The Arab Spring refers to a wave of protests, coups, demonstrations, and civil wars that took place in several African and Asian countries between 2010 and 2012. The protests affected countries in North Africa and the Middle East. The countries affected include Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, and Syria. The Tunisian Revolution gave rise to the coups and riots in other countries. In many of the countries, the governing regime toppled or social violence that led to the death and displacement of civilians ensued. The revolutionary wave so strong that street demonstrations were conducted in Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria, Bahrain, and Sudan. In-country such as Mauritania, Djibouti, and Saudi Arabia only minor protests were reported. The Arab Spring enhanced terrorism because it led to the proliferation of terrorist groups that are now posing security threats to Libya as different militia groups fight for power.
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The Arab Spring in Libya
Libya was one of the North African countries that were affected by the Arab Spring. Anti-government protests began at the beginning of 2011 (Spindlove & Simonsen, 2013). The protests and demonstrations were so violent that three days after their commencement, the opposition had taken control of the second-largest city in the country. After the opposition took control of most of Benghazi, the government took the riots as a serious threat and as a result, dispatched military troops to regain control. However, they were met with serious opposition and they were unable to regain control of the city. Five days after the commencement of the protests, riots had spread to the capital city, Tripoli (Spindlove & Simonsen, 2013). Within a month, the number of deaths was so high that the international community took an interest in Libya’s situation. Many countries condemned the protests and criticized the government for its inability to squash the protests and prevent the deaths of civilians (Spindlove & Simonsen, 2013). As a result, several Libyan diplomats resigned due to the mounting pressure from the international community.
Demonstrators and rebel forces fought hard to seize control of the capital city. In the meantime, the opposition established an interim government in Benghazi in a move that was seen as an overt declaration of war against Muammar Gaddafi’s government (Erdag, 2017). The opposition had a strong militia force and achieved significant success in achieving its objectives. However, the government was stronger and as such, regained control of much of the Mediterranean coast. On 17 March, the United Nations (UN) took charge of the situation in an effort to protect civilians (Erdag, 2017). In that regard, the international community adopted the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 that declared Libya a no-fly zone (Spindlove & Simonsen, 2013). NATO launched airstrikes aimed at government forces in order to impose the no-fly zone authorization (Erdag, 2017). A few days later, the United States, France, and the United Kingdom intervened by commencing a bombing campaign against pro-Gaddafi militia forces.
The intervention also included other countries from Europe and the Middle East. The rebel forces mounted an offensive attack that led to the death and displacement of many civilians and the capturing of several towns across Libya. The intervention teams were stronger and recaptured most of the cities. The military teams from the UN Security Council helped anti-Gaddafi groups capture Tripoli and bring Gaddafi’s 42-year rule down (Erdag, 2017). The military support from the United States and European countries assisted rebels to capture Tripoli after six months of violent fighting. Thousands of people were killed in the fighting that ended in the capture of Muammar Gaddafi. After Gaddafi’s regime was toppled, the National Transition Council (NTC) promised the Libyan people that they would facilitate the establishment of a pluralist and democratic state (Erdag, 2017). In July 2012, elections to establish an interim parliament were conducted.
The Political and Social Impact of the Arab Spring
Many political activists projected that the Arab Spring in Libya would herald a new era of democracy that would transform Libya into an economic and political behemoth (Dettmer, 2012). Their projections were based on promises made by the National Transitional Council, which was the mastermind of the protests. However, the projections were wrong because, since the Arab Spring, Libya has been plagued by economic and political instability. There are more than 300 revolutionary militias fighting over control of Libya’s government (Erdag, 2017). Since the fall of Gaddafi’s regime, the militias have besieged government buildings and defied orders to surrender and end the fighting. Evidence has been presented to prove that during the protests, rebel fighters and authorities violated the human rights of many civilians and conducted racial profiling and violence (Erdag, 2017). Many civilians were violently beaten and killed by the rebels and government officials. Libya is politically, socially, and economically unstable. Unemployment rates are very high and there is an uneven distribution of resources and widespread corruption. Insecurity is high as fights rage between militia groups and government troops.
Effect on Terrorism
The Arab Spring increased terrorism significantly. As mentioned earlier, the Arab Spring heralded an era of fighting among militia groups seeking to control Libya. Many people hoped that the Arab Spring would lead to the establishment of governments that would bring political reforms and social justice to the people who had suffered for many years under Gaddafi’s oppressive regime (Dettmer, 2012). However, the protests led to more violence and war among the people as different militia groups fought for power. The Arab Spring created an environment that encouraged the proliferation of terrorism. Terrorist groups such as ISIS capitalized on the chaos caused by the protests to advance their interests (Dettmer, 2012). In 2013, the United States named al-Mulathamun as a deadly terrorist group that operated in Libya (Erdag, 2017). In 2014, the US named another terrorist group (Ansar al-Sharia Benghazi) that was responsible for the 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi (Erdag, 2017). The Arab Spring in Libya created opportunities for terrorist groups to spread their influence. Both state and non-state sponsored terrorist groups took advantage of the protests to assert their prominence in Libya.
The Arab Spring in Libya emanated from the Libyan revolution that comprised protests and demonstrations against the 42-year rule of Muammar Gaddafi. The protests were different from those experienced in other states because Gaddafi staged a highly violent counter-attack to stop the protesters from topping his government. The protests led to the death and displacement of thousands of civilians. Moreover, it led to severe violations of human rights that included racial profiling and racial violence. Many people thought that the protests would herald an era of democracy and political stability in Libya. However, it led to the proliferation of terrorism and militia groups that have destabilized the country and posed several security risks.
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Dettmer, J. (2012). So much for the Arab Spring. Maclean’s, 125(38), 32-35.
Erdag, R. (2017). Libya in the Arab Spring: From revolution to insecurity. New York, NY: Springer.
Spindlove, J. R. & Simonsen, C. E. (2013). Terrorism today: The past, the players, and the future (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.