Skip to main content

Arab Spring: A Research & Study Guide * الربيع العربي: Libya

This guide lists online and print sources for what has become known as the "Arab Spring," the popular revolutionary wave in the Middle East and North Africa that started in December 2010.


The Libyan Revolution, F.B.-17 (February 17th)

Protests in Libya began on 15 February, 2011 in front of Benghazi's police headquarters following the arrest of a human rights attorney who represented the “relatives of more than 1,000 prisoners allegedly massacred by security forces in Tripoli’s Abu Salim jail in 1996.” What had began as a series of peaceful demonstrations turned into confrontations which were met with military force. A "Day of Rage" was declared for 17 February by the National Conference for the Libyan Opposition. Libyan military and security forces fired live ammunition on protesters. On 18 February, security forces withdrew from Benghazi after being overwhelmed by protesters—some security personnel also joined the protesters.  The protests spread across the country and anti-Gaddafi forces established a provisional government based in Benghazi, called the National Transitional Council with the stated goal to overthrow the Gaddafi government in Tripoli.


Benghazi, Feb. 2011.

Electronic Texts, Web Archives, etc.


  • Libya: revolution, 17 February, 2011 (Cornell)
  • Libya Uprising Archive

  • Death of a Dictator : Bloody Vengeance in Sirte / Human Rights Watch | October 2012 [A first-hand account of Gaddafi’s desperate last days. Gaddafi’s final days are detailed in a new report from Human Rights Watch, which painstakingly reconstructs his movements — and those of the citizen militia that captured and executed him over his final weeks. At many points, the story rests on the account of loyalist fighters who were with him and sometimes on the recollection of a single associate whose information is difficult or impossible to verify, but it is so far the most complete account we have of the final day].

  • The Qaddafi Files an examination of the archives of the late Libyan dictator -- including never-before-seen family photos, and articles by Human Rights Watch's Peter Bouckaert and Qaddafi scholar Dirk Vandewalle.
  • The battle for Libya  killings, disappearances and torture / Amnesty International [PDF] (Abbreviations and glossary. -- Introduction. -- 1. From the "El-Fateh Revolution" to the "17 February Revolution". -- 2. International law and the situation in Libya. -- 3. Unlawful killings: From protests to armed conflict. -- 4. Enforced disappearances, detentions and torture. -- 5. Abuses by opposition forces. -- 6. Foreign nationals: Abused and abandoned. -- 7. Conclusion and recommendations. -- Endnotes.)
  • Escalation & intervention = Libyan revolution : escalation and intervention  /   Anthony Bell & David Witter. [PDF] (Executive summary. -- Glossary. --  Introduction. -- International reaction to the conflict in Libya. -- Operation Odyssey Dawn. -- Operation Unified Protector. -- Conclusion. -- Notes.)
  • Roots of rebellion  =  Libyan revolution : roots of rebellion /  Anthony Bell & David Witter. [PDF] (Executive summary. -- Glossary. --  Introduction. -- Background on Libya. -- The Arab spring and the Libyan rebellion. -- Unrest spreads to Tripoli. -- The battle of Zawiyah. -- Notes. -- Maps.)
  • Making sense of Libya: Popular protest in North Africa and the Middle East (V) /  International Crisis Group, 2011.
  • Operation Odyssey Dawn and the situation in Libya : hearing before the Committee on Armed Services, United States Senate, One Hundred Twelfth Congress, first session, March 31, 2011. Washington : U.S. G.P.O. : For sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. G.P.O., 2011. "On March 17, 2011, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1973, establishing a no-fly zone in Libyan airspace, authorizing robust enforcement measures for the arms embargo established by Resolution 1970, and authorizing member states "to take all necessary measures ... to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory." In response, the United States established Operation Odyssey Dawn, the U.S. contribution to a multilateral military effort to enforce a no-fly zone and protect civilians in Libya. Military operations under Odyssey Dawn commenced on March 19, 2011. U.S. and coalition forces quickly established command of the air over Libya's major cities, destroying portions of the Libyan air defense network and attacking pro-Qadhafi forces deemed to pose a threat to civilian populations. From the outset of operations, the Obama administration declared its intent to transfer command of operations over Libya to a coalition entity. On March 28, 2011, the NATO Secretary General announced that NATO would take over command of all aspects of military operations within a few days"--Second page of March 28, 2011 report." [System requirements: web browser, PDF reader].
  • Libya's Draft Election Law (January, 2012.) مشروع قانون الإنتخابات للمؤتمر الوطني - 2012 Libya's electoral commission released for public debate a draft election law that will oversee the country's first post-Gadhafi vote this summer (2012).The 15-page proposed law to elect the National General Committee covers important issues such as a minimum voting age and the eligibility requirements for candidates for seats in what will be a 200-person legislative body primarily given the task of creating a new national constitution. The draft law also promises a 10% quota of seats for women.
  • Report of the Independent Civil Society Fact-Finding Mission to Libya To investigate alleged violations of international law committed by: a. The former Government of Libya; b. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), i.e. third States engaged in hostilities in Libya pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1973; and c. Former opposition forces. (ii) To identify human rights related issues necessitating the attention of the Libyan authorities and/or the international community.
  • Libya -Blogs, Social Media, and Other Sites Archive-It, the Internet Archive
  • Revolution In Libya The Browser  (London, UK)  After 42 years of brutality and repression, the era of Gaddafi is over. Here's what his rule meant for Libyans, how they ended it, and where the country is headed now.
  • WikiLeaks cables: A guide to Gaddafi's 'famously fractious' family (US embassy cables shed light on Gaddafi family – including son Saif al-Islam, who vowed in TV address to eradicate enemies)
  • Holding Libya Together: Security Challenges after Qadhafi / International Crisis Group on Libya.
  • - ويكيليكس ليبيا | Facebook - WIKILEAKS LIBYA
  • أخبار وثائق ويكيليكس | ‪‬ (Russia Today--Arabic)
  • ويكيليكس بالعربية  Wikileaks Arabic
  • ARAB SPRING « Libya 360° (Articles)
  • Libya : unrest and U.S. policy. Background and U.S. relations. [Washington, DC] :  Congressional Research Service, 2011.  "Over forty years ago, Muammar al Qadhafi led a revolt against the Libyan monarchy in the name of nationalism, self-determination, and popular sovereignty. Opposition groups citing the same principles are now revolting against Qadhafi to bring an end to the authoritarian political system he has controlled in Libya for the last four decades. The Libyan government's use of force against civilians and opposition forces seeking Qadhafi's overthrow sparked an international outcry in February and early March 2011, and a stalemate began to break in favor of the Qadhafi government, threatening civilians in opposition-held areas. The United States and other European and Arab states are now carrying out military operations in Libya to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which was adopted on March 17 and authorizes "all necessary measures" to protect Libyan civilians"--Second page of March 29, 2011 report. [Available at Foreign Press Centers website. March 29, 2011 CRS report for Congress at Foreign Press Centers website [PDF (624.07 KB)] ; Christopher M. Blanchard -- March 18, 2011 CRS report for Congress at Foreign Press Centers website  [PDF (689.19 KB)] ; Christopher M. Blanchard --  February 18, 2011 CRS report for Congress at Foreign Press Centers website [PDF (482.28 KB)] ; Christopher M. Blanchard, Jim Zanotti.
  • Libya : transition and U.S. policy / Christopher M. Blanchard.   Congressional Research Service,   2012. [25 p. PDF file] Libya's post-conflict transition is underway, as Libyans work to consolidate change from the 40-year authoritarian dictatorship of Muammar al Qadhafi to a planned representative government based on democratic and Islamic principles. At present, government functions are in the hands of the 76-member Transitional National Council (TNC), which carries out interim legislative and oversight responsibilities at the national level. Its 27-member executive cabinet oversees ministerial portfolios and includes figures responsible for foreign affairs, defense, interior security, oil, economy, militia demobilization, and other issues. TNC Chairman Mustafa Abdeljalil and cabinet leader Interim Prime Minister Abdurrahim El Keib direct the TNC's efforts. They and their colleagues are indirectly answerable to a wide range of locally and regionally organized activists, local committees, prominent personalities, tribes, militias, and civil society groups seeking to shape the transition and safeguard the revolution's achievements. The transition period may prove to be as complex and challenging for Libyans and their international counterparts as the 2011 conflict. Overcoming the legacy of Qadhafi's rule and the effects of the fighting are now the principal challenges for the Libyan people, the TNC, and the international community. As the transition unfolds, Libyans are facing key questions about basic terms for transitional justice, a new constitutional order, political participation, and Libyan foreign policy. Security challenges, significant investment needs, and vigorous political debates are now emerging. As Libyans work to shape their future, Congress and the Administration have the first opportunity to fully redefine U.S.-Libyan relations since the 1960s.
  • In war's wake : the struggle for post-Qadhafi Libya / Jason Pack and Barak Barfi. Washington Institute for Near East Policy,  2012. [xi, 38 p. PDF file.] Lacking civil society institutions and local governance, Libya is not prepared for the shocks that the periphery can deliver to the center. Forty-two years of Qadhafi's rule have deprived the country of any mediating institutions. Yet, contrary to what one might expect, politics on a national level is already functioning, and the NTC has proved its staying power despite its underdeveloped governing capacity. What the center needs are connections to the local level and the robust institutions capable of forging them. Both the Libyans and outside actors should embrace a paradigm shift and recognize that connecting the periphery to the center has become the top priority. Because the periphery already conquered the center during the revolution, the new paradigm must acknowledge that the periphery is where the majority of power will lie in the short term. Attempting to reverse this reality prematurely will backfire. The scope of the change under way in Libya is the grandest undertaken in any of the Arab Spring countries. Lacking a national army, trade unions, civil organizations, and key institutions, the country must be built from scratch. Formulas for successful international support of local inititives derived in Libya will affect engagement in neighboring Egypt and other countries, such as Syria, that may soon be struggling to rebuild. In short, to back off at this stage would be to learn the wrong lessons from history, especially the history of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.
  • Stakeholders of Libya's February 17 revolution  / Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof and Manal Omar. U.S. Institute of Peace,  2012. [15 p. PDF] Who the rebels are in Libya has been a common question surrounding the revolution that overthrew Muammar Gadhafi. This report maps out the factions in Libya's east, centering on Benghazi. It identifies the various groups, their narratives, their part in the revolution, and emergent grievances that could translate into instability or future conflicts. Libyans share a strong sense of historical narrative and ownership of the recent revolution, but complexities lie within that ownership. There are tensions between the youth movement and the National Transitional Council; between local Libyans and returning members of the Libyan diaspora; between secular groups and religious ones, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood; within militia groups that did the fighting; and among Libya's tribes and ethnic groups. The widespread sense of ownership of the revolution, which kept morale high during the fighting, has translated to expectations of quick improvements, both overall and in people's day-to-day lives. Managing expectations will be key to ensuring that tensions within Libyan society do not overcome the sense of unity that the revolution fostered. International actors should ensure that local ownership of the political process remains at the fore and is not undermined. In addition, research is needed to understand the situation in Libya more clearly, in order to identify ways that the international community can support, aid, and advise local efforts in forming a stable and secure environment in Libya.
  • Death of a dictator  :  bloody vengeance in Sirte / by Peter Bouckaert. Human Rights Watch,  c2012. [58 p. PDF]. "This 58-page report details the final hours of Muammar Gaddafi's life and the circumstances under which he was killed. It presents evidence that Misrata-based militias captured and disarmed members of the Gaddafi convoy and, after bringing them under their total control, subjected them to brutal beatings. They then executed at least 66 captured members of the convoy at the nearby Mahari Hotel. The evidence indicates that opposition militias took Gaddafi's wounded son Mutassim from Sirte to Misrata and killed him there. Under the laws of war, the killing of captured combatants is a war crime, and Libyan civilian and military authorities have an obligation to investigate war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law."--Publisher's website.
  • Libya's post-Qaddafi transition  :   the nation-building challenge /  Christopher S. Chivvas ...  Santa Monica, CA :  RAND,  2012. A year after Qaddafi's death, the light-footprint approach adopted for Libya's postwar transition is facing its most serious test. Security, the political transition, and economic development all present challenges. The security situation requires immediate attention and could worsen still. Until the militias are brought under state control, progress on other fronts will be very difficult to achieve. In most cases, the appropriate approach is a combination of incentives and broad-based negotiation between Tripoli and militia leaders. Only in extreme cases should the use of force be considered. On the political front, Libya and international actors deserve credit for the successful elections in July, but the political challenges ahead are significant. Libya still needs to write a constitution, and in doing so, it must determine the degree to which power is centralized in Tripoli and how to ensure inclusive yet stable governing institutions. Libya also needs to begin rethinking the management of its economy, and especially of its energy resources, to maximize the benefit to its citizens, reduce corruption, and enable private enterprise to flourish in other areas, such as tourism. Libya also needs sustained assistance--mainly technical in nature--from the countries that helped oust Qaddafi lest the transition run off the rails. Despite its role in helping topple Qaddafi, NATO is absent from Libya today. A greater role for the alliance is worth exploring, for example training Libyan security officials and forces and providing technical assistance for security-sector reform. An international Friends of Libya conference on assistance to Libya is warranted. Post-conflict transitions normally span years, and Libya's will be no different. Nevertheless, if current challenges are handled adroitly, Libya could still emerge as a positive force for democratic stability in North Africa and a valuable partner against al-Qaeda.

Misc. Resources

Subject Headings (Search Terms in the Online Catalog)

You can search the online Library Catalog to find books, journals (in print and digital), databases, DVDs, CDs and more in all campus libraries and beyond. It would be helpful to think about which search terms will be effective and structure a search that the Library tools can understand.  The following are examples of subject search terms (Subject Headings) used for research topic:

  • Civil war - Libya - History - 21st century.
  • Civil war - Protection of civilians - Libya.
  • Libya - Politics and government - 21st century
  • Libya - History - Revolution, 2011
  • Protest movements - Libya - 21st Century
  • Democratization - Libya - 21st Century
  • Revolutions - Arab countries
  • Arab countries - History - Arab Spring, 2011
  • Arab countries - Politics and government - 21st century
  • Protest movements - Arab countries - 21st century
  • Revolutions - Arab countries - 21st century
  • Government, Resistance to - Arab countries - History - 21st century
  • Democratization - Middle East - History - 21st century

Keyword Search Terms & Phrases

You can also start with a general keyword search. The following are suggested Keyword Search Terms (may be also useful as Internet Search Terms and phrases)

  • Libyan Revolution, Februay 17 
  • Libyan Revolution, F.B.-17
  • Libyan uprising
  • Pro-Democracy Movements in Libya
  • Revolution in Libya
  • Arab Awakening
  • Pro-Democracy Movements in Libya
  • “Arab Spring” in Libya

Maps & Timelines


  • Libya: Unrest and Uncertainty / The Big Picture, the Boston Globe's photoblog
  • Gaddafi: The Endgame is a series of films exploring the fall of the Gaddafi regime from the perspective of those who helped to bring it down [Al Jazeera TV].
  • The Long Road to Tripoli : We [Al Jazeera TV] follow a group of Libyan exiles as they sacrifice everything to return home for the final assault on Tripoli. (PART TWO)
  • iLibya: Arab Spring Revolution | Reportage by Getty Images
  • ARAB SPRING « Libya 360°
  • Libya after Moammar Gaddafi  / The Washington Post
  • Picture preview: The Gaddafi archives - Libya before the Arab Spring view gallery VIEW GALLERY *An exhibition of photographs, documents and artefacts from the Human Rights Watch archive paints a portrait of Libya in the four decades prior to the Arab Spring. The historical exhibition includes objects and images representing the reign of King Idris, from whom Gaddafi seized power via a military coup in 1969. Also on display will be pictures and documents seized from Gaddafi's residences and state intelligence ministries by Human Rights Watch emergencies director Peter Bouckaert and photojournalists.
  • The 2011 Libyan Uprising in Historical Context. In this lecture, Prof. Mia Fuller (University of California, Berkeley) discusses the popular uprising in Libya, paying special attention to the historical happenings and considerations that are oftentimes overlooked or neglected in contemporary media reports. Specifically, Fuller explores the remnants of Italian colonialism and how they may have factored into the overthrow of Col. Muammar Qadhafi. Fuller argues that the Libyan activists' retaking of arms to rise against oppression was an echo of the older generations that rebelled against Italian imperialism. This lecture was delivered by Prof. Fuller at the University of California, Berkeley, on Nov. 17, 2011.



  • The new Libya - its writers and bloggersThree Libyan authors read from their works and discuss life for writers under Gaddafi and how the future in Libya is shaping up. Ghazi Gheblawi, Giuma Bukleb and Mohamed Mesrati are powerful voices in the Libyan literary scene. The evening is moderated by Margaret Obank, Banipal's publisher.
    Ghazi Gheblawi is a well-known author, blogger, journalist and surgeon. He co-founded the online newspaper Libya Alyoum (Libya Today) and in 2005 founded his award-winning Imtidad blog. He produces, with Mohamed Mesrati, the Imtidad Cultural Podcast, focusing on cultural, literary and social issues in Libya and the Arab world, and working for “a better future for Libya that is free, democratic, and just”. He has two collections of short stories and poems.
    Giuma Bukleb published his short stories in Libyan literary magazines but stopped writing for many years after being imprisoned by the Gaddafi regime for 10 years in the late 1970s.  He has lived in the UK since 1988, and has published works in Arab newspapers and in one collection, and in English translation in Banipal 40 – Libyan Fiction. Some of his poems are published online.
    Mohamed Mesrati was born in 1990 in Tripoli and came to Britain with his family in 2005. He started writing and publishing short stories when he was just 16. His novel-in-progress Mama Pizza was excerpted in Banipal 40 – Libyan Fiction. He recently said: “As a writer or as an activist or as a blogger, my goal, my dream is to write to celebrate freedom, also liberation. That's what we get from writing, that’s what makes us satisfied." When he is not blogging, writing or working in a book shop, Mohamed studies English Literature and Creative Writing at London University.
    To read some of their works and of other Libyan authors, all published in English translation in Banipal 40 – Libyan Fiction, click here.