News24

Libyans reject Iraq-like chaos

2011-09-12 20:15

Tripoli - Libyans are confident about their future, saying their revolutionary country will not plunge into Iraq-like chaos because it is less exposed to terror group al-Qaeda and to ethnic and religious multiplicity.

"Libya will not become a new Iraq. Our situation is much simpler in comparison with that nation's ethnic and political diversities," said Abdel Salam al-Mismari, the co-ordinator of the February 17 Coalition, whose members kick-started the revolt that ousted Muammar Gaddafi from more than four decades in power.

Mismari said all political parties "will take their natural place in the new Libya, but in no way will they be associated with foreign interests or be exposed to external interference".

Many Libyans perceive that, since Iraq's Saddam Hussein was toppled in the 2003 US-led invasion, Iraqi political parties have been exposed to regional pulls and pressures, triggering chaos and gross instability in the Arab country.

Like Iraq, power is changing hands in Libya since the fall of Tripoli on August 23 when anti-Gaddafi forces backed by Nato warplanes captured the capital, forcing Gaddafi and his family to flee.

The whereabouts of Gaddafi, a worldwide wanted fugitive now, are still unknown, but he has previously said he would die in Libya.

No political party

Eight years ago the regime of Saddam, Iraq's strongman since 1975 before becoming president in 1979, ended under bombing by US-led forces.

Since then Iraq has seen instability and brutal conflict between its Shi'ite and Sunni population and multi-ethnic groups. It has also been a base for US forces, which are due to pull out at the end of this year.

The divisions have been exacerbated by Iraq's neighbours and other foreign interests.

Iraq also turned into a bastion of al-Qaeda and became one of the four most-corrupt countries in the world, according to Transparency International.

Such a situation would not occur in Libya, say researchers.

"There is no comparison between Iraq and Libya because in Libya there is no political party having any overseas allegiance," said Abdelhakim Belhaf, the military commander in Tripoli, who was previously suspected of links with al-Qaeda, and now spends time denying any ideological affiliation with the terror network.

"We carried out a war of liberation, while Iraq suffered a foreign invasion," he said.

Unlike Iraq, Libya's population is almost entirely Sunni Muslim. It also does not have the ethnic diversity of Iraq, which comprises Arabs, Kurds and Turkomans.

Simmering tension


"Libyan society is 90% homogeneous," said Fawzia Barioune, a researcher in Middle East affairs at the University of Michigan in the United States who recently returned to Libya after 32 years in exile.

Libya's population is majority Arab with some Berber minority in the west and Africans in the south.

"Even if the West has helped us materially, we are willing to pay the price, but Libyans will not let anyone or any state undermine its sovereignty," she said.

Mohammed Tarcin, the spokesperson for Tripoli's local council which replaced the municipality in the capital, also airs similar views.

"There is a difference between Libya and Iraq. Libyans desired and created a revolution, while Iraq has been a focus of competing outside interests," he said.

Meanwhile, at least 12 people were killed and 16 wounded Saturday when two groups of fighters opposed to Gaddafi turned on each other in western Libya, while reports of simmering tension between rival rebel groups are also emerging.