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Libya Satire: A Beginner's Guide to Democacy...and Slapstick (Karl reMarks)

"The Libya Shield Force functions as a regular army, but only on weekends" (Photo: AP)

Karl reMarks casts his satirical eye on the "new Libya":

What exactly is happening in Libya after the revolution, you must be wondering. Since international media seems to have forgotten about the country, we decided to write a short guide about Libya’s tentative steps towards democracy. Typically, this process of transition has been misinterpreted by western media with its overly ethnocentric understanding of what democracy should look like. To the untrained eye, Libyan democracy might appear to be anarchic and contradictory but it actually operates according to a set of unwritten rules.

The overriding principle for Libyan democratic procedures is that they are considered legitimate if they work as a scene in a silent era film. Keep that in mind and it will be easy to comprehend the overly theatrical nature of those proceedings.


The General National Congress is an elected chamber, much like any other parliament in the world outside North Korea and parts of the Gulf. However the GNC’s procedures were designed to give a voice for those who lost in the elections but still have lots of weapons. A simple majority is used to determine the outcome of legislative votes, but this could be invalidated should 15 or more armed men burst into the chamber screaming and waving their machineguns in the air. At this point, the chairman must recognise the motion and moves to delay the vote and must rush out saying “I’m sorry I have to leave, I’m invited to dinner.” (But using more than 25 men is considered bad form according to convention.)

Unpopular Committees

During Gaddafi’s tyrannical rule, popular committees were a cornerstone of his hold on power. The popular committees were so resented by most Libyans that they decided to replace them with unpopular committees after the revolution. This has proved very popular as nobody can stand them.

Moved by this success, the government created its own unpopular committee called the Supreme Security Committee, known as the SSC because it sounds like a snake hissing. The SSC has to sustain its unpopularity by arbitrary decisions, such as banning New Year’s Eve celebrations and occasionally cancelling Tuesdays. Their decisions are often ignored but they contribute to the unpopularity they crave nevertheless.

Guardians of the Revolution

>The Guardians of the Revolution, sometimes called the guardians of the revolution, are a sort of quality control authority for democratic transition. They are mainly militias that fought during the revolution against Gaddafi and decided to disarm unconventionally by retaining their weapons. They see their job as correcting the mistakes that ordinary Libyans might make during the transition to democracy. Their name appears to be inspired by the British newspaper The Guardian, because of its traditional role in correcting the democratic mistakes of ordinary voters.

There are several groups that function as guardians of the revolution, of various sizes and ideological inclinations. Some are Islamist and some are even more Islamist. The largest is the Libya Shield Force, so called because oxymorons are highly valued in traditional Libyan culture. The LSF function as a regular army, but only on weekends. For the rest of the week, they operate on a more relaxed basis.

There are other groups named after regions in Libya, tribes or abstract principles. There is also an all-woman militia called the Angry Mermaids because they wear very tight skirts that make walking very difficult. They are, however, very effective under water.

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