Commemorates The 11th Anniversary Of Libya's February 17th Revolution

FEBRUARY 17, 2022 12:00 - 1:30 PM EST

On Thursday, February 17th, the Libyan American Alliance hosted a virtual discussion with US Ambassador and Special Envoy for Libya Richard Norland, and five leading Libya experts to discuss Libya 11 years after the February 17th Revolution.

The experts included former Libya Special Envoy and current Middle East Institute Non-Resident Scholar Jonathan Winer; former White House North Africa director and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Libya expert Ben Fishman; current member of Libyan Parliament and former Foreign Minister of the Government of National Salvation Aly Abuzaakouk; the Atlantic Council’s Senior Resident Fellow Karim Mezran; and American University professor Dr. William Lawrence as moderator.

The comprehensive and wide-ranging discussion covered the U.S. position, as well as contemporary efforts to stabilize the country and put its democratic transition back on track.



U.S. Special Envoy for Libya


Fmr Special Envoy for Libya. Non-Resident Scholar, Middle East Institute


Senior Fellow, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy


Resident Fellow, Rafik Hariri Center & Middle East Programs, Atlantic Council


Parliamentarian, CFDH President


Dr. Esam Omeish updated the audience on the Libyan American Alliance’s projects to foster passage of the Libya Stabilization Act in Congress, speak against the Muslim Ban and mobilize Libyan Americans to advocate in support of the NO BAN Act, release a policy paper on transnational human trafficking and smuggling of refugees and migrants in Libya, host a panel event with experts on the refugee and migrant crisis, and consult on a lawsuit brought on behalf of victims of human rights violations during the 2019 Tripoli offensive. 


Thank you to each of the following experts slated to speak at the event. You were sorely missed but we look forward to having you at our next event — free of technical or other unexpected issues!

Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute (FPI) of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University.


LPDF Member, Professor at University of Tripoli


Co-Founder, Jusoor Center for Studies and Development

Ambassador Norland highlighted several reasons for the postponement of the December 24 elections, including (1) the emergence of controversial candidates–like military commander Khalifa Haftar as well as Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, whose leadership bid, says Amb. Norland, has been facilitated in part by Russia; and (2) the candidate vetting process broke down “largely at the hands of the judiciary”.
Despite the breakdown of the electoral process, Amb. Norland expressed optimism as nearly 3 million Libyans registered to vote. As a result, no politician wanted to be held responsible for delaying elections, thereby failing to announce the postponement until three days before election day.

Winer, Jonathan, “Struggle over legitimacy in Libya begins third period of dueling governments,” Middle East Institute, February 14, 2022.
Mr. Winer also expressed hope about Libya’s political future based on the large number of Libyan political actors embarking on a Libyan-led political process to form a government, sometimes with the once-competing governments from the East and West cooperating to reach this goal. After more than a decade of instability, Winer hoped that we will soon celebrate the political process “as we celebrated the idea of Libyans taking charge of their national lives.
Libyans, in general, are sick and tired of the HOR and the High State Council and the temporary governments that have continued to exist for the last 10 years.

Mr. Abuzaakouk began by stating that “Libyans are hungry for democracy, hungry for civilian government, hungry for real stability.” Despite being a parliamentary member, he criticized the HOR for failing to follow the internal quorum in its decision-making process last Monday. Abuzaakouk expressed hope for a resolution between the Dbeibah government, the Geneva-led process, and the Tobruk-designated Bashagha government.

For youth in Libya today, the pervasive feeling is that they are not safe and cannot set deep roots for fear everything will collapse. ...most view life outside of Libya as the only real option for the future...In other words, young people are seeking to build lives elsewhere.
Offering a mea culpa of sorts, Mr. Fishman recalled President Obama’s famous quote about Libya and how failing to plan for the aftermath of Libya was the biggest mistake of his presidency. Although Stephanie Williams is a “capable and effective voice on the ground in the UN,” Fishman says, the United States needs “to come into play as a force of diplomacy, even in the midst of the Ukraine crisis and Russia.” The United States must work with allies and partners (and sometimes rivals) to gather all parties and demonstrate Libya’s real chance for stability.
Do you think that the election can bring peace to the families of the Tarhuna mass graves? Or for all that happened in Tripoli in the massacre? Of all the bad things that have happened? Do you really think that if you go to an election, that people will forget, that people will accept any results because of goodwill? That will not happen.

Mr. Mezran stated that the problems that are the basis of the Libyan civil war have not been resolved and, until those problems have been addressed, elections will not reunify the divided country. In fact, Mezran criticized the international community placing extreme importance on national elections when they should be finding solutions through a transitional justice program, a national reconciliation conference, or something more basic than a single election. Clearly, elections will not erase the trauma of the Tarhuna mass graves, the Tripoli massacre, or any other crime from the collective Libyan memory.

Those in the past who have tried to cite the Constitution as an absolute imperative before you can have elections have ten

In response to Mezran’s comments about a reconciliation program, Ambassador Norland spoke of a recent laudatory USAID – sponsored American Bar Association mediation effort involving Ahali and Tebu tribes in the South as a possible solution for reconciliation to be implemented nationwide.

Amb. Norland suggested progress being made towards reunifying Libya despite the appearance of dueling prime ministers, noting the recent reopening of the coastal road and resumption of flights between the Mitiga and Benina airports. Whether the HOR had a proper quorum or vote in naming Bashagha as its new prime minister, UNSMIL believes the vote for Bashagha was decisive, and the United States is guided by UNSMIL’s interpretation. Amb. Norland expects a roll-call vote on Bashagha’s cabinet to be held as early as next week.