Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi (c. 1942 – 20 October 2011), commonly known as Colonel Gaddafi, was a Libyan revolutionary, politician and political theorist. He governed Libya as Revolutionary Chairman of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 to 1977 and then as the “Brotherly Leader” of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya from 1977 to 2011. Gaddafi transformed Libya into a new socialist state called a Jamahiriya (“state of the masses”) in He officially adopted a symbolic role in governance but remained head of both the military and
the Revolutionary Committees responsible for policing and suppressing dissent.

A highly divisive figure, Gaddafi dominated Libya’s politics for four decades and was the subject of a pervasive cult of personality. He was decorated with various awards and praised for his antiimperialist stance, support for Arab—and then African—unity, as well as for significant improvements that his government brought to the Libyan people’s quality of life. Conversely, many Libyans strongly opposed his social and economic reforms; he was posthumously accused of sexual abuse. He was condemned by many as a dictator whose authoritarian administration systematically violated human rights and financed global terrorism.

Amid the 2011 Arab Spring, protests against widespread corruption and unemployment broke out in Eastern Libya. The situation descended into civil war, in which NATO intervened militarily on the side of the anti-Gaddafist National Transitional Council (NTC). The government was overthrown and Gaddafi retreated to Sirte, only to be captured and killed by NTC militants. Gaddafi was mourned as a hero by many across Sub-Saharan Africa; The Daily Times of Nigeria for instance stated that while undeniably a dictator, Gaddafi was the most benevolent in a region that only knew dictatorship, and that he was “a great man that looked out for his people and made them the envy of all of Africa”. The Nigerian newspaper Leadership reported that while many Libyans and Africans would mourn Gaddafi, this would be ignored by Western media and that as such it would take 50 years before historians decided whether he was “martyr or villain”.

A highly divisive figure, Gaddafi dominated Libya's politics for four decades and was the subject of a pervasive cult of personality

Early life of Gaddafi

Birth and Parents

Gaddafi was born near Qasr Abu Hadi, a rural area outside the town of Sirte in the deserts of Tripolitania, western Libya. His family came from a small, relatively uninfluential tribal group called the Qadhadhfa, who were Arabized Berber in heritage. His mother was named Aisha bin Niran (died 1978), and his father, Mohammad Abdul Salam bin Hamed bin Mohammad, was known as Abu Meniar (died 1985); the latter earned a meagre subsistence as a goat and camel herder. His family were illiterate and kept no birth records. Many biographers have used 7 June; however, his birthday is not known with certainty and sources have set it in 1942 or the spring of 1943. His parents’ only surviving son, he had three older sisters.


Gaddafi’s earliest education was of a religious nature, imparted by a local Islamic teacher. Subsequently, moving to nearby Sirte to attend elementary school, he progressed through six grades in four years. Education in Libya was not free, but his father thought it would greatly benefit his son despite the financial strain. During the week Gaddafi slept in a mosque, and at weekends walked 20 miles (32 km) to visit his parents.

Political activism

Gaddafi admired the political changes implemented in the Arab Republic of Egypt under his hero, President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser argued for Arab nationalism; the rejection of Western colonialism, neo-colonialism, and Zionism; and a transition from capitalism to socialism. Gaddafi was influenced by Nasser’s book, Philosophy of the Revolution, which outlined how to initiate a coup. One of Gaddafi’s Egyptian teachers was reportedly sympathetic towards the youth’s political ideas, and advised him that a successful revolution would need the support of the army. Gaddafi organized demonstrations and distributed posters criticizing the monarchy. In October 1961, he led a demonstration protesting against Syria’s secession from the UAR, and raised funds to send cables of support to Nasser. Twenty students were arrested as a result of the disorder. Gaddafi and his companions also broke windows in a local hotel that was accused of serving alcohol. To punish Gaddafi, the authorities expelled him and his family from Sabha. Gaddafi moved to Misrata, there attending Misrata Secondary School.

Military training and establishment of the Free Officers Movement

Gaddafi briefly studied history at the University of Libya in Benghazi before dropping out to join the military. Despite his police record, in 1963 he began training at the Royal Military Academy, Benghazi, alongside several like-minded friends from Misrata. The armed forces offered the only opportunity for upward social mobility for underprivileged Libyans, and Gaddafi recognized it as a potential instrument of political change. Libya’s armed forces were trained by the British military; this angered Gaddafi, who viewed the British as imperialists, and accordingly, he refused to learn English and was rude to the British officers, ultimately failing his exams. British trainers reported him for insubordination and abusive behaviour, stating their suspicion that he was involved in the assassination of the military academy’s commander in 1963. Such reports were ignored, and Gaddafi quickly progressed through the course.
With a group of loyal cadres, in 1964 Gaddafi established the Free Officers Movement, a revolutionary group with its central committee led by Gaddafi. They met secretively and were organized into a clandestine cell system, offering their salaries into a single fund. Gaddafi travelled around Libya collecting intelligence and developing connections with sympathizers, but the government’s intelligence services ignored him, considering him little threat.Graduating in August 1965, Gaddafi became a communications officer in the army’s signal corps.

Further military training in the UK

In April 1966, he was assigned to the United Kingdom for further training; over nine months he underwent an English-language course at Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, an Army Air Corps signal instructors course in Bovington Camp, Dorset, and an infantry signal instructors course at Hythe, Kent. The Bovington signal course’s director reported that Gaddafi successfully overcame problems learning English, displaying a firm command of voice procedure. Noting that Gaddafi’s favourite hobbies were reading and playing football, he thought him an “amusing officer, always cheerful,
hard-working, and conscientious”. Gaddafi disliked England, saying British Army officers racially insulted him and finding it difficult adjusting to the country’s culture; asserting his Arab identity in London, he walked around Piccadilly wearing traditional Libyan robes. He later related that while he travelled to England believing it more advanced than Libya, he returned home “more confident and proud of our values, ideals and social character”.

Gaddafi comes to power in Libya

Coup d’état by the Free Officers Movement

In mid-1969, Libyan King, Idris travelled abroad to spend the summer in Turkey and Greece. Gaddafi’s Free Officers recognized this as their chance to overthrow the monarchy, initiating “Operation Jerusalem”. On 1 September, they occupied airports, police depots, radio stations, and government offices in Tripoli and Benghazi. Gaddafi and his loyalists took control of the Berka barracks in Benghazi, Tripoli barracks and the city’s anti-aircraft batteries. A loyalist was also sent to arrest the crown prince and force him to relinquish his claim to the throne. They met no serious resistance and wielded little violence against the monarchists.

Kingdom of Libya becoming the Libyan Arab Republic

Once Gaddafi removed the monarchical government, he announced the establishment of the Libyan Arab Republic. Addressing the populace by radio, he proclaimed an end to the “reactionary and corrupt” regime, “the stench of which has sickened and horrified us all”. Due to the coup’s bloodless nature, it was initially labelled the “White Revolution”, although was later renamed the “One September Revolution” after the date on which it occurred.

The flag of Libyan Arab Republic

Gaddafi insisted that the Free Officers’ coup represented a revolution, marking the start of widespread change in the socio-economic and political nature of Libya. He proclaimed that the revolution meant “freedom, socialism, and unity”, and over the coming years to implement measures to achieve this.

Consolidating leadership under a Revolutionary Command Council

The 12 member central committee of the Free Officers proclaimed themselves the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), the government of the new republic. Lieutenant Gaddafi became RCC chairman, and therefore the de facto head of state. He also appointed himself to the rank of colonel and becoming commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Gaddafi at an Arab summit in Libya in 1969, shortly after the September Revolution that toppled King Idris I. Gaddafi sits in military uniform in the middle, surrounded by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (left) and Syrian President Nureddin al-Atassi. The coup completed, the RCC proceeded with their intentions of consolidating the revolutionary
government and modernizing the country. They purged monarchists from Libya’s political world and armed forces; Gaddafi believed this elite were opposed to the will of the Libyan people and had to be expunged. “People’s Courts” were founded to try various monarchist politicians and journalists, many of whom were imprisoned, although none executed. Idris was sentenced to execution in absentia. In May 1970, the Revolutionary Intellectuals Seminar was held to bring intellectuals in line with the revolution, while that year’s Legislative Review and Amendment united secular and religious law codes, introducing sharia into the legal system. Ruling by decree, the RCC maintained the monarchy’s
ban on political parties, and in May 1970 banned trade unions, and in 1972 outlawed workers’ strikes. In 1972, Major Jalloud, Gaddafi’s best friend became Prime Minister while a civilian Council of Ministers was founded to implement RCC policy. Libya’s administrative capital was moved from alBeida to Tripoli.

Libya under Gaddafi’s rule

Successful economic and social reforms brought in by the Revolutionary Command Council The RCC’s early economic policy has been characterized as being state capitalist in orientation. Many schemes were established to aid entrepreneurs and develop a Libyan bourgeoisie. Seeking to expand the cultivatable acreage in Libya, in September 1969 the government launched a “Green Revolution” to increase agricultural productivity so that Libya could rely less on imported food. The hope was to make Libya self-sufficient in food production. All land that had either been expropriated from Italian settlers or which was not in use was repossessed and redistributed. Irrigation systems were
established along the northern coastline and around various inland oases. Production costs often surpassed the value of the produce and thus Libyan agricultural production remained in deficit, relying heavily on state subsidies. With crude oil as the country’s primary export, Gaddafi sought to improve Libya’s oil sector. In October 1969, he proclaimed the current trade terms unfair, benefiting foreign corporations more than the Libyan state, and threatened to decrease production. In December Libya successfully increased the price of their oil. The RCC followed with the Tripoli agreement of 20 March 1971, in which they secured income tax, back-payments and better pricing from the oil corporations; these measures brought Libya an estimated $1 billion in additional revenues in its first year. By mid-1970’s Libya under Gaddafi was proving to be an economic success. The gross domestic product which had been $3.8 billion in 1969, had risen to $13.7 billion in 1974, and $24.5 billion in 1979. In turn, the Libyans’ standard of life greatly improved over the first decade of Gaddafi’s administration, and by 1979 the average per-capita income was at $8,170, up from $40 in 1951; this was above the average of many industrialized countries like Italy and the UK. The RCC implemented measures for social reform, adopting sharia as a basis. The consumption of alcohol was prohibited, night clubs and Christian churches were shut down, traditional Libyan dress was encouraged, and Arabic was decreed as the only language permitted in official communications and on road signs. The RCC doubled the minimum wage, introduced statutory price controls, and implemented compulsory rent reductions of between 30 and 40 per cent. Gaddafi also wanted to combat the strict social restrictions that had been imposed on women by the previous regime, establishing the Revolutionary Women’s Formation to encourage reform. In 1970,a law was introduced affirming equality of the sexes and insisting on wage parity. In 1971, Gaddafi sponsored the creation of a Libyan General Women’s Federation. In 1972, a law was passed criminalizing the marriage of any females under the age of sixteen and ensuring that a woman’s consent was a necessary prerequisite for a marriage. Gaddafi’s regime opened up a wide range of
educational and employment opportunities for women.

From 1969 to 1973, it used oil money to fund social welfare programs, which led to house-building projects and improved healthcare and education. House building became a major social priority, designed to eliminate homelessness and to replace the shanty towns created by Libya’s growing urbanization. The health sector was also expanded; by 1978, Libya had 50 per cent more hospitals than it had in 1968, while the number of doctors had increased from 700 to over 3000 in that decade. Malaria was eradicated, and trachoma and tuberculosis greatly curtailed. Compulsory education was expanded from 6 to 9 years, while adult literacy programs and free university
education were introduced. Beida University was founded, while Tripoli University and Benghazi University were expanded. In doing so, the government helped to integrate the poorer strata of Libyan society into the education system. Through these measures, the RCC greatly expanded the public sector, providing employment for thousands. These early social programs proved popular within Libya. This popularity was partly due to Gaddafi’s personal charisma and youth.

In 1971, Egypt’s Anwar Sadat, Libya’s Gaddafi and Syria’s Hafez al-Assad signed an agreement to form a federal Union of Arab Republics. The agreement never materialized into a federal union between thethree Arab states.
Relations with the UK and the US After the 1969 coup, representatives of the Four Powers—France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union—were called to meet RCC representatives. The UK and the US quickly extended diplomatic recognition, hoping to secure the position of their military bases in Libya and
fearing further instability. Hoping to ingratiate themselves with Gaddafi, in 1970 the US informed him of at least one planned counter-coup. Such attempts to form a working relationship with the RCC failed; Gaddafi was determined to reassert national sovereignty and expunge what he described as foreign colonial and imperialist influences. His administration insisted that the US and the UK remove their military bases from Libya, with Gaddafi proclaiming that “the armed forces which rose to express the people’s revolution [will not] tolerate living in their shacks while the bases of imperialism exist in Libyan territory.” The British left in March and the Americans in June 1970.

Support for militant groups in other countries

Gaddafi was especially critical of the US due to its support of Israel, and sided with the Palestinians in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, viewing the 1948 creation of the State of Israel as a Western colonial occupation forced upon the Arab world. He believed that Palestinian violence against Israeli and Western targets was the justified response of an oppressed people who were fighting against the colonization of their homeland. Calling on the Arab states to wage “continuous war” against Israel, in 1970 he initiated a Jihad Fund to finance anti-Israeli militants. In June 1972 Gaddafi created the First Nasserite Volunteers Centre to train anti-Israeli guerrillas.

Gaddafi favoured the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and his group, Fatah, over more militant and Marxist Palestinian groups. As the years progressed however, Gaddafi’s relationship with Arafat became strained, with Gaddafi considering him too moderate and calling for more violent action. Instead, he supported militias like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, As-Sa’iqa, the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, and the Abu Nidal Organization. He funded the Black September Organization whose members perpetrated the 1972 Munich massacre of Israeli athletes in West Germany and had the killed militants’ bodies flown to Libya for a hero’s funeral. Gaddafi financially supported other militant groups across the world, including the Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam, the Tupamaros, the 19th of April Movement and the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua, the ANC among other liberation movements in the fight against Apartheid in South Africa, the Provisional Irish Republican Army, ETA, Action direct, the Red Brigades, and the Red Army Faction in Europe, and the Armenian Secret Army, the Japanese Red Army, the Free Aceh Movement, and the Moro National Liberation Front in the Philippines. Gaddafi was indiscriminate in the causes which he funded, sometimes switching from supporting one side in a conflict to the other, as in the Eritrean War of Independence. Throughout the 1970s these groups received financial support from Libya, which came to be seen as a leader in the Third World’s struggle against colonialism and neocolonialism. Though many of these groups were labelled “terrorists” by critics of their activities, Gaddafi rejected this characterization, instead considering them to be
revolutionaries who were engaged in liberation struggles.

The “Popular Revolution”, General People’s Committees, Third Universal Theory and the Green

On 16 April 1973, Gaddafi proclaimed the start of a “Popular Revolution” in a speech at Zuwarah. He initiated this with a five-point plan, the first point of which dissolved all existing laws, to be replaced by revolutionary enactments. The second point proclaimed that all opponents of the revolution had to be removed, while the third initiated an administrative revolution that Gaddafi proclaimed would remove all traces of bureaucracy and the bourgeoisie. The fourth point announced that the population must form People’s Committees and be armed to defend the revolution, while the fifth proclaimed the beginning of a cultural revolution to expunge Libya of “poisonous” foreign influences. He began to lecture on this new phase of the revolution in Libya, Egypt, and France. As a process, it had many similarities with the Cultural Revolution implemented in China. As part of this Popular Revolution, Gaddafi invited Libya’s people to establish General People’s Committees (GPCs) as conduits for raising political consciousness. Although offering little guidance for how to set up these councils, Gaddafi claimed that they would offer a form of direct political participation that was more democratic than a traditional party-based representative system. He hoped that the councils would mobilize the people behind the RCC, erode the power of the traditional leaders and the bureaucracy, and allow for a new legal system chosen by the people. Many such committees were established in schools and colleges, where they were responsible for vetting staff, courses, and textbooks to determine if they were compatible with the country’s
revolutionary ideology.

The People’s Committees led to a high percentage of public involvement in decision making, within the limits permitted by the RCC, but exacerbated tribal divisions and tensions. They also served as a surveillance system, aiding the security services in locating individuals with views critical of the RCC, leading to the arrest of Ba’athists, Marxists, and Islamists. Operating in a pyramid structure, the base form of these Committees were local working groups, who sent elected representatives to the district level, and from there to the national level, divided between the General People’s Congress and the General People’s Committee. Above these remained Gaddafi and the RCC, who remained responsible for all major decisions. In crossing regional and tribal identities, the committee system aided national integration and centralization and tightened Gaddafi’s control over the state and administrative apparatus.
In June 1973, Gaddafi created a political ideology as a basis for the Popular Revolution: Third International Theory. This approach regarded both the US and the Soviet Union as imperialist and thus rejected Western capitalism as well as Marxist-Leninist atheism. In this respect, it was similar to the Three Worlds Theory developed by China’s political leader Mao Zedong.

As part of this theory, Gaddafi praised nationalism as a progressive force and advocated the creation of a pan-Arab state which would lead the Islamic and Third Worlds against imperialism. Gaddafi saw Islam as having a
key role in this ideology, calling for an Islamic revival that returned to the origins of the Qur’an, rejecting scholarly interpretations and the Hadith; in doing so, he angered many Libyan clerics. During 1973 and 1974, his government deepened the legal reliance on sharia, for instance by introducing flogging as punishment for those convicted of adultery or homosexual activity.

Gaddafi summarized Third International Theory in three short volumes published between 1975 and 1979, collectively known as The Green Book. Volume one was devoted to the issue of democracy, outlining the flaws of representative systems in favour of direct, participatory GPCs. The second dealt with Gaddafi’s beliefs regarding socialism, while the third explored social issues regarding the family and the tribe. While the first two volumes advocated radical reform, the third adopted a socially conservative stance, proclaiming that while men and women were equal, they were biologically designed for different roles in life.

An Arabic copy of The Green Book

Replacement of the Libyan Arab Republic by Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya On 2 March 1977, the General People’s Congress adopted the “Declaration on the Establishment of the Authority of the People” at Gaddafi’s behest. Dissolving the Libyan Arab Republic, it was replaced by the ‘Great’ Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, a “state of the masses” conceptualized by Gaddafi. A new, all-green banner was adopted as the country’s flag.
Flag of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Officially, the Jamahiriya was a direct democracy in which the people ruled themselves through the 187 Basic People’s Congresses (BPCs), where all adult Libyans participated and voted on national decisions. These then sent members to the annual General People’s Congress, which was broadcast
live on television. In principle, the People’s Congresses were Libya’s highest authority, with major decisions proposed by government officials or with Gaddafi himself requiring the consent of the People’s Congresses. Gaddafi (left) with Egyptian President Gaddafi (right) with Sudanese leader, Maj Gen Nimeiry Nasser in 1969 and Nasser in 1969
Gaddafi with Romanian communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu in Bucharest, Romania 1974.

Turning towards socialism

Libya began to turn towards socialism. In March 1978, the government issued guidelines for housing redistribution, attempting to ensure that every adult Libyan owned their own home. Most families were banned from owning more than one house, while former rental properties were expropriated by the state and sold to the tenants at a heavily subsidized price. In September, Gaddafi called for the People’s Committees to eliminate the “bureaucracy of the public sector” and the “dictatorship of the private sector”; the People’s Committees took control of several hundred companies, converting them into worker cooperatives run by elected representatives.

Economic downturn

The early and mid-1980s saw economic trouble for Libya; from 1982 to 1986, the country’s annual oil revenues dropped from $21 billion to $5.4 billion. Focusing on irrigation projects, 1983 saw construction start on Libya’s largest and most expensive infrastructure project, the Great Man-Made River; although designed to be finished by the end of the decade, it remained incomplete at the start of the 21st century. Military spending increased, while other administrative budgets were cut back. Libya’s foreign debt rose, and austerity measures were introduced to promote self-reliance Construction for the Great Man-Made River Project.

Conflict with the US and its allies

Libya had sought to improve relations with the US under the presidency of Jimmy Carter, but in 1979 the US placed Libya on its list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism”. Relations were further damaged at the end of the year when a demonstration torched the US embassy in Tripoli in solidarity with the perpetrators of the Iran hostage crisis. The following year, Libyan fighters began intercepting US fighter jets flying over the Mediterranean, signalling the collapse of relations between the two countries. In 1981, the new US President, Ronald Reagan, pursued a hardline approach to Libya, claiming it to be a puppet regime of the Soviet Union. In turn, Gaddafi played up his commercial relationship with the Soviets, revisiting Moscow in 1981 and 1985, and threatening to join the Warsaw Pact. The Soviets were nevertheless cautious of Gaddafi, seeing him as an unpredictable extremist. Closing down Libya’s embassy in Washington, DC, Reagan advised US companies operating in Libya to reduce the number of American personnel stationed there. In March 1982, the US implemented an embargo of Libyan oil and in January 1986 ordered all US companies to cease operating in the country, although several hundred workers remained when the Libyan government doubled their pay.

Diplomatic relations also broke down with the UK, after Libyan diplomats were accused in the killing of a British policewoman stationed outside their London embassy, in April 1984. During his November 2008 visit to Russia, Gaddafi pitched his Bedouin tent in the grounds of the Moscow Kremlin. Here he is joined by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and French singer Mireille Mathieu.

Military strike by the US on Libya

After the US accused Libya of orchestrating the 1986 Berlin discotheque bombing, in which two American soldiers died, Reagan decided to retaliate militarily. The CIA was critical of the move, believing that Syria was a greater threat and that an attack would strengthen Gaddafi’s reputation; however Libya was recognized as a “soft target”. Reagan was supported by the UK but opposed by other European allies, who argued that it would contravene international law. In Operation El Dorado Canyon, orchestrated on 15 April 1986, US military planes launched a series of air-strikes on Libya,
bombing military installations in various parts of the country, killing around 100 Libyans, including several civilians.
One of the targets had been Gaddafi’s home. Two of Gaddafi’s sons were injured, and he claimed that his four-year-old adopted daughter was killed, although her existence has since been questioned. In the immediate aftermath, Gaddafi retreated to the desert to meditate. There were sporadic clashes between Gaddafists and army officers who wanted to overthrow the government. The US was condemned internationally. Publicly lambasting US imperialism, Gaddafi’s
reputation as an anti-imperialist was strengthened both domestically and across the Arab world. In the aftermath of the 1986 US attack, the army was purged of perceived disloyal elements, and in 1988, Gaddafi announced the creation of a popular militia to replace the army and police. In 1987, Libya began production of mustard gas, although publicly denied it was stockpiling chemical weapons, and unsuccessfully attempted to develop nuclear weapons

Building up of an opposition to Gaddafi’ rule

The mid 80s period also saw a growth in domestic Islamist opposition, formulated into groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Several assassination attempts against Gaddafi were foiled, and in turn, 1989 saw the security forces raid mosques believed to be centres of counter-revolutionary preaching. In October 1993, elements of the increasingly marginalized army initiated a failed coup in Misrata, while in September 1995, Islamists launched an insurgency in Benghazi. The Revolutionary Committees experienced a resurgence to combat these Islamists.

Gaddafi rebuilding links with the West

In 1999, Libya began secret talks with the British government to normalize relations. In September 2001, Gaddafi publicly condemned the September 11 attacks on the US by al-Qaeda, expressing sympathy with the victims and calling for Libyan involvement in the US-led War on Terror against militant Islamism. Libya also cemented connections with China and North Korea, being visited by Chinese President in April 2002. Influenced by the events of the Iraq War, in December 2003, Libya renounced its possession of weapons of mass destruction, decommissioning its chemical and nuclear weapons programs. Relations with the US improved as a result. British Prime Minister Tony Blair visited Gaddafi in March 2004. In 2003, Libya formally accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie (Pan Am Boeing 747) bombing and paid US$2.7 billion to the families of its victims; the US and UK had made this a condition for terminating the remaining UN sanctions.

Gaddafi’s downfall

Libya’s economy witnessed increasing privatization; although rejecting the socialist policies of
nationalized industry advocated in The Green Book, government figures asserted that they were forging “people’s socialism” rather than capitalism. These reforms encouraged private investment in Libya’s economy. By 2004, there was US$40 billion of direct foreign investment in Libya, a six fold rise over 2003. Sectors of Libya’s population reacted against these reforms with public demonstrations, and in March 2006, revolutionary hard-liners took control of the GPC cabinet; although scaling back the pace of the changes, they did not halt them. In 2010, plans were announced that would have seen half the Libyan economy privatized over the following decade, these plans appear to have been soon abandoned however, as the companies that the government stated they were going to float on the stock market were never floated and remained 100% state-owned.

Many socialist policies remained. Agriculture remained largely untouched by the reforms, with farms remaining cooperatives, and state interventionist policies and price controls remaining. The oil industry remained largely state-owned. The government also imposed a 93% tax on all oil that foreign companies produced in Libya. Price controls and subsidies over oil and food remained in place, and state-provided benefits such as free education, universal healthcare, free housing, free water and free electricity remained in place.

Libyan Civil War: The end of the road for Gaddafi Origins and development

With the start of the Arab Spring in 2011, marked by the Tunisian Revolution and fearing domestic
protests Libya’s government implemented preventive measures by reducing food prices, purging the
army leadership of potential defectors, and releasing several Islamist prisoners. This proved
ineffective, and on 17 February 2011, major protests broke out against Gaddafi’s government. Unlike
Tunisia or Egypt, Libya was largely religiously homogeneous and had no strong Islamist movement,
but there was widespread dissatisfaction with the corruption and entrenched systems of patronage,
while unemployment had reached around 30 per cent.

As he announced that the rebels would be “hunted down street by street, house by house and wardrobe by wardrobe”, the army opened fire on protests in Benghazi, killing hundreds. Shocked at the government’s response, a number of senior politicians resigned or defected to the protesters’ side.] The uprising spread quickly through Libya’s less economically developed eastern half. By February’s end, eastern cities such as Benghazi, Misrata, al-Bayda, and Tobruk were controlled by rebels, and the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council (NTC) formed to represent them.
In the conflict’s early months it appeared that Gaddafi’s government—with its greater fire-power—would be victorious. Both sides disregarded the laws of war, committing human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests, torture, extrajudicial executions, and revenge attacks. The UN, NATO, ICC and Amnesty International entering the conflict
On 26 February the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1970, suspending Libya from the UN Human Rights Council, implementing sanctions and calling for an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into the killing of unarmed civilians. In March, the Security Council declared a no-fly zone to protect the civilian population from aerial bombardment, calling on foreign nations to enforce it; it also specifically prohibited foreign occupation. Ignoring this, Qatar sent hundreds of troops to support the dissidents and, along with France and the United Arab Emirates, provided weaponry and military training to the NTC.

NATO then announced that it would enforce the no-fly zone. On 30 April a NATO airstrike killed Gaddafi’s sixth son and three of his grandsons in Tripoli. This Western military intervention was criticized by various leftist governments, including those that had criticized Gaddafi’s response to the protests, because they regarded it as an imperialist attempt to secure control of Libya’s resources. In June, the ICC issued arrest warrants for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and his brother-inlaw Abdullah Senussi, head of state security, for charges concerning crimes against humanity. That month, Amnesty International published their report, finding that while Gaddafi’s forces were responsible for numerous war crimes, many other allegations of mass human rights abuses lacked credible evidence and were likely fabrications by rebel forces that had been promoted by Western media. In July, over 30 governments recognized the NTC as the legitimate government of Libya; Gaddafi called on his supporters to “Trample on those recognitions, trample on them under your feet … They are worthless”. In August, the Arab League recognized the NTC as “the legitimate representative of the Libyan state”.

Aided by NATO air cover, the rebel militia pushed westward, defeating Gaddafi loyalist armies and securing control of the centre of the country. Then gaining the support of communities in the western mountains who had long been persecuted as non-Arabic speakers under Gaddafi, the NTC armies surrounded Gaddafi loyalists in several key areas of western Libya. In August, the rebels seized cities Zliten and Tripoli, ending the last vestiges of Gaddafist power. It is probable that without the NATO air strikes supporting the rebels, they would not have been able to advance west and Gaddafi’s forces would have ultimately retaken control of eastern Libya.

Capture and the death of Gaddafi

Only a few towns in western Libya remained Gaddafist strongholds including Sirte. Retreating to Sirte after Tripoli’s fall, Gaddafi announced his willingness to negotiate for a handover to a transitional government, a suggestion rejected by the NTC. Surrounding himself with bodyguards, he continually moved residences to escape NTC shelling, devoting his days to prayer and reading the Qur’an. On 20 October, Gaddafi broke out of Sirte’s District 2 in a joint civilian-military convoy, hoping to take refuge in the Jarref Valley. At around 8.30 am, NATO bombers attacked, destroying at least 14 vehicles and killing at least 53 people. The convoy scattered, and Gaddafi and those closest to him fled to a nearby
villa, which was shelled by rebel militia from Misrata. Fleeing to a construction site, Gaddafi and his inner cohort hid inside drainage pipes while his bodyguards battled the rebels; in the conflict, Gaddafi suffered head injuries from a grenade blast while defence minister Abu-Bakr Yunis Jabr was killed.

The Misrata militia took Gaddafi prisoner, causing serious injuries as they tried to apprehend him; the events were filmed on a mobile phone. A video appears to picture Gaddafi being poked or stabbed in the anus “with some kind of stick or knife or possibly a bayonet. Pulled onto the front of a pick-up truck, he fell off as it drove away. His semi-naked, lifeless body was then placed into an ambulance and taken to Misrata; upon arrival, he was found to be dead. Official NTC accounts claimed that Gaddafi was caught in a cross-fire and died from bullet wounds. Other eye-witness
accounts claimed that rebels had fatally shot Gaddafi in the stomach.

Gaddafi’s son Mutassim, who had also been among the convoy, was similarly captured and found dead several hours later, most probably from an extrajudicial execution. Libya’s chief forensic pathologist, carried out the autopsies of Gaddafi, his son, and Jabr in the days following their deaths; although the pathologist informed the press that Gaddafi had died from a gunshot wound to the head, the autopsy report was not made public .On the afternoon of Gaddafi’s death, NTC Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril publicly revealed the news. Gaddafi’s corpse was placed in the freezer of a local market alongside the corpses of Yunis Jabr and Mutassim; the bodies were publicly displayed for four days, with Libyans from all over the country coming to view them. Footage of Gaddafi’s death was broadcast extensively across media networks internationally. In response to international calls, on 24 October Jibril announced that a commission would investigate Gaddafi’s death. On 25 October, the NTC announced that Gaddafi had been buried at an unidentified location in the desert.


A very private individual, Gaddafi was given to rumination and solitude and could be reclusive. The reporter Mirella Bianco interviewed Gaddafi’s father, who stated that his son was “always serious, even taciturn”, also being courageous, intelligent, pious, and family-oriented. Gaddafi’s friends described him to Bianco as a loyal and generous man. More widely, he was often regarded as being “bizarre, irrational or quixotic”. Bearman noted that Gaddafi was emotionally volatile and had an impulsive temperament,] with the CIA believing that the Libyan leader suffered from clinical depression. Gaddafi described himself as a “simple revolutionary” and “pious Muslim” called upon by God to continue Nasser’s work. Gaddafi was an austere and devout Muslim, although according to Vandewalle, his interpretation of Islam was “deeply personal and idiosyncratic.” He was also a football enthusiast and enjoyed both playing the sport and horse riding as a means of recreation. He regarded himself as an intellectual; he was a fan of Beethoven and said his favourite novels were Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Roots, and The Stranger.