A year to the day since thousands of Libyan citizens took to the streets of Benghazi in an uprising against Gaddafi’s tyrannical rule, David Cameron spoke of his pride in the role Britain has played in supporting the Libyan revolution.
In his speech, the Prime Minister praised the Libyan people for the “inspiration” that they had given to the rest of the world, and for the commitment, vision and determination to succeed that they have shown.
Britain, under NATO’s banner, assisted in the birth of a new Libya by playing an active military role in support of the revolution.
But should NATO be proud of its role as a midwife in the birth of this new nation?
Following Mr Cameron’s speech, Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “Tangible progress has already been made in the transition to a peaceful and stable country.
"Libya's future is far brighter than it was a year ago, but there are challenges ahead.”
Manchester holds the largest population of Libyan expats in the UK, the majority of who have been unable to visit their homeland for decades due to their fear of the extreme regime that was in place. Following Gaddafi’s death on October 20, hope arose amongst Manchester’s Libyan community that finally the time may have come when they could return to their motherland without fear of persecution.
It seems however that this may not be the case. Where on the surface it looks as if Libya is building strong foundations for a prosperous future, many feel that the country cannot move on from the past that haunts it so dreadfully that easily.
Indeed, many of the Libyan expatriates living in Manchester seem unsure as to whether their homeland lies in stable hands.
Nineteen-year-old law student Safa Milad was keen to talk to MM about her views on the current situation.
“My father is Libyan and my mother of Irish heritage, and I had lived in Manchester my whole life.
“When my family watched the events unfold in Tunisia and Egypt, I found it very difficult to imagine the same happening in Libya.
“To say that Libya lived under an iron fist is no exaggeration. In Harry Potter Voldermort is known as 'he who shall not be named', and Gaddafi was the same. We had seen his brutality in the Abu Salim prison massacre in 1996 when he killed 1600 prisoners in 3 hours, and earlier in Benghazi, where executions of 'political activists' in the 70s were aired live on TV in the holy month of Ramadan.
“When the brave people of Benghazi rose in February, we all knew that our revolution would not be as quick as that of Egypt and Tunisia, however no one could have predicted what was in store for us.
“People were being slaughtered on the street, women raped in front of their husbands and entire families were executed for expressing their support of the revolution.”
Safa explained that she would need a week to explain all the crimes against humanity that were committed in Libya during those months. Like many others, Safa’s focus is now on Libya’s future.
“The current situation in Libya is not perfect, and I do not expect it to be. Although Gaddafi has gone, it's the Gaddafi in each and every one of us that needs to be removed.
MP for Manchester Gorton, Gerald Kaufman spoke of his concern over the current state of Libya to Mancunian Matters:
“I voted in the House of Commons in favour of implementing a Security Council resolution in 1973, with the aim of preventing the slaughter by Gaddafi’s forces of thousands of Libyans in Benghazi and eastern Libya.
“That resolution did not authorise implementing regime change, but that was what it was turned into, and I did not support this.
“Though Gaddafi was a bloodthirsty dictator, I was disgusted by his brutal murder at the hands of rebel forces.
“I have little confidence that under its new regime Libya will be any more democratic than it was before.”
And it seems this could well be the case. Amnesty International has reported that torture and abuse is still a major problem in Libya. Senior Crisis Response Adviser Donatella Rovera explained that “militias in Libya are largely out of control and the blanket impunity they enjoy only encourages further abuses and perpetuates instability and insecurity".
Dr Amir Barik, Director of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University, is himself concerned about the current situation in Libya.
“I have no doubt that the Middle Eastern world appreciates Britain’s support of the Libyan Revolution, and I agree with Mr. Cameron when he says that Britain’s intervention was a positive move.
“What’s coming out of the revolution however is another question.
“One of my former students moved to Libya with her husband after the revolution and we are still in touch via email. She tells me that on the surface things have improved, but in reality there are still a lot of problems, the main one being lack of money.”
“Before NATO’s intervention, Libya had billions of dollars in western banks. Now that Gaddafi has been overthrown, no one is willing to give the money back and sadly with the recession, aid from countries like Britain and France isn’t possible.”
Dr Barik explained that the lack of money and resources in Libya is causing tension between Libyan citizens, which in turn is resulting in more violence: “at the end of the month, when people haven’t been paid they jump at each other and fight.”
William Hague announced last week that Britain would be giving £1 million to Libya to aid in the removal of landmines.
“This money is peanuts in comparison to what Libya needs”, says Dr Barik. “Libya is a rich country that can produce £4 million in profit from oil daily.
“With such an enormous lack of resources, the outcome for Libya doesn’t look positive. If they could get to the money they have held in western banks, they would be able to recover very quickly.
Speaking of the impact that the ‘new Libya’ will have on the large number of Libyan expats who live here in Manchester, Dr Barik said he can’t see Libyan expats leaving in their thousands to return to their homeland at the moment.
“I think that unless people have long commitment to birthplace or are actively involved in politics, they are unlikely to return to Libya.”
“Within the Libyan community here in Manchester, there is only a tiny minority of professionals.
“These people are established here, their children attend good schools and they don’t want to lose that.
“The rest of the Libyan expats that live in Manchester are unfortunately of no use to Libya. There are plenty of semi-professionals and labourers already there. The government can’t feed their own people so they won’t want more.”
“Sadly, the Libyan expats who can’t contribute to Libya’s future simply won’t be wanted.”
“I hope this will not always be the case. Libya has a good chance in the future. Ninety-five percent of the population are Sunni Muslims, so there are few sectarian differences and a smaller chance of a breakout of a sectarian war”
Safa Milad agrees with both Mr Cameron and Dr Barik that Libya faces challenges in the near future: “We have many hurdles ahead of us. The leap from dictatorship to democracy is not an easy one.
“We are now entering a new era of freedom and democracy and these concepts are alien to most of Libya. A large percentage of the population was born into the Gaddafi regime, and therefore know no different.
“There have been positive moments in Libya in the short period of time since Tripoli was freed in August.
“Only this week the people of Misrata were out voting for council members, and at the beginning of January schools started reopening.
“The main thing to come out of the revolution is that the Libyan people achieved what they needed to, against all odds. Previously a corrupt government stood in the way, and now the achievements of the Libyan people can be seen as an inspiration to the whole world.
Safa explained to MM, that in her opinion, the success of the revolution would not have been possible without NATO’s intervention.
“I was told by so many that Libya would turn out to be a second Iraq and there were viscous rumours spreading about troops on Libyan ground.
“Truth be told, the role the UK played in Libya was vital and pivotal. Once the Libyan people knew they had international support behind them it strengthened their hope for victory.”
“The NATO air attacks were a true match for Gaddafi's tanks that could not have been faced by the fighters on the ground. Benghazi would have fallen back into Gaddafi's hands if it was not for NATO.
“My gratitude to Mr. Cameron for his backing knows no bounds. Although mistakes have been made by both the UK and US governments in Iraq, the roles that both of these countries played in the Libyan struggle has enabled Libya to enter existence as a free nation.
“On completion of my degree I am hoping to move to Libya. I was not physically able to help in the overthrowing of Gaddafi, but I hope I can assist in the future after him.
Mr Cameron said in his speech that ‘the future of Libya is now firmly in the hands of the Libyan people’, and it’s to be hoped that this is the case and that the country’s first elections in June will prove to be successful and more importantly, democratic.
Mr Hague emphasised the point that Britain will remain supportive to Libya during the coming months: "The UK shares the ambitions of Libyans for a stable, prosperous country based on respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights.
"Today we reaffirm the UK's commitment to supporting Libyans in realising their ambitions, strengthening our bilateral relationship and making progress on resolving the outstanding legacy issues arising from the actions of the Gaddafi regime."
With Hague’s promise that Britain will support Libya on its journey to creating a peaceful and stable nation for its people, it’s hoped that in the near future Libya will gain stability after the long and gruesome 42 years of tyrannical rule its people have suffered under the Gaddafi regime.