by Sundar J.M. Brown
Public anti-government demonstrations of significant scale were first noted in Libya on 15 January, 2011. The demonstrations began in the north-eastern portion of the country, an area historically noted as most distanced from President Moammar Gadhafi’s control and influence. The demonstrations were most prevalent in the city of Benghazi. Fueled by the use of social media communications which were informing the public of the success of similar protests in Tunisia and Algeria, the Benghazi demonstrations snowballed, gathering social momentum and confidence. Further social momentum was generated by news of protests- even of the smallest scale- in a plethora of Middle Eastern and African countries.
The jumping off point for the Libyan protests came on 11 February, 2011 as a result of the success of the Egyptian “Tahrir Square Protests” which successfully ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Taking their cue from the factual Egyptian coup, Libyan civil unrest spread from Benghazi to the country’s capital, Tripoli, which also serves as Gadhafi’s stronghold. There was also massive general uprising in the eastern coastal region of Cyrenaica.
To date, the civil unrest has grown into massive violence, and intense fighting continues between the protestors, the loyal portions of the Libyan military (some military units have defected), and a significant array of mercenaries supporting the Libyan soldiers. The fighting has, so far, brought the death toll to approximately 1,000. As of 20 February, 2011 Benghazi, Tubruq, Derna, and Al Bayda, a city in Cyrenaica, have been deemed “liberated”, and are no longer under Gadhafi’s control.