Cover Story

Fight or flight

"Fight or flight" Continued...

Issue: "Libyan exodus," March 26, 2011

Opening the gates for refugees is a thorny issue for European leaders already facing a backlash over illegal immigration. Libya has been a holding area for many migrants hoping to move into Europe. Qaddafi tried to use the issue as leverage after fighting erupted in Libya. "You will have immigration, thousands of people from Libya will invade Europe," he warned a French newspaper. "There will be no one to stop them anymore."

European leaders reacted coolly to Italy's call to form a plan for migrants fleeing to Europe. Germany's interior ministry said that European states shouldn't provoke a migrant influx by talking about it. Sandor Pinter, interior minister of Hungary, declared: "We shouldn't paint the devil on the wall until he appears." Meanwhile, thousands of beleaguered migrants have reached the Italian island of Lampedusa since mid-February.

Aid groups like the Red Cross, Mercy Corps, and Doctors Without Borders are tending to refugees in camps at the Libyan border and warning that conditions are deteriorating for Libyans citizens and other residents in the country suffering from food shortages and a lack of medical care. Witnesses reported that hospitals were overwhelmed with casualties, and the UN estimated that at least 1,000 people had been killed in the fighting by early March.

Ken Isaacs of Samaritan's Purse said the Christian relief organization was working with church partners in Egypt and Tunisia to assist with aid efforts on the Egyptian border, with plans to provide food and water to about 2,500 refugees a day. Maroun Lahham, a Catholic archbishop in Tunisia, said a handful of nuns would assist a Protestant group near the Tunisian border by caring for women and children: "As a church we try to make our contribution, which is still a small drop in a sea of need."

That sea of need extends across the Middle East and North Africa since turmoil began in December. Even as the Tunisian army assisted refugees from Libya, Tunisian officials grappled with the political chaos wrought by a revolt that toppled their own country's president in January. That revolt triggered a flood of protests sweeping more than a dozen nations-including Libya and Egypt-and unleashed uncertainty that promises to plague the region's struggling populations far beyond any one conflict's end.

The reign of a tyrant

By Alisa Harris

1942: Muammar Qaddafi born to Bedouin parents in the desert near Sirte, Libya.

1969: Leads a bloodless coup in Benghazi, deposes King Idris and takes control of Libya.

1973: Declares "cultural revolution" and imposes Shariah law.

1975: Publishes Green Book, which describes his political philosophy of "Islamic socialism" and rule by popular committees.

1986: President Ronald Reagan calls Qaddafi the "mad dog of the Middle East" and imposes sanctions, ordering all Americans to leave the country after intelligence links Libya to terrorist attacks in Rome. Libyan bombing of a Berlin disco that injured 40 Americans prompts Reagan to launch air strikes against Tripoli and Benghazi.

1988: In December, terrorists bomb Pan Am Flight 103 and 270 people die when the plane crashes over Lockerbie, Scotland. Officials suspect two Libyan intelligence officials.

1989: After U.S. Navy forces shoot down two Libyan planes, Qaddafi warns that Libya will "meet challenge with challenge."

1992: Qaddafi refuses to hand over the suspects in the Lockerbie bombing, saying, "The evidence against Libya is less than a laughable piece of a fingernail." The UN imposes sanctions.

1999: Qaddafi announces that Libya will hand over the Lockerbie suspects and the UN immediately lifts sanctions.

2003: Libya takes responsibility for Lockerbie bombing, renounces weapons of mass destruction, and promises to pay the families of Pan Am victims from a $2.7 billion fund.

2009: Libya gives the Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Ali Al-Meghari a hero's welcome home after Scotland frees the bomber eight years into his sentence.

Feb. 17, 2011: Pro-democracy protesters take to the streets of Libya against Qaddafi's regime after arrest of human-rights lawyer Fathi Tarbal. Qaddafi's security forces meet protesters with live ammunition, killing at least 24.

Feb. 23: Rebels take Benghazi and prominent Qaddafi officials defect. Qaddafi forces continue to fire on crowds of unarmed protesters, killing hundreds.

March 1: Qaddafi tells BBC News, "My people love me. . . . They will die to protect me, my people." Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, says Qaddafi is "delusional" and "unfit to lead."

March 2: The UN General Assembly removes Libya from its Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court announces that it will investigate Qaddafi's alleged "crimes against humanity."

March 6: Qaddafi loyalists strike back against rebel-held areas across Libya.

March 7: Qaddafi launches air strikes on key rebel-held oil port of Ras Lanouf to stop rebel march toward Tripoli.

March 10: NATO defense ministers meet in Brussels to consider establishing a no-fly zone over Libya.

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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