There are quite a lot of people gleefully declaring that Libya is a lost cause. “Whelp, that revolution was a pretty bad idea, huh?” they’ll smirk. And while a large part of you wants to slap the smugness off their face, deep down inside you know that Libya is indeed looking bleaker by the day. With Tripoli International Airport blown to smithereens and a political schism deepening the fault lines in the country, one can only wonder with trepidation what the future holds for Libya.
However, while militias and politicians are in the limelight, there are groups in Libya working behind the scenes trying to keep the pieces of the fractured country together. I wanted to highlight my favorite ones here, as a salute to the work they’re doing.
What I love about this organization is the focus they’re putting on a very ignored aspect of Libya; it’s wildlife and environment. Libya has some amazing animals, but we also have a very limited mentality when it comes to taking care of them A lot of illegal poaching goes on in Libya’s deserts, and it’s this organization that’s working towards ending these practices.
They’ve also organized campaigns like free veterinary check-ups, asking people to set up water bowls for birds in the summer, and seminars on wildlife and environmental awareness. And even if you can’t actively participate in their events, you can go on their page and read up on Libya’s amazing wildlife and sea-life.
(نادي المناظرة الليبي & سجال)
Quick, think of the most ideal solution to Libya’s current crisis. Did you think ‘dialogue’? Well, Libya’s debate club and Sijal group think so too. The Libyan Debate Club was first started in Benghazi, and the members later traveled across Libya to give workshops and help start up other debate clubs in different cities. What’s great about them is their involvement in the Libyan political scene. Their last series of debates involved candidates for the House of Representatives elections.
Sijal was created by former LDC members, and they’re also holding debates that focus on the current events in Libya. Their last two debates have been about foreign intervention in Libya and Benghazi University’s suspension of classes due to the conflict. Both LDC and Sijal hold workshops to train people on the art of debate.
3. Children First (أطفالنا اولا)
When it comes to child development, Libya is still in its early stages. Children First is a small, Benghazi-based operation that packs quite a punch. Their main focus is on child safety, and they’ve done work on child abuse awareness and a nation-wide campaign for child car safety.
Libyans have a very limited sense of personal safety, and this often applies to their children as well. Libya has one of the highest rates of car accidents in the world, and many deaths can be avoided if people took more precautions. It was seeing kids sticking their heads out of car windows and refusing to wear seat belts that partially inspired Children First to take action.
2. The Libyan Red Crescent (الهلال الأحمر الليبي)
The past few months of fighting witnessed by Tripoli and Benghazi have been some of the worst in the country since the revolution. With the evacuation of international organizations in the country, there’s a huge humanitarian crisis looming over the country. The Libyan branch of the Red Crescent has been working non-stop to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Comprised of several divisions, they do everything from transporting dead bodies from the conflict areas, delivering medicine, evacuating civilians and patrolling traffic intersections. They always train potential volunteers and overall run a very tight ship (the same which cannot be said of government relief groups that have achieved very little).
1. Libyan Scouts (حركة كشاف ليبيا)
I could dedicate an entire blog post to the Scouts of Libya and sing their praises. What makes this organization so admirable is its longevity (65 years and counting!) and the fact that they operated under Gadhafi’s dictatorship without being corrupted or stopped (and not for his lack of trying, either).
The Scouts don’t just organize events, they foster generations of active, conscious citizens. By staying away from politics and focusing on helping the community, the Scouts have done more for Libya than any other organization. A person who joins the Scouts in their youth can go on to be troop leaders and teach the next generation. They teach preparedness, community service, discipline, leadership and host exchange programs with Scout groups in other countries. They also have a Naval division, and you can occasionally spot their colourful sails as they glide on the Mediterranean.
What’s also amazing about the Scouts is their gender equality. Both Boy and Girl Scouts work side by side in campaigns and march together in parades, a refreshing change in a society still struggling with the issue of women’s rights and visibility.
This is by no means a complete list. A multitude of diverse organizations exist in Libya, each doing important work. Honourable mentions include Benghazi Ubader (لأجلك بنغازي ابادر) which does clean-up campaigns and renovates public parks in Benghazi, Civil Initiatives Libya (a national project dedicated to fostering civil society), My Code of Ethics (a campaign started to encourage citizens to be more responsible) and Volunteer Libya (which does a wide range of work).
My biggest fear for Libya is the crippling of its recently-born civil society. Extremists groups have not been inconspicuous in their hostility towards civil society activism, since the enemy of totalitarian rule is a conscious nation that strives for freedom of expression. It is vital to keep civil society alive if we ever want a chance at seeing Libya rebuilt as a civil, democratic country.