Hundred years after 1922 Sirte Conference, Libya still fighting occupation and foreign plots

By Vanessa Tomassini.

This story originally appeared on the Italian “Strumenti Politici“.

History is made up of occurrences and recurrences. According to the Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico (Naples, 23 June 1668 – Naples, 23 January 1744), the historical recurring cicles represent the path of humanity that passes from awareness to fantasy and reason and then, corrupting, falls down, in the wild state, to resume the ascending process again and begin the civilization recourse. On Saturday, Sirte hosted a symposium on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Sirte Conference, which focused on the need to unify political leadership between East and West. The symposium saw the participation of a large number of researchers, academics and Libyan history lovers, through the Google Meeting technology as well as a wide in person participation. The symposium was organized by the Al-Burhan Foundation for Dialogue and Development, led by a university professor and former secretary general of the University of Sirte. During the two-hour symposium, the experts discussed the historical period in Libya between the two world wars, the role of the Ottoman Empire, the United Kingdom and France in the process of unification of the country through the three regions’ history.

“We must recognize that the Italian government is well educated and guards our true history without misleading it. General Graziani has written many books which have preserved our past. The Italian authorities firmly support the constitutional referendum as they are well aware of its importance before heading to the elections. The current political situation must break the ice between external actors, in particular the European Union, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Russia and finally the United States of America.” Zakaria Khaled Alfageh, civil activist and researcher from Sirte, tell us. One hundred years ago, on January 22, 1922, Sirte hosted a conference after the Italian government and the occupation forces attempted to prevent the Resistance from convening a meeting in Gharyan, as Ibrahim Omesh writes in his opera ‘Political history and future of civil society in Libya’.

That appeal came in light of local and international developments with a significant impact on the Libyan conflict’s arena in the face of the occupation authorities’ plans and their forces lurking the North African country, carrying out attacks and obstructing the movements of members, delegations and leaders who sought to unify the struggle in the country regions against colonialism. Omesh recalls that there were several factors that prompted the resistance to speed up this conference one hundred years ago: the strenuous efforts and malicious intrigues carried out by the Italian occupation authorities to differentiate between elements and leaders of the resistance; the martyrdom of the national fighter and leader of the resistance movement in the Tripoli region, mujahid Ramadan Al-Shitawi Al-Swehli; the international changes that accompanied the emergence of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and its support for liberation movements and self-determination issues; the echoes of the national revolution led by Saad Zagloul in 1919 against British forces, demanding the evacuation of the British and the independence of Egypt; the announcement of the “League of Nations” establishment in 1920, after the end of the First World War, and the signing of the peace treaty, which led to the declaration of the fourteen principles of the American president Wilson, which definitively sanctioned the rights of peoples self-determination and non-recognition of secret treaties. And finally: the effects of Wilson’s principles on Italy which prevented Rome from obtaining the reward promised by France and the UK in the 1915 secret Treaty of London.

The points of that conference seem to be so current as they were written yesterday. Article (4) of 1922 Sirte’s Conference states: “whoever plots foreign intrigues to the government to which he is attributed, will be executed and his money confiscated according to Islamic law.” So, article 5: “the two sides (east and west) believe that the interest of the nation and the need to defend it from the common enemy requires the unification of leadership in the country”. As current that they vaguely recall a declaration issued just yesterday by the military groups of the western region which, recognizing the leadership of General Mohamed El-Haddad and the Government of National Unity, warn those who say they represent them, without position or clear description, in search of a political agreement between Cairo, Abu Dhabi, Amman and Turkey. The statement came a few hours before the start of the parliamentary session which already announced, last week, the need to replace the current government of Abdel Hamid Dbeibah, whose legitimacy, according to the HoR speaker Aguila Saleh would have expired on December 24th. What emerges in these hundred years of history, what has given foreign parties so much room for maneuver in Libya, and the reason behind the incessant meetings abroad between various Libyan actors seems to be a lack of trust. An absence that perhaps also reflects on the international community members, even among those we are used to consider allies, or at least, they should be.

Commenting on the current political situation in Libya, Zakaria says: “we need a real national will to get us out of this complex situation in which we have fallen and put an end to the transitional phases, because the decision makers in the House of Representatives, The High Council of State, the Government of National Unity and its Presidential Council will not easily leave power, just as the military formations in western Libya and the Libyan national army in the east will not drop their arms or follow instructions and orders. In my opinion, Libya will take another ten years to reach political maturity. And perhaps, in the next decade, many of the bad decision makers and politicians who led us into abyss will be dead. “

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