A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Libya's East Seeking Geater Autonomy

Libya's eastern region,which was the birthplace and driving force in the uprising against Qadhafi, is seeking some sort of semi-autonomy within Libya, complaining of decades of neglect. Local leaders are setting up a regional council for self-government.

The area centered around Benghazi was known as Cyrenaica during the years of Italian rule, and was proclaimed by Idris al-Senusi as the Emirate of Cyrenaica in 1949-51. When it joined with Tripolitania and the Fezzan to become the Kingdom of Libya, Idris became King, so that eastern influence was considerable under the monarchy. After the King's overthrow in 1969, Qadhafi favored the west and came to see the east as a center for dissidence. In the end, it became the engine of his overthrow.

It remains to be seen exactly what sort of "semi-autonomy" the easterners (Cyrenaicans or Barqawis are among the names in use)  have in mind, but — combined with continuing quarrels among competing militias, especially in the west around Tripoli — the move could further fuel concerns about the country coming apart. The east controls the oilfields and ports, among other key resources.

Another account here, and here is Al Jazeera English's report:

1 comment:

David Mack said...

After a year in Tripoli and two in Benghazi, I left in June 1972. At that time, there were marked differences between the people of the two major parts of the country. After a minute of listening to a Libyan I could usually guess from his accent whether he was Barkawi or Tarabulsi. The latter was closer to the Tunisian dialect without the French loan words, whereas people from Cyrenaica spoke Arabic very close to those of the eastern Arab world. Grievances against the Qadhafi government were already growing. Indeed, I predicted in a report to Washington that the country might well re-divide. Since then, however, Libya has become much more unified demographically due to inter-marriage and movement from one part to another for university education or jobs. This is not to say there are not grievances against Tripoli, but that is true as well of the people from Misurata and other areas. They are all likely to express their grievances in terms both of demands for full representation in the central government and a degree of local control over many government functions.