In 2019, Libya had a population density of 4 residents
per km2, but since 95 percent of the country's
area consists of desert, more than 90 percent of the
residents live in the coastal zone. Libya's population has
grown very rapidly, from 1.5 million in 1965 to 6.7 million
Countryaah, the country has a high degree of urbanization; In 2019,
80 percent of the population was estimated to live in
cities, of which the capital Tripoli (Tarabulus al-Gharb) is
by far the largest, with 1.1 million residents (2010).
Over 90 percent of Libya's population are Arabs and
Arabs, and 4 percent are Berber. The largest Berber group is
nafusi (150,000). In the western border areas are nomadic
Ajertu Rule (10,000, of which 2,000 reside in the oasis city
of Ghat). In the south there are small groups of teda.
The last Jews left the country after the Six Day War in
1967, while the enclaves of Italians and Greeks largely fled
after 1980. However, small groups of descendants of Italians
and Greeks still exist in the country. Up to 1995, there
were several million guest workers in Libya, mainly Arabs
but also Turks and Koreans, but after deportations they have
decreased in number. There are still large contingents of
guest workers; a growing group is Filipinos. The country
also houses large numbers of illegal immigrants, mainly from
Africa; in recent years, these have repeatedly been
subjected to violence and compulsory reprimands. In
addition, there are small contingents of Palestinian
(8,900), Somali and Iraqi refugees.
Historically, Libya has consisted of three independent
regions: Tripolitania in the west, with strong ties to the
rest of the Maghreb, Cyrenaika in the east, which had been
facing Egypt, and the Fezzan oasis complex in the south.
These culturally and politically distinct areas began to
integrate in the mid-1930s, when Italy fought the last
resistance of the Sufic Sanusiya order and the tribes of
Cyrenaika that this fraternity mobilized. The social effects
of the large oil revenues from the 1960s have greatly
contributed to the fact that the residents of the three
regions have come to perceive themselves as Libyans.
However, tribal membership is still important for personal
The official language is Arabic. The spoken language is
New Arabic dialects of badawi type. Smaller groups speak the
Berber language Tuaregic.
Islam is state religion, but the constitution guarantees
religious freedom. Almost all Libyans are Sunni Muslims of
Malik and, to a certain extent, Hanafite legal tradition.
Many berbers are ibadites (compare kharijites). Politically,
Islam plays a big role. Under Turkish rule and during the
Italian occupation, the Sanusiya words (a Puritan and
Sufi-inspired revival movement) formed the core of the
resistance to the foreign power holders.
At independence in 1951, its head, Idris, was made king
of Libya. His successor Muammar al-Khadaffi saw himself as a
reformer and rejected the traditional Islamic law schools.
al-Khadaffi represented something that can almost be
regarded as a form of Islamic socialism, which has generally
not been accepted by the religious scholars (ulama). During
the 1970s, reforms in the name of Islam were passed through
which lost their independence and financial base. In the
1980s and 1990s, the Islamist opposition to the regime
became clearer and more militant. The regime responded with
arrests and executions of supporters of i.a. Muslim
In February 2011, violent protests erupted against
al-Khadaffi in Benghazi, eastern Libya, and protests spread
rapidly across the country (see further History, Civil War
2011). al-Khadaffi was killed in September 2011. In the
elections to the Provisional Parliament, the Liberal
National Forces Alliance became the largest party. Two
in the election became the Justice and Construction
Party, the political branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The proposal for a new constitution for Libya presented
(November 2012), as in previous Islam, states that state
religion and Sharia should be the basis of the legislation.
However, the state must guarantee the right of non-Muslims
to practice their religion freely.
In the country there are small groups of Christians. The
Catholic Church was established in the country in 1642 and
today the number of Catholics is estimated at just under
1.5% of the population. Other Christians are about the same
and among them are found Copts, Orthodox, Anglicans, those
who embrace Unitarianism and Protestant faiths.
According to the government, all Libyans are Muslims. It
is forbidden to convert from Islam to any other religion.
Thus it is also prohibited for e.g. Christian communities to
carry on a mission with the aim of converting individual
Muslims from Islam to any Christian community.
Democracy Development (2012–)
The Transitional Council (NTC), which ruled Libya after
the regime change, held elections on July 7, 2012, at a
national congress, the General National
On August 8, 2012, power was transferred from the NTC by
Mustafa Abdul Jalil to the GNC by Mohammed Ali Salim, and
the NTC dissolved. This was the first peaceful transfer of
power in Libya's history. Mohamed Magarief was elected to
lead the GNC and became acting head of state. Elections to
the Constitutional Assembly were held in 2014. The new
parliament gathered in Tobruk in the east.
As a result of the new elections in 2014, Libya was
constitutionally divided by giving the country two (and then
three) rival parliaments and governments: one in Tobruk and
another in Tripoli. The political-military bloc with its
seat in Tripoli is known as (Operation) Dawn; the
one in Tobruk (Operation) Dignity.
The Libya Supreme Court rejected the Tobruk parliament in
the fall of 2014. In December 2015, the two parliaments
agreed to create a national unity government, the
Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Fayez
al-Sarraj. The government was deployed to Tripoli in April
2016. The agreement was not supported by the two rival
governments, and GNA therefore became a third government in
The Dawn-backed government in Tripoli disbanded itself
when GNA was deployed, but parts of it maintained to be
Libya's government. The second center of power, in the
renewed civil war of 2014, is in Kyrenaika, where General
Khalifa Haftar has taken control of Benghazi. From his power
base there he has challenged the government of Tripoli and
attacked the capital in the winter of 2019.
General Haftar's forces took control of large parts of
Libya in 2019. They have been supported in particular by
Egypt, Russia and Saudi Arabia, while the government forces
loyal to Prime Minister Sarraj have received military
support from Turkey. A UN-led summit on the situation in
Libya, held in Berlin in January 2020, ended with the
participating countries committing to the UN arms embargo on
Libya, adopted in 2011, and renouncing military assistance
to all actors in the war.
The security situation
The Libyan defense disbanded in 2011, but a new army has
been formed: the Libyan National Army (LNA).
Militia groups still control much of the country. They have
varied in character, from secular to religious. Armed groups
were also formed for purely opportunistic - often criminal,
partly political - purposes.
Khalifa Haftar's military forces attacked Tripoli in the
winter of 2019, after taking partial control of Fezzan in
the south. Haftar has been supported by the United Arab
Emirates, Egypt, France, Russia and Saudi Arabia, among
others. With his fight against Islamists, including the
Muslim Brotherhood in Libya, he has come into conflict with
Turkey and Qatar, which supports the Brotherhood. In 2019
more extensive Russian involvement in the war was reported,
including with the help of mercenaries. Armed elements from
Chad and Sudan must also have participated in the war,
especially in Fezzan.
Lack of central authority has contributed to porous
borders, with increased smuggling as a result. This has
contributed to the fact that weapons have moved to Islamist
groups in the Sahel belt and contributed to the conflict in
Mali. Lack of control by state authorities has led to
extensive human trafficking, with illegal immigration to
Europe through Libya.
The rise of radical Islamism has been a concern for both
parts of Libyan society and foreign actors. Some groups
emerged in the 1980s, while others - and larger ones -
emerged in the 1990s, including the Libyan Islamic
Fighting Group (LIFG). This was behind several military
attacks, including the attempted assassination of Muammar
al-Gaddafi. From 2011 the group is known as the Libyan
Islamic Movement for Change (LIMC).
Libyan jihadists participated in the resistance to the
Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s; then fought
more as foreign warriors in Algeria, Bosnia and Chechnya,
and even more in Iraq. Some continued this struggle in
Libya, contributing to the establishment of Ansar al-Sharia
and Rafallah al-Sahati, among others. This is part
of the recruitment basis for the Islamic State (IS), which
from 2014 also grew in Libya.
Islamists stand strongest in the east of the country.
However, the 2012 elections showed that this direction did
not have the same impact in Libya as in Tunisia and Egypt
following the uprising there.