Where’s Your Proof? & Other Ridiculous Arguments about Benghazi

Because there’s a war waging outside and I have way too much free time on my hands that I’m squandering away on naps, I figured I’d write out a general response to the usual debates (read: angry Facebook comment wars). It’s kind of tiresome to just continuously repeat the same points over and over again, so I’ll compile them here.

Disclaimer: I am not a neutral observer of the events in Libya, if that hasn’t been screamingly obvious yet. I am biased and completely support the army. This is a post written for fun, a chance for me to blow off steam. If you are an Ansar supporter with a bug up your butt, don’t bother past this point.

Point 1) How do you know Ansar are behind all the bad things in Benghazi?

Well, let’s see. The overwhelming majority of assassination victims have been army members (whom Ansar have openly stated are their enemy and have fought with previously) and activists/journalists (who have been openly critical of Ansar Shariah and militia groups).

Then there’s the fact that Ansar have not denied that they are behind the assassinations. I mean, you’d think, with half the country pointing fingers at you, making a statement denying the allegations would be prudent. It’s also not helpful if you go around declaring that democracy is haram.

But clearly the answer you’re looking for here is THIS IS ALL HEFTAR’S FAULT. Which brings us to:

Point 2) Heftar is equally as bad as Ansar Shariah

You see, the term ‘equal’ actually means ‘of the same value’. Ansar Shariah has been wreaking havoc on Benghazi for years. Heftar showed up six months ago. Two years ≠ Six months. Point being that, most of the time, this war has been one-sided, with Ansar attacking the army with impunity. Applying a false equivalence to the two groups is deceptive and incorrect.

There’s also the fact that Heftar hasn’t assassinated over 500 people in cold blood, hasn’t blown up police stations, doesn’t have ties to other terrorist groups, etc. etc.

There’s this thing called cause and effect. Ansar Shariah = Cause. Heftar = Effect. If they hadn’t started their bloody campaign, there wouldn’t have been any need for Op. Karama.

Point 3) Heftar has the help of foreign forces

Yes, and he hasn’t denied it. But there’s a difference between bringing in troops on the ground and getting logistic help.

And if we’re gonna start being nit-picky over the use of foreign forces, did the National Transitional Council have any right to involve NATO during the Libyan revolution? I mean, they’re also foreign forces, right?

Oh, but we liked those foreign forces, even though they also bombed cities and killed Libyans. The point then was to ultimately protect civilians, and the point now is to ultimately protect civilians.

Point 4) There’s a difference between Ansar Shariah and the ‘thuwar’ (militias). I am against the former but support the latter.

Except, what the hell do you think The Revolutionary’s Shura Council is exactly? Ansar Shariah + Libyan Shield + Rafallah Sahati + February 17 Brigade. By grouping themselves with a terrorist organization, the ‘thuwar’ (whose role prior to this was tainted already with shooting at protesters) have basically said that they don’t mind working with throat-slitting maniacs, as long as it keeps them in power.

Point 5) They want to implement Islamic Law! Why do you hate Islam?

Oh, you mean like how they implemented “Islamic Law” in Derna? A group of unwashed, scruffy, ignorant men who can’t even talk properly, holding an entire city hostage and threatening anyone who opposes them with murder, is Islamic? Sorry but you’re reading the wrong book.

And you’re making the assumption that Libya isn’t an Islamic society. Did all the strip clubs and widely available booze confuse you? A Muslim society gets to choose, through consensus, how their region functions, with leaders they voluntarily approve of. Almost like some kind of majority-rule system with representatives and laws and stuff. If only something like that existed.

Point 6) People aligned with Operation Dignity have destroyed people’s homes

Yes, and that is appalling. People’s homes should not be destroyed, even if there’s a valid reason for searching them. No one wants a country built on revenge and retribution attacks.

Did you check out the hashtag #لا_للإنتقام (No To Revenge), where pro-army Libyans expressed their disdain at revenge attacks and urged people not to resort to them? Maybe I missed it, but I haven’t seen a #لا_للذبح hashtag yet by Ansar supporters.

Point 7) Civil society is to blame because they protested against militias on ‘Save Benghazi Friday’

Yeah, you’re right; we should have just quietly accept a group of armed lawless thugs controlling our city, lest our complaints send them on a murder spree. (This point is so filled with stupidity it makes my head hurt.)

Point 8) Is plunging the entire city into a war the solution to this problem?

If you have an alternative solution, I am all ears. Until then, asking people to tolerate assassinations, kidnappings and explosions, until an ideal solution magically presents itself, is going to get you ignored.

Conclusion: We can (and should) be debating things like introducing army reforms, or the importance of transparent and accountable government institutes, how to collect the weapons that are in the hands of criminal gangs, etc. Better yet, we should be working within civil society to try and enact these changes.

Instead, we’re debating whether it’s legal to fight against terrorist groups and the legitimacy of the Libyan army. It’s almost four years after the revolution and we’re still in a transitional period with no end in sight. We cannot perpetually live in a state of political and military revolution. We need to start being a proper country.

5 Inspirational Libyan NGOs and Civil Society Groups

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. 


Barbary sheep, know as ‘Waddan’ in Libya, one of the endangered animals the Wildlife trust advocates for (Source: Facebook)

5. Libyan Wildlife Trust (الجمعية الليبية لحماية الحياة البرية والبحرية

What I love about this organization is the focus they’re putting on a very ignored aspect of Libya; its 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. 


A co-op debate with both the Libyan Debate Club and Sijal, under the motion “Foreign intervention will help Libya’s crisis”

4. Libyan Debate Club & Sijal 

(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. 


A lesson on indoor/outdoor safety by Children First at a school in Benghazi (Source: Facebook)

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)

Red Crescent volunteers helping foreign workers evacuate Benghazi

Red Crescent volunteers helping foreign workers evacuate Benghazi (Source: Facebook)

 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)

Benghazi Girl Scouts learning first aid methods

Benghazi Girl Scouts learning first aid methods (Source: Facebook)

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).

Boy Scouts marching band in a culture parade in Benghazi, 2012

Boy Scouts marching band in a culture parade in Benghazi, 2012

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.