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Libya-Women in the Armed Forces





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Libya Index

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Women have played a significant role in Qadhafi's military build-up

Qadhafi has persistently sought to usher in a policy of direct participation by women in national defense. His efforts, which have been resisted by conservative elements of Libyan society and apparently by most young women as well, derived from his argument that women of the Arab world live in a subjugated state and must be liberated from oppression and feudalism. Qadhafi viewed practices governing a woman's role in society and her legal rights as disrespectful, reactionary, and contrary to the Quran (see The Traditional View of Men and Women , ch. 2).

Speaking at a rally in Tripoli in 1978, Qadhafi said that the goal of a totally armed people would be fully realized "when all Libyans--men and women--have been trained in an organized, modern fashion." Addressing in the same speech the political and religious problems that a full-fledged military role for women presented in Islamic Libya, Qadhafi declared that this "is not against religion, not against marriage, not against ethics."

Shortly thereafter, it was announced that women were to be conscripted along with men, but this plan apparently was not fully implemented. A women's army college opened in Tripoli in 1979, training volunteers aged thirteen to seventeen in basic military subjects and the use of various weapons. A total of 7,000 students had passed through the academy by 1983. Some female pilots and naval recruits had reportedly also been enlisted. Nevertheless, the notion of women as soldiers remained unpopular. Some observers believed that many of the students had been coerced into entering the academy. The institution was closed in November 1983, reportedly after students ripped down fences to escape and return to their homes.

Nonetheless, the new legislation introduced in February 1984 covering universal military service specifically included women. When the GPC took the almost unprecedented step of rejecting the proposal, Qadhafi saw this as evidence of lingering reactionary attitudes in a society that had not whole heartedly accepted the revolution. "Spontaneous demonstrations" of young women demanding the right to engage in military service were organized. In a speech on March 12, 1984, Qadhafi announced that popular demand made it necessary to introduce compulsory military service for all in spite of the CPC's action. After the Libyan retreat from Chad in March 1987, there were indications that women had served there in administrative positions.

The women's military academy was not reopened, however, and no immediate steps were taken to institute full-time military service for women. Training was apparently to remain an adjunct to high school and university studies. Even so, there was evidence that the program was not being resolutely enforced. As late as April 1986, the Libyan press mentioned complaints over the delays and haphazard nature of the training programs at the Zlitan Women Teachers' Institute, apparently owing to the indifference of local military authorities.

Data as of 1987



BackgroundThe Italians supplanted the Ottoman Turks in the area around Tripoli in 1911 and did not relinquish their hold until 1943 when defeated in World War II. Libya then passed to UN administration and achieved independence in 1951. Following a 1969 military coup, Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-QADHAFI began to espouse his own political system, the Third Universal Theory. The system is a combination of socialism and Islam derived in part from tribal practices and is supposed to be implemented by the Libyan people themselves in a unique form of "direct democracy." QADHAFI has always seen himself as a revolutionary and visionary leader. He used oil funds during the 1970s and 1980s to promote his ideology outside Libya, supporting subversives and terrorists abroad to hasten the end of Marxism and capitalism. In addition, beginning in 1973, he engaged in military operations in northern Chad's Aozou Strip - to gain access to minerals and to use as a base of influence in Chadian politics - but was forced to retreat in 1987. UN sanctions in 1992 isolated QADHAFI politically following the downing of Pan AM Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. During the 1990s, QADHAFI began to rebuild his relationships with Europe. UN sanctions were suspended in April 1999 and finally lifted in September 2003 after Libya accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing. In December 2003, Libya announced that it had agreed to reveal and end its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction and to renounce terrorism. QADHAFI has made significant strides in normalizing relations with Western nations since then. He has received various Western European leaders as well as many working-level and commercial delegations, and made his first trip to Western Europe in 15 years when he traveled to Brussels in April 2004. The US rescinded Libya's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism in June 2006. In January 2008, Libya assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2008-09 term. In August 2008, the US and Libya signed a bilateral comprehensive claims settlement agreement to compensate claimants in both countries who allege injury or death at the hands of the other country, including the Lockerbie bombing, the LaBelle disco bombing, and the UTA 772 bombing. In October 2008, the US Government received $1.5 billion pursuant to the agreement to distribute to US national claimants, and as a result effectively normalized its bilateral relationship with Libya. The two countries then exchanged ambassadors for the first time since 1973 in January 2009. QADHAFI in February 2009 took over as chairman of the African Union for the 2009-10 term; in September 2009, a Libyan took over the year-long presidency of UN General Assembly.
LocationNorthern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Tunisia
Area(sq km)total: 1,759,540 sq km
land: 1,759,540 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Geographic coordinates25 00 N, 17 00 E
Land boundaries(km)total: 4,348 km
border countries: Algeria 982 km, Chad 1,055 km, Egypt 1,115 km, Niger 354 km, Sudan 383 km, Tunisia 459 km

Coastline(km)1,770 km

ClimateMediterranean along coast; dry, extreme desert interior

Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Sabkhat Ghuzayyil -47 m
highest point: Bikku Bitti 2,267 m
Natural resourcespetroleum, natural gas, gypsum
Land use(%)arable land: 1.03%
permanent crops: 0.19%
other: 98.78% (2005)

Irrigated land(sq km)4,700 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources(cu km)0.6 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)total: 4.27 cu km/yr (14%/3%/83%)
per capita: 730 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazardshot, dry, dust-laden ghibli is a southern wind lasting one to four days in spring and fall; dust storms, sandstorms
Environment - current issuesdesertification; limited natural fresh water resources; the Great Manmade River Project, the largest water development scheme in the world, is being built to bring water from large aquifers under the Sahara to coastal cities
Environment - international agreementsparty to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography - notemore than 90% of the country is desert or semidesert
Population6,310,434
note: includes 166,510 non-nationals (July 2009 est.)
Age structure(%)0-14 years: 33% (male 1,064,866/female 1,019,790)
15-64 years: 62.7% (male 2,033,478/female 1,920,755)
65 years and over: 4.3% (male 133,092/female 138,453) (2009 est.)
Median age(years)total: 23.9 years
male: 24 years
female: 23.8 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate(%)2.17% (2009 est.)
Birth rate(births/1,000 population)25.15 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)3.45 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)NA (2009 est.)
Urbanization(%)urban population: 78% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 2.2% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio(male(s)/female)at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.96 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 21.05 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 23.21 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 18.78 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 77.26 years
male: 74.98 years
female: 79.65 years (2009 est.)

Total fertility rate(children born/woman)3.08 children born/woman (2009 est.)
Nationalitynoun: Libyan(s)
adjective: Libyan
Ethnic groups(%)Berber and Arab 97%, other 3% (includes Greeks, Maltese, Italians, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Turks, Indians, and Tunisians)

Religions(%)Sunni Muslim 97%, other 3%
Languages(%)Arabic, Italian, English, all are widely understood in the major cities

Country nameconventional long form: Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
conventional short form: Libya
local long form: Al Jamahiriyah al Arabiyah al Libiyah ash Shabiyah al Ishtirakiyah al Uthma
local short form: none
Government typeJamahiriya (a state of the masses) in theory, governed by the populace through local councils; in practice, an authoritarian state
Capitalname: Tripoli (Tarabulus)
geographic coordinates: 32 53 N, 13 10 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions25 municipalities (baladiyat, singular - baladiyah); Ajdabiya, Al 'Aziziyah, Al Fatih, Al Jabal al Akhdar, Al Jufrah, Al Khums, Al Kufrah, An Nuqat al Khams, Ash Shati', Awbari, Az Zawiyah, Banghazi, Darnah, Ghadamis, Gharyan, Misratah, Murzuq, Sabha, Sawfajjin, Surt, Tarabulus, Tarhunah, Tubruq, Yafran, Zlitan; note - the 25 municipalities may have been replaced by 13 regions
Constitutionnone; note - following the September 1969 military overthrow of the Libyan government, the Revolutionary Command Council replaced the existing constitution with the Constitutional Proclamation in December 1969; in March 1977, Libya adopted the Declaration of the Establishment of the People's Authority

Legal systembased on Italian and French civil law systems and Islamic law; separate religious courts; no constitutional provision for judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage18 years of age; universal and technically compulsory
Executive branchchief of state: Revolutionary Leader Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-QADHAFI (since 1 September 1969); note - holds no official title, but is de facto chief of state
head of government: Secretary of the General People's Committee (Prime Minister) al-Baghdadi Ali al-MAHMUDI (since 5 March 2006)
cabinet: General People's Committee established by the General People's Congress
elections: national elections are indirect through a hierarchy of people's committees; head of government elected by the General People's Congress; election last held March 2009 (next to be held NA)
election results: NA

Legislative branchunicameral General People's Congress (760 seats; members elected indirectly through a hierarchy of people's committees)

Judicial branchSupreme Court

Political pressure groups and leadersother: Arab nationalist movements; anti-QADHAFI Libyan exile Movement; Islamic elements
International organization participationABEDA, AfDB, AFESD, AMF, AMU, AU, CAEU, COMESA, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, LAS, MIGA, NAM, OAPEC, OIC, OPCW, OPEC, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)
Flag descriptionplain green; green is the traditional color of Islam (the state religion)

Economy - overviewThe Libyan economy depends primarily upon revenues from the oil sector, which contribute about 95% of export earnings, about one-quarter of GDP, and 60% of public sector wages. The expected weakness in world hydrocarbon prices throughout 2009 will reduce Libyan government tax income and constrain Libyan economic growth in 2009. Substantial revenues from the energy sector coupled with a small population give Libya one of the highest per capita GDPs in Africa, but little of this income flows down to the lower orders of society. Libyan officials in the past five years have made progress on economic reforms as part of a broader campaign to reintegrate the country into the international fold. This effort picked up steam after UN sanctions were lifted in September 2003 and as Libya announced in December 2003 that it would abandon programs to build weapons of mass destruction. UN Sanctions against Libya were lifted in September 2003. The process of lifting US unilateral sanctions began in the spring of 2004; all sanctions were removed by June 2006, helping Libya attract greater foreign direct investment, especially in the energy sector. Libyan oil and gas licensing rounds continue to draw high international interest; the National Oil Company set a goal of nearly doubling oil production to 3 million bbl/day by 2012. Libya faces a long road ahead in liberalizing the socialist-oriented economy, but initial steps - including applying for WTO membership, reducing some subsidies, and announcing plans for privatization - are laying the groundwork for a transition to a more market-based economy. The non-oil manufacturing and construction sectors, which account for more than 20% of GDP, have expanded from processing mostly agricultural products to include the production of petrochemicals, iron, steel, and aluminum. Climatic conditions and poor soils severely limit agricultural output, and Libya imports about 75% of its food. Libya's primary agricultural water source remains the Great Manmade River Project, but significant resources are being invested in desalinization research to meet growing water demands.
GDP (purchasing power parity)$87.72 billion (2008 est.)
$82.83 billion (2007 est.)
$78.44 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate)$89.92 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate(%)5.9% (2008 est.)
5.6% (2007 est.)
5.9% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$14,200 (2008 est.)
$13,700 (2007 est.)
$13,300 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 1.7%
industry: 70.9%
services: 27.4% (2008 est.)
Labor force1.64 million (2008 est.)

Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: 17%
industry: 23%
services: 59% (2004 est.)
Unemployment rate(%)30% (2004 est.)
Population below poverty line(%)7.4% (2005 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Investment (gross fixed)(% of GDP)9.3% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budgetrevenues: $58.04 billion
expenditures: $35.22 billion (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)10.4% (2008 est.)
6.3% (2007 est.)

Stock of money$26.66 billion (31 December 2008)
$18.04 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money$4.264 billion (31 December 2008)
$3.192 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit$NA (31 December 2008)
$NA (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares$NA
Economic aid - recipientODA, $24.44 million (2005 est.)

Public debt(% of GDP)4% of GDP (2008 est.)
8.8% of GDP (2004 est.)
Agriculture - productswheat, barley, olives, dates, citrus, vegetables, peanuts, soybeans; cattle
Industriespetroleum, iron and steel, food processing, textiles, handicrafts, cement

Industrial production growth rate(%)6.2% (2008 est.)

Current account balance$37.39 billion (2008 est.)
$28.45 billion (2007 est.)
Exports$64.5 billion (2008 est.)
$46.97 billion (2007 est.)

Exports - commodities(%)crude oil, refined petroleum products, natural gas, chemicals
Exports - partners(%)Italy 38%, Germany 12%, France 7.4%, Spain 6.9%, US 6.4%, Switzerland 4.6% (2008)
Imports$26.55 billion (2008 est.)
$17.7 billion (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities(%)machinery, semi-finished goods, food, transport equipment, consumer products
Imports - partners(%)Italy 22.2%, China 9.3%, Germany 8.6%, Turkey 6.1%, Tunisia 5.8%, South Korea 4.7%, US 4.1%, France 4.1% (2008)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$92.51 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$79.6 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external$6.223 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$4.837 billion (31 December 2007 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home$11.23 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$8.775 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad$5.15 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$3.7 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Exchange ratesLibyan dinars (LYD) per US dollar - 1.2112 (2008 est.), 1.2604 (2007), 1.3108 (2006), 1.3084 (2005), 1.305 (2004)

Currency (code)Libyan dinar (LYD)

Telephones - main lines in use1.033 million (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular4.828 million (2008)
Telephone systemgeneral assessment: telecommunications system is state-owned and service is poor, but investment is being made to upgrade; state retains monopoly in fixed-line services; mobile cellular telephone system became operational in 1996; multiple providers for a mobile telephone system that is growing rapidly; combined fixed line and mobile telephone density is approaching 100 telephones per 100 persons
domestic: microwave radio relay, coaxial cable, cellular, tropospheric scatter, and a domestic satellite system with 14 earth stations
international: country code - 218; satellite earth stations - 4 Intelsat, NA Arabsat, and NA Intersputnik; submarine cables to France and Italy; microwave radio relay to Tunisia and Egypt; tropospheric scatter to Greece; participant in Medarabtel (2008)
Internet country code.ly
Internet users323,000 (2008)
Airports137 (2009)
Pipelines(km)condensate 776 km; gas 2,860 km; oil 6,987 km (2008)
Roadways(km)total: 100,024 km
paved: 57,214 km
unpaved: 42,810 km (2003)

Ports and terminalsAs Sidrah, Az Zuwaytinah, Marsa al Burayqah, Ra's Lanuf, Tripoli, Zawiyah
Military branchesArmed Peoples on Duty (APOD, Army), Libyan Arab Navy, Libyan Arab Air Force (Al-Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Jamahiriya al-Arabia al-Libyya, LAAF), Libyan Coast Guard (2008)
Military service age and obligation(years of age)17 years of age (2004)
Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 1,682,183
females age 16-49: 1,611,001 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 1,466,578
females age 16-49: 1,409,684 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 60,710
female: 58,219 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures(% of GDP)3.9% of GDP (2005 est.)
Disputes - internationalLibya has claimed more than 32,000 sq km in southeastern Algeria and about 25,000 sq km in the Tommo region of Niger in a currently dormant dispute; various Chadian rebels from the Aozou region reside in southern Libya

Refugees and internally displaced personsrefugees (country of origin): 8,000 (Palestinian Territories) (2007)
Trafficking in personscurrent situation: Libya is a transit and destination country for men and women from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List - Libya is on the Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to address trafficking in persons in 2007 when compared to 2006, particularly in the area of investigating and prosecuting trafficking offenses; Libya did not publicly release any data on investigations or punishment of any trafficking offenses (2008)
Electricity - production(kWh)23.98 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption(kWh)22.17 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports(kWh)104 million kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - imports(kWh)77 million kWh (2007 est.)
Oil - production(bbl/day)1.875 million bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption(bbl/day)273,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports(bbl/day)1.542 million bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports(bbl/day)575.3 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves(bbl)43.66 billion bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production(cu m)15.9 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption(cu m)5.5 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports(cu m)10.4 billion cu m (2008)
Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)1.54 trillion cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)0.3% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS10,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deathsNA
Literacy(%)definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 82.6%
male: 92.4%
female: 72% (2003 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)(years)total: 17 years
male: 16 years
female: 17 years (2003)
Education expenditures(% of GDP)2.7% of GDP (1999)








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