Longing for a caring tyrant
Photo: Steve Bent / Rex Features / EastNews
On October 20, 10 years ago, Libyan rebels murdered Muammar Gaddafi, who ruled this country since 1969. The death of the dictator who ruled for more than 40 years ended eight-month-long fights in which anti-regime forces were supported by NATO intervention. The overthrow of the dictatorship, instead of positive changes, brought about many years of civil war, in which Libya – the most thriving economy in North Africa and an oil tycoon – turned into a failed state, where the most profitable occupation is the smuggling of migrants.
Pre-war Libya is a country of mass surveillance, ruled by a despot who finances terrorism. The world heard more about him when, on his orders, Libyan intelligence detonated a bomb on an American passenger plane flying over the Scottish city of Lockerbie in 1988. 259 people were killed. After that, the world could read many articles and books over the years on the dictator’s numerous crimes, including rapes by Gaddafi on teenagers, bodyguards, soldiers and ministers. According to Amnesty International’s 2010 report, since the regime’s start in 1969, hundreds of people who oppose its policies have disappeared without a trace.
The authorities repressed people organizing any demonstrations, even on issues not strictly related to politics, such as women’s protests against sexual harassment by Libyan men. There are also known cases of murders carried out even without sentences completely dependent on the authority of the courts – in 1996, without a court sentence, the authorities killed several inmates in Abu Salim prison, and their family members who tried to find the truth were arrested.
But crimes and total surveillance are only one face of the dictatorship. The criminal regime also had its “human face”, which ensured its citizens’ loyalty at least as much as the fear of reprisals. Libyans had free access to education, higher education and health care provided by the state. The newlyweds received $ 50,000 to help them start a life together. There were also benefits for parents and the elderly.
There was a nationwide water supply system supplying drinking water to all households. Water, electricity, food and gasoline were subsidized to lower the cost of living for citizens. In 2011, a liter of gasoline cost just $ 0.14. The government also carried out large-scale construction programs. All this, exceeding the standards applicable in most countries of the region, did not cause any public debt.
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