Libya Territory and History


According to itypeusa, Libya occupies the central section of northern Africa, overlooking the Mediterranean with a generally straight and sandy coast, which in the center curves into the wide gulf of Sirte (or Sidra); to the S the country goes right into the heart of the Sahara, here marked by the last offshoots of the Tassili and Tibesti. The two narrow coastal strips on the sides of the gulf roughly correspond, with the immediate hinterland, to the historical regions of Tripolitania (whose southern continuation forms the Fezzan) and of Cyrenaica. In a broader sense, however, Tripolitania also includes a large part of Sirtica – the coastal strip of the Gulf of Sirte – while Cyrenaica includes, in addition to the remaining Sirtica, the coastal region of Marmaricato the border with Egypt, and practically the entire eastern section of the country centered on the Libyan Desert. The territory has a typically African tabular structure. In other words, it is the result of ancient flattening of the archaeozoic substrate to which sedimentary formations of the Mesozoic and Cenozoic were superimposed on vast surfaces., eras during which Libya experienced prolonged marine submersions. Archaeozoic rocks appear in limited strips in the southernmost part of the country, while the most extensive formations are those of the Cenozoic. No less vast are finally recent formations, consisting essentially of layers of aeolian transport which occupy the most depressed areas and give rise to wide sandy surfaces (such idehan) or pebbly (serir). The latter are particularly large in the eastern section (Serir di Calanscio), in correspondence with the Libyan Desert, while in the western part the rock formations predominate, on average 600-700 m high, with vast hamada (Hamādah al Hamrā or Hamada Rossa), reliefs and residual escarpments between which the sandy expanses of the Idehan of Ubari and the Idehan of Murzuch interpose. The highest elevations are in the extreme south-east (Jabal al Uwaynāt, 1934 m), but the most important reliefs, for the purposes of human geography, are the Jabal Nafūsah and the Jabal al Akhdar, which structurally represent the raised edge of the internal planks and which, although not even touching 1000 m, dominate the coast of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica respectively. Jabal Nafūsah slopes N with an escarpment that descends on a broad coastal plain, the Jifārah, the most useful section of the whole of Libya, rich in water, oases and well populated; the Jabal al Akhdar instead ends on the coast with some rocky promontories, but it also constitutes an area quite distinct from the rest of the country, because it is climatically more favored.


In 1977, with a sort of constitutional revision, Gaddafi formalized his system of government by establishing the People’s Socialist Libyan Arab Jamāhīrīya (Republic of the Masses) on forms and organs of direct democracy. The first years of the Jamāhīrīya were characterized by further socialist reforms of the economic structures, first of all the abolition of the right to private property. Throughout the 1980s, Gaddafi developed a foreign policy aimed at imposing his leadership in the region. In particular, he accentuated the expansionist aims in Chad and sharpened the frictions with the USA by claiming to extend Libyan sovereignty to all the waters of the Gulf of Sirte. This provoked a harsh US reaction which culminated in 1986 with the bombing of Tripoli which Gaddafi himself miraculously escaped. Lampedusa, had no consequences for the firm position of Italy unwilling to follow the Libyan leader in an internationalization of the conflict that opposed him to the USA. The changes in the international scenario following the development of US-USSR détente led Libya to review its foreign policy by introducing elements of moderation which favored, in 1989, the resumption of relations with Egypt and the accession to the Maghreb Union Arab, a position confirmed in 1991 with neutrality during the Gulf War. At the end of that year, however, some alleged implications for international terrorism brought Libya back into the eye of the storm. In particular, two of his agents were accused of the attack in Lockerbie (Great Britain), where on 21 December 1988 the explosion of a Boeing had caused 270 victims. The pressure from the USA and Great Britain to obtain his extradition was unsuccessful and this led to a new international isolation which culminated in the embargo decreed by the UN in April 1992. The repeated refusal of the extradition of the two agents ultimately resulted in of 1993, a tightening of sanctions and the blockade of Libyan foreign funds with the exclusion of those deriving from the sale of oil. On the domestic level, the Libyan leader still managed to confirm his popularity, tarnished after the US show of strength in 1986, even though there were various signs of disaffection in the country. In particular, Gaddafi relied on religious sentiment to the extent that, at the beginning of 1994, the application of the Muslim lunar calendar and of the shariʽah (Islamic law) in both criminal and civil matters. In the summer of 1994 Libya improved its relations with Chad to which it returned the Aozou belt, unilaterally annexed in 1973, but did not neglect to test US reactivity by violating the air embargo to favor the traditional pilgrimage of faithful to Mecca (1995) or why Gaddafi could go to the top of the Arab League (1996). The negative attitude towards the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in 1995 was also part of this perspective with the expulsion, then returned, of thousands of Palestinian immigrants, as well as the recognition of the Somali government formed by the Aidid faction hostile to the USA.. Also in 1995, the further tightening of relations with the Western world was confirmed by the mutual expulsions of diplomatic representatives with Great Britain. Always considered one of the protectors and instigators of fundamentalist terrorism, however, Gaddafi’s regime had to deal with this phenomenon itself, which began to manifest itself in 1996 with the appearance of an Islamic fighting group (FIG). The danger that a dynamic similar to that underway in Algeria could develop in Libya as well, led Gaddafi to contradict the fundamentalist regime in power in Sudan by expelling thousands of immigrants from that country and to operate a ruthless repression against Libyan fundamentalists. The integralist danger, therefore, determined an accentuation of the isolation of Libya, interrupted only in 1996 by the initiative of the Vatican with the request to remove the embargo advanced by Pope John Paul II; this initiative was followed up in 1997, with the opening of formal diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Libya.

Libya Territory