians should “not be hysterical about them, they are not terrorists or extremists”. Although we need to acknowledge that each revolt finds its raison d’être in local contexts and issues, we have also to recognize that Arab youth in the region want a change: they wish to end the long post-colonial period of time marked by dictators at the service of western economic and geopolitical interests.

This revolt is not just against the tyrants but also against the ‘system’ and, as I will explain below, against how the “civilized” West feels entitled to manage the “civilizable” East. To understand this process, we need to make sense of how Arabs, Muslims (and in this case the Middle East) has been conceptualized. As we shall see, anthropology since the 1970s has had lots to say about it and, as some may be surprised to come to know, has directly – but even more so indirectly (nearly subconsciously) -deeply influenced political scientists and then politicians and policies.

The emphasis on the role that the Islamic holy text plays in the formation of extreme political ideas, particularly in the form of strict structuralism, is certainly not an innovation of populist, right-wing literature that aims to capitalize upon the September 11 tragedy. Much before the event that has definitely marked the end of the post-Cold War era and started the era of the War on Terror, the anthropologist Gellner (1981), for instance, suggested an extremely essentialised view of Islam, seen as a social blueprint. Indeed, Gellner’s central argument concerning Islam argued that Islam cannot change. Far from being the religion of living Muslims with opinions, ideas, feelings and identities, Gellnerian Islam is an essence that remains constant in its model. So much so that Hammoudi (1980), for instance, has suggested that Gellner, by ‘brushing aside all history’, has just imposed his convenient social–political model of Islam onto a Muslim reality that is instead extremely complex (see also Varisco 2005 and Marranci 2008).

Gellner has suggested that Islam, being a markedly secularisation-resistant religion, is also the most vigorously fundamentalist. According to Gellner, Islam, as a religion, shows some ideological historical elements conducive towards fundamentalism. First, Islam is a scriptural faith that claims to be the perfect and final one. Secondly, there is no room for new prophets, because Muslims consider Muhammad the seal of prophecy. Thirdly, Islam has no clergy, and, therefore, no religious differentiation is possible. Finally, Islam does not need to differentiate between church and state because Islam ‘began as a religion of rapidly successful conquerors who soon were state’ (Gellner 1981: 100).

Hier verder lezen


UN worried over Libya access


Humanitarian chief says unrest is preventing the world body from assessing the situation in Tripoli and western Libya.

Last Modified: 28 Feb 2011 21:48 GMT
The UN says 40,000 people fleeing Libya have have crossed the Tunisian border [Reuters] 

The fragile security situation in and around the Libya capital of Tripoli has made it too dangerous for international aid agencies to assess the need for medicine, food and other supplies there, the United Nations has said.

“The major concerns are Tripoli and the west where access is extremely difficult because of the security situation,” Valerie Amos, the UN humanitarian chief, told Al Jazeera on Monday.

“There are reports that between 600 and 2,000 people have already been killed in Tripoli. We don’t know the absolute accurate number because we haven’t got people there who are able to do assessments … we’ve seen some horrific pictures of what is happening and we really want to be able to go in to help people in the time of need.”

Amos also called on countries neighbouring Libya to keep their borders open so refugees can continue to flee.

As of Monday morning, an estimated 61,000 had fled into Egypt, 1,000 to Niger and 40,000 to Tunisia, according to the UN, which said there was concern about water and sanitation for the refugees. 

Libya also borders Algeria, Niger, Chad and Sudan.

Red Cross teams

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has also called for immediate and safe access to western Libya.

ICRC teams entered the eastern side of the country including the country’s second city Benghazi over the weekend, and are now supporting local doctors with medical care. Two thousand people were wounded there, according to the agency.

A similar ICRC team including surgeons and supplies was waiting on the western border in Tunisia.

“Right now, the situation is far too unstable and insecure to enable much-needed help to enter western parts of the country,” Yves Daccord, the ICRC director-general, said.

“Health and aid workers must be allowed to do their jobs safely. Patients must not be attacked, and ambulances and hospitals must not be misused. It’s a matter of life and death.”

Thousands of foreigners have been evacuated from Libya since the unrest began, with ships and planes sent by countries including China  India, the US, Turkey and many other European countries.

But many citizens of Iraq, Sudan, Somalia and other poor countries are stranded in the country as they lack the resources to escape, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said.

 “There are no planes and boats to evacuate people originating from war-torn or very poor countries,” he said in a statement.

The few UN workers who were based in Tripoli left when it became unstable.

Amos said humanitarian work is proceeding smoothly along Libya’s eastern border with Egypt,  which is now controlled by government opponents, with eight agencies providing medical care, food and other critical aid.

Tunisians, to the northwest, have been providing refugees with shelter and food, Amos said.

Al Jazeera and agencies


ICC to probe Gaddafi over violence


Luis Moreno-Ocampo says Libyan leader and key figures to be investigated for crimes against humanity.

Last Modified: 03 Mar 2011 15:06 GMT
The court will investigate claims that peaceful protesters had been attacked by forces loyal to Gaddafi [Al Jazeera] 

Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, and his key aides will be investigated for alleged crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, the chief prosecutor has said.


Alan Fisher


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AlanFisher @TaviGreiner Pro government forces 14 minutes ago · reply

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AlanFisher It appears one of the Dutch Marines detained by the Libyans is a female pilot. #Libya #Netherlands #Marines 17 minutes ago · reply

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AlanFisher The early report from me at the Hague today http://youtu.be/Gu0psWjP&#8230; #Video 20 minutes ago · reply

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AlanFisher Al-Jazeera angers Hillary, but it’s a valuable news source http://t.co/jNxVsz0 via @guardian 2 hours ago · reply

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Speaking at a press conference in The Hague, the Netherlands, on Thursday, Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he would investigate claims that peaceful protesters had been attacked by forces loyal to Gaddafi.

“We have identified some individuals with de facto or formal authority, who have authority over the security forces,” that have clamped down on a rebellion that started on February 15, he said.

“They are Muammar Gaddafi, his inner circle, including some of this sons,” he said, and vowed there would be “no impunity in Libya”.

The prosecutor also listed individuals including the Libyan leader’s head of personal security, and the head of the external security forces. He said he expected to ask judges at the court for arrest warrants within ” a few months”.

He added that opposition forces would also be investigated.

Hoda Abdel-Hamid, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Benghazi, eastern Libya, said people were likely to welcome the news and had been “wondering when accountability would be coming”.

She added the announcement that both sides would be held accountable was “a clear message for the opposition to try and control the number of weapons circulating in civilian areas”.

Warning to Western nations

Alan Fisher, Al Jazeera’s correspondent at The Hague, said Moreno-Ocampo was hoping to apply pressure to Libya over the violence.

“He said the reality is that you cannot take tanks and guns and fire them into crowds that are peacefully protesting. As far as he’s concerned that’s a crime against humanity and has to be investigated.”

Moreno-Ocampo’s statement comes as government forces in Libya launch fresh assaults  in the town of Ajdabiya and the eastern oil port town of Brega.

Thousands of people are fleeing the violent crackdown in Libya, with vast crowds of locals and foreign workers being evacuated at the country’s border with Tunisia.

Western leaders have said they are considering a range of responses to the crisis in the riot-torn nation, with Britain and France saying on Thursday they support the notion of a no-fly zone over Libya.

William Hague, the British foreign secretary, and Alain Juppe, his French counterpart, said they were working on “bold and ambitious” proposals to present to an EU meeting next week.

They said any action must have international support, legal backing and the participation of regional powers.

But Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has warned that any military intervention would be “controversial”, and others have voiced concern that it could further destabilise the region.

Gaddafi has also warned that “thousands” would die if the West took military action against his forces.

“If the Americans or the West want to enter Libya they must know it will be hell and a bloodbath – worse than Iraq,” he said on state television on Wednesday.

Al Jazeera and agencies

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