‘… a timely acknowledgment that Libya’s chemistry is older than the laboratory Qaddafi fashioned. The book traces not only the colonel’s demise, as many others have done, but the appearance of a lesser-known new cast. Written almost entirely by foreign experts, some of whom know the different factions intimately, it is the most detailed account I have read of the old forces shaping new Libya.’ — Nicholas Pelham, New York Review of Books
‘The most complete picture we have yet had of the Libyan revolution and its aftermath … a compelling and troubling read.’ — Justin Marozzi, The National
‘By explaining the mosaic of Libya’s various sub-national loyalties and identities and their origins, The Libyan Revolution and its Aftermath provides a useful antidote to day-to-day media coverage, which sometimes reduces Libyan political disputes to a binary struggle between Islamists and secularists, or East and West, or to tribal differences. It underlines the difficulty of forging a new political and economic framework that recognizes these differences but channels them into a pluralistic and tolerant vision.’ — The Times Literary Supplement
‘Making sense of Libya’s post-war descent is difficult — but possible, as The Libyan Revolution and its Aftermath, a timely collection of essays on the country, shows.’ — The Petroleum Economist
‘Libya’s revolution was a complex story of multiple uprisings from geographically, ideologically and tribally distinct areas…Cole and McQuinn’s contributors offer compelling narratives that portray the main actors and the rivalries within and between each of these camps.’ — Survival
‘This is an important book that deserves a wide readership. With more than a dozen books published on the Libyan revolution, this is the first in which the contributors share extensive professional experience, a thorough knowledge of the literature, and recent fieldwork in Libya. The result is a detailed, nuanced account of the revolution and its aftermath.’ — Ronald Bruce St John, author Libya: Continuity and Change and Libya: From Colony to Revolution
‘Here in shocking detail is the story of Libya’s violent “uncertain revolution” of 2011-12. Expert eye-witnesses give blow-by-blow accounts of why, where, when and how complex popular revolts replaced the Gaddafi fiefdom with a chaotic national “liberation”. A serious, convincing and much needed clarification of the Libyan crisis.’ — John Wright, former chief political commentator and analyst of the BBC Arabic Service, and author of A History of Libya
‘This unique and valuable book describes the Libyan Revolution as it has never been described before. It is full of rewarding surprises and deep insights of the sort that seldom make it into daily reporting. Rarely has any revolution been captured in so many dimensions by such a capable collection of authors.’ — Jon B. Alterman, Senior Vice President, Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy and Director, Middle East Program Center for Strategic and International Studies
‘This volume represents the first in-depth account of the dramatic fall and aftermath of the Gaddafi regime in Libya. Peter Cole and Brian McQuinn have successfully brought together nearly all of the keenest and most expert observers of this drama — journalists, academic and policy-makers — to provide detailed and considered analysis of what has occurred in Libya since 2011. This book gives informed and nuanced accounts of the different aspects and actors of Libya’s revolution and is destined to become an essential handbook for all those seeking to understand the seismic changes that have occurred and continue to unfold in the country.’ — Michael Willis, King Mohamed VI Fellow in Moroccan and Mediterranean Studies at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, and author of Politics and Power in the Maghreb: Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco from Independence to the Arab Spring
‘Learning from the Libyan revolution, or from any other significant event, requires exactly what Cole and McQuinn’s collection of essays offers, and what is generally missing from the ever-evolving culture of online blather about the Middle East: granularity. … [T]he contributors write clearly and have mainly taken the best from academia—the rigor—while leaving the cant. They have cast a very wide net, incorporating hundreds of political and military figures … The result is an indispensible book.’ — Tablet
‘This collection of intelligently sculpted essays, written by academics, journalists and political scientists, describes Libya’s descent into chaos after the 2011 uprising that toppled Colonel Muammar Qaddafi. Collectively, the authors present possibly the most detailed and comprehensive account of the events that unfolded in Libya before February 2011, when the armed rebellion broke out. They go about their brief admirably and courageously, drawing on their experiences and knowledge of the country as they attempt to make sense of what seems to be a failed state heading inexorably into anarchy.’ — Ashur Shamis, Good Governance Africa
My father is Libyan, my mother English, and I grew up in Britain. I guess I grew up half Libyan but never really knew what that meant. The country was always the imaginary place my dad spoke of only in hushed tones, this surreal beautiful desert by the sea, full of crazy characters and tales. So when the revolution began and I found myself at protests rubbing shoulders with other young Libyans, I thought it was time to go and discover both my heritage and my family.
The first thing I noticed on arriving in Libya was the energy of the youth and activists. It was – is – simply amazing. I wanted to help, I thought I could help, this new country, a country I knew like an estranged relative. I felt as if a natural force was pulling me towards Libya, even in this time of turbulence. I wanted to open up a visual dialogue, make an impact using visuals as my tool, to show a different face, many faces, of this country of which the world knows so little.
I won’t lie. It’s difficult to balance my quest to capture life in post-Gadhafi Libya with the security situation. There is a sense of paranoia left over from the regime that makes people suspicious and fearful of the camera. But that’s exactly why it is so important to work on relationships with characters to gain their trust, especially if one is making a film. The country is still in transition, we are going through a difficult stage of development. Sometimes it’s paralysing. It is not easy to move around. But I think this is natural: there is always chaos after a revolution.
After the fall of the regime there was a sense that people could suddenly breathe – they could talk, they could have an opinion. ‘Freedom’ became a wild scream. A country once silenced is now a place where everyone is talking at once, and talking very loudly. The security situation has deteriorated recently. The lack of a viable state or constitution, the increase in crime, have made the transitional phase even more acute. Everyday life has become a chore; and the lack of running water, electricity and fuel in a rich country like Libya has disenchanted many people. But this does not mean they are not hopeful for the future. It’s just a wake-up call, beckoning us to work harder to create a future we want for our children.
My cousin was brought up in Libya. She too had a Libyan father, though he took her away from her English mother when we were nine years old. We had very different lives and whenever we meet I am reminded that this could have been my reality. But different doesn’t mean that one is better than the other. She is married with three children, living in Misrata, and is very happy. All I know is that if I had grown up under the regime, I would not have been able to pursue a career as a film and visual artist. I would not have gone to Central Saint Martin’s College of Art, where I gained a Masters in Screen, nor would I have been able to work in the theatre. I would not have had the creative freedom that growing up in the UK gave me. Being both British and Libyan allows me to see the country from the inside, but with the curiosity of someone from outside, always seeking to adjust to this duality.
Libyan men have great respect for women in their family and in the home, but on the street this respect evaporates. Some can be quite disrespectful. And when a camera is involved the situation can get a bit tense. Some men react strongly when a woman is taking their picture. I don’t want to embarrass anyone but sometimes the men feel objectified, which is a new experience for them. When I am filming I spend a long time building a relationship with characters, so this generally doesn’t happen. But when I am taking pictures on the streets it’s interesting to play around with these gender roles, subverting the theory of the ‘male gaze’. I find it fascinating to see how different people respond to the lens. The camera is never neutral, it always alters the reality, and this says something of each individual situation, whether it involves men or women.
My work is not explicitly political or religious, but these elements often resonate in the background of what I do. Our everyday reality is inescapably political. We are seeing a rise in literalist understandings of Islam sweeping the Middle East and the Maghreb in the wake of the ‘Arab Spring’. The literalists are a very small minority and do not represent the masses, but it’s these literalists we often see in the Western media when we talk of the region and Islam. I want to show an alternative reality. Of course, the fundamentalists exist, and one cannot ignore them, but I am worried by the drift into extremism away from the spiritual, though that is not my focus. My interest is in non-elitist forms of visual language that can spark change and help navigate towards universal human stories that challenge media stereotypes of the ‘Other’. And my hope is that Libya will prosper soon; and become the bride of the Mediterranean once again.
My cousin, in traditional dress, about to go on the customary trip to see family and friends for the Eid festival.
‘Weapons are supposed to protect the people not scare them’ reads the placard of a young boy at a protest in Tripoli.
Every home has a firearm in Libya, and many children who witnessed the revolution are growing up to see violence and gun culture as the norm.
Voting in the first national elections, July 2012, a very special day.
My grandma’s joy at voting.
At a demonstration against power cuts.
The words Baba Muamer, referring to Gadhafi as the patriarchal leader of the Libyan people, have been erased from a street wall in Tripoli.