27 March 2011

Libya: the basics

Since most Americans are unfamiliar with Libya's geography, it can be difficult to follow what is happening from news reports. Here's a bit of background which may be helpful.

Most of Libya's population of 6,400,000 lives on the coast; the desert interior is thinly populated or, in many areas, uninhabited. This map, found at The Guardian, shows the important cities:

The largest cities are the capital Tripoli (about 1,200,000 people), Benghazi (about 700,000), and Misrata (about 500,000). Brega and Ras Lanûf, although much smaller, are important to the oil industry which generates most of Libya's income. This report from Tripoli, written in 2009, is a great portrait of Qaddhafi's Libya.

Ethnically most Libyans are Arabs or Arabized Berbers (Berbers are the original native people of North Africa from before the Arab Muslim conquest in the seventh century), but some Berbers and Tuaregs (another native North African people) along the western fringe of Libya still speak their original languages.

The rebels re-captured Ajdâbiya late on Friday, and took Brega and Ras Lanûf yesterday and Bin Jawwad today, after the above map was drawn -- showing how they have regained the initiative. Zâwiya in the far west was one of the first towns to rebel against Qaddhafi, but his forces re-established control of it just before the coalition air-strikes began. Misrata remains under rebel control but under intermittent siege. Sirte is Qaddhafi's home town, and some of its people have tribal ties to him; the rebellion may have less popular support there than elsewhere.

Qaddhafi is 68 years old and has ruled Libya for 42 years.


Anonymous Prasad said...

The Libyan forces will not control the rebels until NATO forces will support the rebels. If Libyan forces continue their strike against their people (rebels) not only loss their lives but also people of Libya and its neighbouring countries will suffer with their wrong decision.

28 March, 2011 06:35  

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