Insurgency and Transformation: How Libyans Conquered the Street

Laila S. Dahan


When Libya joined the Arab Spring in 2011 it did so in reaction to the success of Tunisia and Egypt in ousting their leaders. However, Libya’s foray into revolution was different in that the Libyan people had spent 42 years under the frightening rule of Gaddafi, in an era rife with the fear of who was watching and reporting, and a consensus that to speak out was to accept the fate of imprisonment or death. Due to the years of repression, the Libyans did not put themselves into situations, like Tahrir Square, wherein they knew they would be slaughtered. Instead, they organized themselves and in short, order seemed to have developed a military mentality in order to survive. Their struggle was enabled, in part, by NATO strikes. But another difference from the other two rebellions was how the Libyan revolution blended the old with the new. Technology and modernity did play a role in the ability of the uprising to take hold, but the icons which were chosen to help rally the masses included the old flag and Omar Mukhtar’s photograph. Both of these harkened back to the Libyan’s earlier revolt against the Italians and their hard-won independence in 1951. Both looked to a pre-Gaddafi era in the country’s past. This article looks at how the Libyan uprising differed from that of Tunisia and Egypt, and how this particular rebellion was a revolution. Furthermore, it discusses the catalysts for the uprising and the role of the “Arab street” in giving the masses a place to express their rage against the Gaddafi regime. 


Libya, Gaddafi, uprisings, revolutions, social media.

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