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Geopolitics

The Libyan Diaspora And The War

Libyans who have left, and others with experience abroad, play a key role for the anti-government forces in coordinating and communicating with the outside world.

Libyan voter (by septimius severus)
Rebel media center in Benghazi
Florent Marcie

ZINTAN - For decades, Libyans have been fleeing oppression and authoritarian rule, leaving behind their home country in hopes of finding a better life abroad. This so-called Libyan diaspora has spread across Europe, North America and Australia.

Other Libyans, especially those working for international oil companies, have frequently spent different periods abroad for either professional or language training. When unrest broke out in Libya in mid-February, most of those with foreign connections supported the rebels' cause, and some ex-patriots even returned home.

This Libyan version of "globalization" means there are three co-existing societies: Libyans living abroad, most of them English-speaking and open-minded; Libyans living in Libya who've been psychologically marked by Muammar Gaddafi's 41-year rule; and those living in Libya but who have tried to open up to the world using the Internet.

Under current circumstances, the diaspora has turned out to be crucial. Besides the fact they speak English, they have the capacity to do things that can't be done by those living under an authoritarian regime. They have been especially important to the media, a driving force during the Arab Spring.

The first thing rebels set up in villages they control in western Libya are "Media Centers." Even in Yafran, where power cuts are common, twin brothers Mazigh and Madghis -- who both studied in Australia -- proudly visit the new center. "It only opened a few days ago, but it already has WiFi. Hopefully, we'll soon be able to welcome lots of journalists."

Other members of the diaspora go even further, and are taking up arms. "I grew up in Manchester," says Abdul, a strong-looking man, "but my family is from Yafran. I feel better holding a Kalashnikov than a camera. Most of all, we need military aid."

Read the original story in French (subscription)

Photo - Al Jazeera English

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