Largest Cities in Libya

The media always have a tendency to exaggerate and get very excited about news of all sorts, but the hysteria regarding the ‘popular revolutions’ in MENA (Middle East, North Africa) countries has reached fever pitch.

The ‘revolution’ in Libya is not remotely like that of Egypt or Tunisia. The picture painted in the media is that Gaddafi is shooting and bombing civilians, yet estimates for those killed appear to be going down and not up (2 days ago it was 2000, now its 500). Surely if he were bombing people there would be 1000’s or 10,000’s dead and more injured (not to mention clear evidence in the form of craters!)? Any loss of life is a tragedy, but clearly no-one is machine gunning massive groups of unarmed protesters or the death toll would be far higher. It also seems lost in the mass media that a lot of the ‘protesters’ are actually armed. I read that >100 police were killed in the eastern city of Benghazi … how would that be possible if the protesters were unarmed and the police had automatic weapons?

It sounds much more like a civil war.

The media in general also makes it sound like Gaddafi has lost control of the majority of the country. This may be true in terms of square miles, but a quick look at the largest cities in Libya shows you that the regime has apparently control of the majority of the population in built up areas:

  1. Tripoli (1.2million)
  2. Benghazi (0.67million)
  3. Misurata (0.5million)
  4. Az Zawiyah (0.3million)
  5. Sabha (0.25million)

Tripoli is twice the size of any other city in Libya. Misurata and Az Zawiyah are both quite near Tripoli in the West of the country. Benghazi is the only city of note in the East and is apparently in the control of the ‘protesters’. There is also Al Khums near Tripoli with over 100,000 people.

So, you can see that Gaddafi still controls the majority of the urban population, in a country with only 6.5million people. As I type, there is fighting in Az Zawiyah where his forces are probably re-taking control in a day which has seen him start to fight back. It would seem that, assuming he can keep control of the West of Libya, he can claim to have authority over the majority of people and claim that it is only certain tribes which want to topple him. The result of this would probably be some sort of negotiation, giving the east more autonomy from the West. I am of course assuming the West doesn’t intervene – something they appear reluctant to do (or just indecisive and slow).

Today there are various videos filmed by people driving around the city of Tripoli where Gaddafi loyalists are already cleaning up the graffiti and debris from the rioting. The roads look surprisingly busy for a place in ‘lock down’ as the media describe it. Whether it remains peaceful, only time will tell.

Whatever the reality, I hope the country can make peaceful progress towards democracy.

UPDATE 27/02/2011

A mixture of defecting armed forces and well armed/organised protesters have resulted in every major city, apart from the capital Tripoli, being liberated from pro-Gadaffi control. The momentum is clearly against Gaddafi and it is starting to appear he is unaware of what is really happening in the country (or simply in denial).

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