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The Libyan "Stasi" of Muammar Gaddafi: Revolutionary Committee Files Recovered in Benghazi

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His new Libya, however, was, like the German Democratic Republic with its Stasi, paranoid of criticism and dissent from the start, not that pre-Jamahiriya Libya didn't already have these evolving traits. It was a Libya where conformity and unquestioning obedience to the state as well as praise of Gaddafi was demanded, as if everyone must be a dedicated acolyte in Gaddafi's personal brand of secular-theocratic revolution, in actuality yet another collectivist, totalitarian legerdemain ludicrously promising paradise while built on mountains of repression.

And thus it was that local Revolutionary Committees throughout the country were going to enforce this conformity by, Stasi-like, spying on almost everyone in Libya and detaining, even imprisoning, torturing or disposing of anyone considered suspicious enough. To quote from Wikipedia:

Gaddafi's Revolutionary committees resembled similar systems in communist countries. Reportedly 10 to 20 percent of Libyans worked in surveillance for these committees, a proportion of informants on par with Saddam Hussein's Iraq or Kim Jong-il's North Korea. The surveillance took place in government, in factories, and in the education sector. [ 18 ] Dissent is illegal under Law 75 of 1973. Gaddafi has said that "execution is the fate of anyone who forms a political party". [ 18 ]

Engaging in political conversations with foreigners was a crime punishable by three years in prison. Gaddafi removed foreign languages from school curricula. One protester in 2011 described the situation as: "None of us can speak English or French. He kept us ignorant and blindfolded". [ 19 ]

The regime often executed dissidents publicly and the executions are rebroadcast on state television channels. [ 18 ] [ 20 ]

Libya under Gaddafi was the most censored country in the Middle East and North Africa, according to the Freedom of the Press Index. [ 21 ] (source)

The Recovery of Revolutionary Committee Files in Benghazi

In circumstances not unlike the recovery of the Stasi files in Berlin in 1990, when protests erupted against the Gaddafi regime in mid-February of 2011, quickly deteriorating into violent repression that in turn inflamed rebellion and revolution across Libya, one of the cities where there were dramatic clashes between Libyan security forces and the populace was Benghazi. Despite utilizing plentiful violence, state security personnel quickly began to lose control and, in one night in late February, amidst all the ongoing turmoil, citizens noted that one of the internal security buildings was on fire. Breaking in as they saw security personnel rush out another door, they realized that all the Revolutionary Committee security files were in danger of being consumed by fire, and managed to save a good portion of them. What they discovered in these files is quite revealing, yet another window into the harsh reality of life in Gaddafi's Libyan police state, as well described in this al Jazeera expose entitled Under Gaddafi's Eyes:

Former criminal prosecutor Ayman Gheriani reads a classified internal security surveillance file [Evan Hill/Al Jazeera]

Benghazi, LIBYA - Benghazi internal security headquarters, November 3, 1990. A fax arrives at 10:30 in the morning, addressed to the director from the head office in Tripoli.

"We received information about some of the suspicious people," it begins. A list of names and paragraphs of information follow.

One man is singled out for listening to religious tape cassettes from an Egyptian sheikh. Another man named Bileid is identified as a teacher and a "big criminal," someone who has grown a beard but is "morally depraved," implying that he is homosexual.

At the bottom of the page is Eissa Ahmed al-Farsi. He was fired from his job as an agricultural studies teacher at Omar Mukhtar University in Baida. He belonged to one of Libya's secretive revolutionary committees, the power behind Muammar Gaddafi's regime, but dropped out. He began spending time with bearded men at the Abu Bakr al-Siddiq mosque in Benghazi.

The fax is stamped and dated. "Peace," it says at the end.

Farsi's large, blue surveillance file is number 6,247. At the bottom, it is marked "very secret." He is one among tens of thousands, each for a Libyan who unwittingly became a target of Gaddafi's secret police, the enforcers responsible for squashing dissent and sowing terror over more than four decades in the Libyan Arab People's Jamahiriya.

In theory, the Jamahiriya -- or "state of the masses" -- is run by people's committees and an enormous, directly elected congress, but in practice, Gaddafi's personally loyal, autocratic, and extra-judicial state apparatus is controlled through community-based revolutionary committees, the lijan thawriya. High-ranking army, police and internal security officers often double as committee members. For decades, they have had the ability to arrest, interrogate, torture and imprison Libyan citizens at will.

Now that Gaddafi's regime has fallen in the east, stories like Farsi's -- detailing the government's far-reaching coercive power -- are finally entering public view. (TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE, CLICK HERE)

Garish reading indeed, but I must point out however that the Libyan regime is not the only police state in the Middle East or North Africa, for almost every country in these areas has had some version of a repressive state security apparatus in the past decades, often aided and abetted by America, Britain, Israel and other cynical powers. Often these security apparatuses work together secretly and viciously, colluding against those who speak out even beyond one or the other's borders. We must remember that Gaddafi's first internal security mentors were the Egyptians.

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