Libyan opposition meets to demand Qaddafi’s ouster

It seems that Mommar Qaddafi’s Libya, of all places, has been overlooked by the current Bush “regime change” offensive. Now that sanctions have been lifted, an opposition is starting to emerge, and appears (in contrast to its counterparts in Syria, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Cuba, etc.) to be independent of Washington and the West.

The Jerusalem Post reports June 25 that 300 Libyan opposition members met under tight secrecy at an undisclosed location to hash out a strategy for removing Qaddafi and bringing about a democratic transition in Libya. “We have reached a conviction that no reform is possible while Qadaffi is still in power,” said Ibrahim Sahad, leader of the National Front for the Salvation of Libya.

It was necessary to hide the whereaboouts of the meeting from Qaddafi’s secret police.”Until this moment the location of the conference is not known to them, although they sent their spies to all hotels looking for us and our meeting,” Sahad said.

Among the main ideas to be addressed by the conference are stripping Qaddafi of his military, political and security powers; forming a one-year transitional government; and establishing a constitutional and democratic state where freedom, human rights, and rule of law prevails.

But in a statement issued before the conference, the organizers stressed that the campaign should be undertaken without any foreign interference, and criticized the United States for its double standards. “It forgot Libya and its bloody dictator regime” while urging reform in other Arab countries, the statement said.

The conference coincides with the anniversary of the 1996 Abu Salim prison uprising, in which human rights groups say at least 100 prisoners were killed after going on hunger strike to protest poor conditions. Opposition groups say more than 1,200 political prisoners were executed and buried in mass graves after the uprising.

Said Sahad: “America didn’t hear about this massacre? Nothing has changed and still human rights are being violated every day in Libya.”

Among the groups participating in the meeting is the National Movement, an offshoot of the nationalist Omar al-Mukhtar organization, established in the 1940s, which was instrumental in Qaddafi’s anti-monarchy coup in 1969. “We were the first victims of Qadaffi, despite the fact that it was this group which pushed him to the front seats of power,” said Salem Mohammed, a senior movement member. Many of the group’s leaders were killed in Libya, Chad or in Arab countries, he said.

Mansour el-Kakhya, the former foreign minister who is widely believed to have been kidnapped by Libyan intelligence while attending a conference in Egypt in 1993, was a leader of the group.

Libya’s largest and oldest Islamic group, the Muslim Brotherhood, decided to withdraw from the conference after it helped with preparations. It was not immediately clear why they withdraw.

If the West’s raprochement with Qaddafi has meant betrayal (and, paradoxically, a salutary independence) for the Libyan opposition, it may also have grave implications for the country’s little-known archeaological treasures. The UK Guardian reported Feb. 10, 2005 on the efforts of a British GPS team working with the Libyan Department of Antiquities to document the location of ancient Saharan rock-carvings before they fall victim to oil development, which is expected to rapidly expand as foreign investment pours in. Writes the Guardian: “Criss-crossing the desert are seismic survey lines where enormous hammers have been used to ping the underlying rock layers in search of oil deposits. These boulder-shattering blows and the construction of roads and pipelines are expected to increase exponentially now that international sanctions have been lifted from the country.”

The 9,000-year-old carvings at at Wadi al-Hayat (the Valley of Life, also known as Wadi al-Ajal) in the Fezzan region of south-west Libya show crocodiles, giraffes and hippopotamiā€”confirming scientists’ claims that the bleak desert was once lush and green. They are therefore of value to understanding the ecological dynamics of the Sahara and the Earth, in addition to thier instrinsic historical and anthropological value.

See our last post on Libya.

  1. Libyan Berbers emerge
    This June 22 report from the international Arabic daily Asharq Alawsat largely focuses on the displeasure expressed by the boycotting Islamist groups (Islamic Fighting Group, the Libyan Brotherhood, the Libyan Islamic Group and the Salafists) at the secular direction of the opposition summit. But it lists the participating groups as the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, the Libya Alliance, the Republican Grouping for Justice, the Libyan National Movement, and the Amazigh Grouping. This last apparently represents Libya’s Berber minority. As the indigenous people of North Africa, they are probably the descendents of those who carved the rocks of Wadi al-Hayat 9,000 years ago. There is a major Berber revival going on in Morocco, Algeria and the diaspora (mostly France), but we hear very little of the Libyan Berbersā€”although we have managed to find their website,

    It would be nice if the Berbers could have a dignified place in a post-Qaddafi Libya, with their cultural rights recognized. Thier participation in the meeting is a very good sign.