Claim: Tripoli is a crisis capital of the Middle East.
Tripoli witnesses a bloody present. A city once known as “city with two tales” is in chaos today. The utter breach of peace has made the city hell on earth. If Middle East is the chessboard of the twenty-first century, then Tripoli can be stated as a crisis capital of this ill-operated region. Idlib might be the only region that is more chaotic than the Libyan capital. The strings pulled by GNA and LNA have become lethal ropes of blood for the civilians. People from every corner of Tripoli are in a continuous state of war, restlessness, confusion, and insecurity. Human rights violations, gender inequality, and political victimization are common trades in Libya generally and in Tripoli particularly.
Keywords: GNA (UN-Backed Government of National Accord), LNA (Libyan National Army), Khalifah Haftar, Tripoli, Libya.
Before arguing on the claim, it is necessary to understand the background that what’s happening in Libya and for what. The following two paragraphs deal with the same notion:
In late 1960s Khalifa Haftar was Muammar Qaddafi’s friend. He helped put him in power. He became one of the top leaders of Libya. But in late 1980s one of Haftar’s missions in Chad went wrong. He ended up with Qaddafi and left for the US. He came back in 2011 after the demise of Qaddafi and started consolidating power in Eastern Libya. Egypt and UAE helped him build LNA (Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army). LNA is also known as LAAF (Libyan Arab Armed Forces) and HAF (Haftar Ahmed’s Forces). LNA is estimated to have 25,000 fighters. It has a strong command over Tobruk (a port city on Libya’s eastern Mediterranean coast, near the border with Egypt), supported by the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, France, and Russia.
Haftar’s adventurism is contained by the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), which was installed in Libya in the year 2015. GNA is backed by the United Nations, Italy, Qatar and Turkey. As the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has recently stated, “If (Haftar) continues his attacks on the country’s legitimate administration and on our brothers in Libya, we will not hesitate to teach the coup leader Haftar the lesson that he deserves.” Furthermore, the divisions among the tribes once created by Qaddafi are divided further. This fabricated social structure of Libya has not met a good end since 2011. This factor has sandwiched the commoners between the two powers, who are fighting for getting the command of Tripoli, the capital.
Now it is easier to move ahead and argue that what caused me to title Tripoli, a troubled center of the region. The succeeding paragraphs will evaluate this perception.
Firstly, Haftar’s forces, GNA forces and as well as IS (so-called Islamic State) have caused maximum human rights violations in Tripoli like extra judicial executions, abductions, tortures, disappearances and killing of civilians. Around 200,000 people in Libya remained internally displaced, as of October 2018. Clashes erupted in August 2018 in the capital between armed groups vying for control of state institutions, which lasted one month. While the southern parts of the city bore the brunt, indiscriminate shelling in neighborhoods elsewhere also killed civilians and destroyed infrastructure. At least 120 people were killed and 400 wounded over the course of the month-long fighting, according to the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). The fighting involved the destruction of civilian property, looting, abductions, and the displacement of thousands. 120 prisoners had been held beyond the expiration of their sentences in the city, as per December 2018.
Secondly, young ones and as well as women and children are suffering badly in such environment, For instance, over 100 mostly non-Libyan women and children remain held without charge in two prisons in Tripoli and Misrata, and 24 orphaned children were being held separately in a facility run by the Libyan Red Crescent in Misrata, all of them because of their suspected familial relationship to alleged ISIS fighters. There are few prospects for their release, either because it is not clear where they are from or because their governments will not accept their repatriation. Prisons in Libya are marked by overcrowding, bad living conditions, widespread ill-treatment and the lack of specialized services for women and children, such as educational and leisure activities and medical care. In short, they do not have the option of good. They are to choose either bad or worse.
Thirdly, neutrals in the power struggle can also turn out to be the criminals. As on August 15, 2018, alone, despite allegations of serious due process violations, a Tripoli court convicted 99 suspected Gaddafi supporters in a mass trial, sentencing 45 to death and 54 to five years in prison, in relation to the alleged killing of 146 people during the 2011 uprising. Since 2014, authorities in Misrata and Tripoli have detained tens of people displaced from Benghazi, often on dubious terrorism allegations. Since the fighting started in May in Derna, at least 1,000 families fled the fighting, according to Derna officials.
Fourthly, journalism and activism are not safe games to practice in this catastrophic capital of the region. For example, on August 1, 2018, an armed group linked with the GNA Interior Ministry detained at the Tripoli Naval Base four Libyan journalists and photographers from Reuters and Agence France-Presse who were covering migration-related issues and held them for 10 hours without explanation. This story explains that no party or agency is even allowed to report mass atrocities faced by the people of Tripoli.
Fifthly, Haftar has announced in April 2019 to take the control of Tripoli by force. This has caused more catastrophe in the city everywhere. The government recognized by the international community and its loyal argue that if Haftar wins the capital, the country will return to the brutal days of Qaddafi. It will cause a reversal of the revolutionary ideas. Haftar’s move has turned the Libyan capital in further ruins. No one is safe to do anything freely in the city, not even the school children and patients under treatment in the hospitals. The involvement of international actors and non-state actors has created more mess, making peace near to impossible.
To conclude, If chaos has a home then it must be somewhere in the Middle East and Libya’s Tripoli is no exception. The struggle is of traditional nature as status quo versus revisionists. The lust of power seems to engulf the rich city. As usual, the elite faces the least consequences of such crisis and the commoners face the most. The latest attacks by LNA and the counter attacks by GNA have sandwiched the capital and its people. Hence, undoubtedly, Tripoli is a crisis capital of the region, Middle East.