Myths of the Gaddafi regime Explained

While there are no excuses for the way Gaddafi was treated in the videos posted publicly, we want to stress that those who have done this were not acting on behalf of the NTC nor the interim government. They were fighters who were swept in a moment of intense fighting, and after 8 long months of defending themselves, having lost friends and family. A full investigation of the circumstances of what happened has been officially launched and we hope its findings will be made public as soon as possible. Those acts don’t represent the majority of Libyans and don’t represent Islamic or Libyan traditional values.

There are a lot of people defending Muammer Gaddafi and his regime by stating living conditions and infrastructure in Libya was world class, and all the people in the country enjoyed unimaginable wealth. This is not true. The Gaddafi regime was rife with corruption and deception. Who you know was more important than who you were as a person,  with many basic services being only available to the highest bidders.

Below, Nizar Mhani of the Free Generation Movement responds to common misconceptions relating to the Gaddafi regime  – the bolded inaccurate statements are being circulated via email forward

There are no electricity bills in Libya; electricity is free for all its citizens.

Categorically untrue. Despite poor electricity infrastructure and poor coverage of electricity lines, even in the Capital, Libyan home owners pay monthly/quarterly (area dependant) electricity bills based on meter readings. Electricity is cut off in instances of unpaid bills. Reconnection upon payment is not instant. The electric infrastructure is weak and some areas of Libya do not have electricity available at all.

There is no interest on loans, banks in Libya are state-owned and loans given to all its citizens at 0% interest by law.

Categorically untrue. Banks all over Libya have been giving out loans for years and years. There is a percentage rate charge on all loans, which is comparable to an interest rate, but in the spirit of ‘islamic ethics’ it is not called interest, it is called an ‘Administrative Expense’ – Masareef Edareeya.

A House is considered a human right in Libya ¬ Gaddafi vowed that his parents would not get a house until everyone in Libya had a home. Gaddafi¹s father has died while he, his wife and his mother are still living in a tent.

Gaddafi abused this human right as much as he did other basic rights. It is well known in Libya that political opponents and successful business men/women had their homes confiscated and handed over to regime members, usually rewards for Free Officers – Dubat A7rar. Many farms and homes and businesses were confiscated during three infamous phases of Libyas dictatorial history:

  • 1969 – The dreaded Green Revolution. Free Officers were rewarded land, homes, and farms that sometimes belonged to other people and the original owners were not compensated or asked if this was ok.
  • Late 70’s – The introduction of the law Albayt le Sakinehee – The Home Belongs to its Dwellers. As this law was passed overnight, thousands of homeowners instantly lost their homes, as tenants (those renting the homes) claimed ownership on account of being the ‘dwellers’. The law applied to homes, farms, shops, etc.
  • 90’s – The introduction of Purification Committees (Lejnat al Tatheer). This committee ran by the widely know slogan, ‘Min ayna laka hada?’ – “From where did you obtain this?”, a form of ultra-socialism where people’s possessions, including homes and businesses, were confiscated if seen to be ‘surplus to requirement’ or contributing to a ‘monopoly’.
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Regarding Gaddafis ‘vow’: While Gaddafi waited for ‘everyone in Libya’ to be housed, he himself lived in a sprawling 6km square compound in the centre of the capital which was home to state of the art security and an underground network of rooms and ultramodern bunkers. He also had a vast and well known farm on Airport Road in Tripoli. This, just in the capital.

All newlyweds in Libya receive $60,000 Dinar (US$ 50,000 ) by the government to buy their first apartment so to help start up the family.

This is a well known rumour and a common joke in Libya. Whilst it may have been passed as official legislation, I know of not a single family who has been given this grant. The backbreaking bureaucracy associated with such grants and loans make them more or less impossible to obtain.

Education and medical treatments are free in Libya. Before Gaddafi only 25% of Libyans are literate. Today the figure is 83%.

Education and Health Care – Free does not mean adequate. It is well known that Libya’s standard of health care is nothing short of appalling. It is widely known that the majority of Libyans seeking medical care leave for neighbouring countries for treatment. Our Education system is no better. It is outdated, teachers are underpaid and under-trained and libraries are largely non-existent. The syllabus was constantly being revised and reviewed under direct instruction from the former regime e.g. banning English, changing Quranic verses, etc.

It is commonly said that Libyans would be happy to forfeit their ‘free health care’ and pay for a National Health Service if it was up to the required standard.

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Should Libyans want to take up farming career, they would receive farming land, a farming house, equipments, seeds and Livestock to kick- start their farms all for free.

This has never happened, in addition to this many farms and homes have been confiscated by the government to build railroads, The Great Man Made River and civil roads.

The owners of the land were only compensated if there was a covered structure on the land as the Gaddafi regime legally owned any land and the people were only allowed to build on it. When there was compensation offered it was nowhere near the actual value of the property and many waited years to receive anything if at all. This system was also rife with corruption many residents told they had to pay a bribe to receive what little they were given.

If Libyans cannot find the education or medical facilities they need in Libya, the government funds them to go abroad for it not only free but they get $2, 300/month accommodation and car allowance.

Categorically untrue. If this was the case, the former regime would have been in receipt of 6 million application forms – one for every man, women and child who ‘cannot find education or medical facilities they need’. This grant does not exist for the mainstream public. There is anectdotal evidence of some medical grants being given but again, the system was corrupt and opaque.

In Libyan, if a Libyan buys a car, the government pays 50% of the price. ‎The price of petrol in Libya is $0.14 per liter.

There is no truth to the former Gaddafi regime paying 50% of the value of a new car.

Whilst the price of fuel is indeed cheap, the quality of roads, the accuracy and availability of road signs, the presence of road traffic police, and all other transport infrastructure is of abysmal standard.

The absence of an integrated and functional public transport system means that people are reliant on their cars for all movement and might end up paying more on fuel than our neighbours around the Mediterranean basin.

Libya has no external debt and its reserves amount to $150 billion now frozen globally.

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Whilst our sovereign wealth is undeniable, none of it was spent on the people of Libya nor the infrastructure of the country. Basic amenities, services, and state infrastructure are either absent or of appalling standard.

The availability of money is not tantamount to wealth or prosperity. The Arabs have a saying about Libya – “A rich nation of poor inhabitants.”

If a Libyan is unable to get employment after graduation the state would pay the average salary of the profession as if he or she is employed until employment is found.

Categorically untrue. Even basic wages are sometimes unpaid for months, for those lucky enough to be employed. Welfare for the unemployed is non-existent.

A portion of Libyan oil sale is credited directly to the bank accounts of all Libyan citizens.

No basis to this claim as no such case can be found.

A mother who gave birth to a child receive US $5 ,000

Categorically untrue. There is a Child Benefit welfare payment in Libya – it is roughly 15-20 Libyan Dinars a month per child. No Libyan citizen was given foreign currency as compensation.

40 loaves of bread in Libya costs $ 0.15

Bread was subsidized by the state. Whilst the price varies (marginally) from shop to shop, bread usually costs ¼ dinars for 10 baguettes (small) or roughly 500grams per dinar.

25% of Libyans have a university degree

The absence of a comprehensive selection process and a corrupt entry protocol means that universities in Libya are grossly over populated and over subscribed, despite limited facilities. This results in an over inflated number of graduates, but not necessarily an adequate level of employability. There are thousands of students studying foundation year medicine in Tripoli alone.

Gaddafi carried out the world¹s largest irrigation project, known as the Great Man-Made River project, to make water readily available.

The Jury is still out on this. The project has indeed supplied water to many towns and cities around Libya, but the cost is thought to be as stratastrophic as the time it took to complete this. Further, decades of an absence of appropriate licensing, monitoring and control has meant that wells were dug for every home, putting immense pressure on Libya’s natural and naturally replenishable water sources. This resulted in the increase of salinity in local water reserves, which lead to the need for an expansive project such as the Man Made River.

Thanks for Niz and Libya Outreach for putting this together.

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