What’s next for Libya?

A revolution. A new beginning.The rebirth of a nation.The triumph of democracy. These are all phrases that are being used to describe the movement in Libya that started in February and culminated in Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorship being overthrown. However, the main question now is what comes next for this nation.

After 40 years of being under the rule of a mad dictator like Muammar Gaddafi, will the Libyans be able to build a nation and a system of governance from scratch?

Libya has had a long and fractured history of conquest and settlement. 1969 saw Muammar Gaddafi coming to power after a military coup deposing leader of the country, King Idris. This ushered in a new era in Libya. He opened up the oil fields and ushered in various “revolutions”. The cultural revolution saw him starting people’s committees in different areas. His people’s revolution saw him changing the name of the country from the Libyan Arab Republic to the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriyah. Gaddafi’s reign also saw the country get into various struggles with the United States of America. He celebrated the 37th anniversary of his coming to power in 2006.

The Lockerbie plane bombing episode soured ties with the USA even more. Diplomatic talks resumed and in 2008 though when US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice became the highest level US diplomat to visit Libya since Gaddafi’s takeover.

The revolution and protests against Gaddafi were set off in February 2011 in Benghazi when a human rights campaigner was arrested. Like a spark that set off tonnes of seething dynamite, this incident sparked off a wave of demonstrations all over Libya. Things turned violent when security forces used live ammunition against the demonstrators. This then led to rebels fighting against the forces and many policemen and army men also defecting to the rebel army. Throughout all of this Gaddafi insisted that he would not quit as the leader of the land and the people. The battle then reached a head when NATO forces got involved in the month of March.

The rebels would gain an important position only for the pro-Gaddafi army to then take over the same position after a fight. This back and forth continued, with NATO forces bombing government outposts and assisting the rebel forces. Muammar’s son and heir apparent Sadi al Hassan is said to have lost his life in one of the offensives. The battle for Tripoli became the climax to this long, continued fight. Being the capital of the country, capturing this city would mean a definite victory. The rebels took over the city with little resistance from government forces and Gaddafi’s wife, daughter and two sons escaped in the month of August to Algeria, a country that supported him.

The search for Gaddafi is still on and the National Transitional Committee is presently in power. The latest news coming out of Libya is triumphant and hopeful. The UN has put out an arrest warrant for Gaddafi. Less than a month after Gaddafi was ousted, in September, British PM David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy became the first world leaders to visit Libya. They received a stunning welcome and pledged their support to the fledgling government now taking shape. Reports also state that Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown and one of his last strongholds had also fallen to the rebels in September.

The future is extremely uncertain but positive for this land. After being ruled by a dictator for so long, one wonders whether they will be able to build a sustainable economy and government foundation. The leader of the present Transitional Committee has stated that the country will be a liberal one but other nations fear that Islamists will take over.

Women and their role in the revolution are another factor. With the men away fighting, the women became an essential part of the struggle but one wonders if they will receive the due they deserve. The 43 member Transitional Council has only one woman – the Minister for Women. As the nation takes baby steps, women who formed volunteer groups to help the rebels seem to be turning into feminist groups who are campaigning for equal rights for women.

This revolution has heralded a new beginning for this land and the present battles in Egypt and Syria point to a new awakening all over the Arab lands. Is it time for the dictators to step down? Mubarak was toppled, and now Gaddafi has fallen. Who’s next?

Ayesha Sruti Ahmed