Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
679,362.19 sq mi
1,759,540.00 sq km
5,115,450 (July 2000 est.)
Estimated Population in 2050
Arabic, Italian, English, all are widely understood in the major cities
76.2% total, 87.9% male, 63% female (1995 est.)
Sunni Muslim 97%
73.34 male, 77.66 female (2000 est.)
Jamahiriya (a state of the masses) in theory, governed by the populace
through local councils; in fact, a military dictatorship
1 Libyan dinar (LD) = 1,000 dirhams
GDP (per capita)
$7,900 (1999 est.)
Labor Force (by occupation)
services and government 54%, industry 29%, agriculture 17% (1997 est.)
petroleum, food processing, textiles, handicrafts, cement
wheat, barley, olives, dates, citrus, vegetables, peanuts; beef, eggs
crude oil, refined petroleum products, natural gas
machinery, transport equipment, food, manufactured goods
petroleum, natural gas, gypsum
Current Environmental Issues
desertification; very limited natural fresh water resources; the Great
Manmade River Project, the largest water development scheme in the world,
is being built to bring water from large aquifers under the Sahara to
Telephones (main lines in use)
Telephones (mobile cellular)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
The Romans invaded Tripolitania (the region around Tripoli) in 106 BC,
and by 64 BC Julius Caesar's legions had completed the occupation. As
a Roman province, Libya was prosperous, reaching a golden age in the
2nd century AD. The three principal Roman cities of Sabratha, Oea and
Leptis Magna provided the empire with grain, oil and a supply of slaves
and exotic goods from sub-Saharan Africa.
of the Roman Empire saw the classical cities fall into ruin, a process
hastened by the Vandals' destructive sweep though northern Africa in
the 5th century AD. When the Byzantines took over in the 6th century,
efforts were made to strengthen the old cities, but it was only a last
gasp before they collapsed into disuse. Only Oea, which survives today
as Tripoli, the nation's capital, remains a living city.
invasion of the 7th century brought Islam to the country, where it remains
firmly entrenched to this day. Arab rule was culturally fruitful, and
many examples of early Islamic architecture remain, especially in the
oases of the south. The Arabs ruled Libya until the Turks conquered
the country in the mid-16th century, administrating it through a succession
of locally appointed rulers who levied a toll on every Christian fleet
using the Mediterranean.
the Napoleonic wars, European powers began to colonise northern Africa,
and the Turks hastened to strengthen their control of Libya. Their last
North African possession, Libya was taken from the Turks by Italy in
that country's last-minute bid for colonies in Africa.
colonial period proved devastating for native Libyans, as the large-scale
'Italianisation' of the country saw half of the indigenous population
either exiled or exterminated between 1911 and the end of WWII. The
crowning insult was being reduced to a theatre of war in which huge
minefields were laid, some of which remain.
postwar years, Italy was forced to give up Libya, and the country became
independent under King Idris, an aging Senussi leader from Cyrenaica,
the region around Benghazi. The king's support was spotty outside Cyrenaica,
and tensions in the country mounted, fired by growing political discontent
and a mood of Pan-Arabism that was sweeping the Arab world. On 1 September
1969, a small group of army officers led by 27-year-old Captain Mu'ammar
Gaddafi deposed the old king in a coup. Soon after, British and American
troops were ordered to leave the bases they had occupied since WWII,
and the 25,000 descendants of the Italian colonists were also forced
to pack up and leave promptly.
regime was committed to a more equitable distribution of Libya's enormous
oil income, and billions of dollars were spent on roads, schools, housing,
hospitals and agriculture. During the 1970s, Gaddafi penned the Green
Book, which he claims is a radical alternative to capitalism and communism.
Launching his revolution, he declared Libya to be a Jamahiriya (loosely
translated as a 'state of the masses') and set about dismantling the
state apparatus and replacing it with people's committees. In practice,
however, Libya's government was and remains a strict military dictatorship.
wholly foreign-owned and controlled at the time of King Idris' overthrow,
Libya's oil deposits have been taken over by a government determined
to gain control over the country's main natural resource. Oil money
funded the multi-billion-dollar Great Man-Made River project, which
pumps water from ancient aquifers deep under the desert to the coastal
areas, a project intended to make Libya self-sufficient in food production.
the 1970s and 1980s, Libya adopted a high international profile based
on Pan-Arabism, its virulent condemnation of 'western imperialism',
its support of liberation movements around the world and military adventurism
in neighbouring African nations. What angered Western countries most
was Gaddafi's support of real and so-called liberation movements, and
particularly his alleged support of international terrorist organisations.
These activities served to isolate Libya further from the international
community. The most violent reaction to Libya's politics came from the
USA, culminating in the air strike of April 1986 that killed dozens
of people, including Gaddafi's adopted baby daughter.
a period of isolation following the 1988 bombing of a Pan-Am airliner
over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 259 people on board and 11 on
the ground. Libya was accused of planting the bomb, and two Libyans
were named as suspects. The US and Britain demanded the suspects be
turned over for trial, Libya refused, and the resulting standoff caused
the US to force the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Libya.
1998, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Netherlands,
ruled that it had jurisdiction in the case and rejected British and
US arguments over the right to decide where the two Libyans suspected
of carrying out the Lockerbie bombing should be tried. In December 1998,
the Libyan congress endorsed a plan to send the men for trial in the
Netherlands, where they would be tried under Scottish law. The question
of where the men would serve prison time if convicted of the bombing
remained at issue until February 1999, when Gaddafi agreed to house
them in a special UN-monitored jail in Scotland. In return for coming
to the party, the UN lifted the sanctions it had imposed on Libya seven
lifting of sanctions, Gaddafi has been working hard to overturn Libya’s
‘terrorist state’ image. He now styles himself as an African ‘peacebroker’,
turning his back on his Arab neighbours to take a leading role in the
aims of the Organisation for African Unity (OAU).
control of Libya remains absolute, despite occasional outbreaks of civil
disobedience and several rumoured military coup attempts.