Follow the football.
If you want to understand the Islamist drift, follow women's soccer.
By Gianandrea Gaiani.
(Translated and adapted by L. Pavese.)
There is news that is to remain in the shadow and suffer from low visibility, because it concerns themes that are considered marginal or secondary, though in many cases they reveal much wider trends.
Just to get an idea of how Libya is sinking into the darkness of Islamism, it could be useful to follow...soccer. Tripoli’s sports authorities have forbidden their national women’s team to take part in a tournament that is currently being played in Germany. The Libyan football federation’s reason for its decision was Ramadan. The team had been forced to practice in secret locations protected by armed guards due to the threats they had received from Muslim extremists.
“The Federation told us that we could not play in Germany because of the fasting,” said midfielder Hadhoum el-Alabed to the British newspaper The Guardian. “We wanted to go, but they told us we could not.”
The Libyan team was scheduled to play Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Tunisia and Germany in the "Discover Football" Tournament instituted by the German government and considered the most important meeting of female footballers from the Middle East. El-Alabed remarked how the prohibition had shattered all her hopes of a change in Libyan society after the fall of the regime of Muammar Qaddafi.
The condition of women represents an important clue of the political regression of Libya. The Libyan parliament, in which 20% of the seats are held by women, approved a law that instituted the commission that will have to write the new constitution, in which the weight of the Sharia (Islamic law) will probably increase. Female representation in the constitutional commission was decreased to 10%: six women out of sixty seats.
Hana Al Qalall, professor of International Law at the University of Benghazi, declared to the press agency Agi that “this defeat was due to the arrival of members of parliament who do not believe in equal rights for women; they do not consider women as true partners in the process of transition to democracy, and they try to ban them from the political arena using methods that resemble racial discrimination.”
After all, to talk about institutions in Libya is difficult in light of the fact that the parliament, the administration buildings, and the ministries are often occupied by armed militias, and considering that the government has no control whatsoever on the territory and on what is happening in the country.
According to the United Nations, more than 200,000 armed militias roam Libya freely, while intelligence sources, quoted by the Italian daily newspaper Il Foglio, report the growing penetration in the country of Salafis and other groups linked to the various facets of al-Qaeda.
The counter-terrorism center of the African Union believes that Libya has turned into an important logistical and organizational center for the main terrorist groups of North Africa and the Sahel. The influx from Egypt of many Muslim Brotherhood affiliates, who are afraid of being arrested by the army that has taken over after overthrowing the Islamist President Morsi’s government, adds to the complexity of this trafficking that occurs mainly in Cyrenaica and the Fezzan but is also tangible in Tripolitania.
If this weren’t enough, the political confrontation between the National Democratic Alliance (Liberal-Democratic) and the Justice and Reconstruction Party (Muslim Brotherhood) intertwines with the tribal tensions and the interferences of many other countries that are interested in influencing the future of Libya, and mainly in a negative way from an Italian or Western point of view.
Rome, that under pressure from the United States has also accepted the request from the G-8 to work towards the stabilization of the North African country, is at the forefront in an operation that has been approved by NATO to strengthen the Libyan armed forces. Close to 20,000 soldiers and policemen will be trained abroad — apparently in France, the United States, Great Britain and in Italy, which alone will give hospitality to up to 5,000 Libyan recruits.
The Italian training mission Cirene (financed in 2013 with M€ 7.5) has already been established in Tripoli for a year. The purpose of the mission is to train policemen destined to safeguard “sensitive” areas such as oil installations and gas pipelines; but within NATO it was decided to carry out the bulk of the training of the Libyan forces abroad, not to expose instructors and military advisors to terrorist attacks. Furthermore, the Italian government is also negotiating with Libya the transfer of military equipment that includes several hundreds Pumas light armored cars, which are all about just ten years old but are considered surplus by the Italian Army because they lack protection against mines and improvised explosive devices.
|Italian Army's Pumas in Afghanistan|
However, the true limitation of this program of military support to the Libyan government does not consist in the number of vehicles or the personnel that will have to be trained, but in their quality. In fact, the soldiers and the policemen are for the most part former militias who were attracted by the good pay, but whose loyalty to the nation (unlike their tribe) still has to be verified. It will be difficult to avoid the infiltration of terrorists, as it happened in Afghanistan, or in neighboring Mali where three out of the four units that had been trained and equipped by the U.S. defected to the al-Qaeda forces that last year invaded the north of the country, and the fourth carried out the coup in Bamako.
We'd better be careful.
Gianandrea Gaiani is an Italian journalist and a former war correspondant who edits the online magazine Analisi Difesa , and contributes to several Italian newspapers and magazines. This article was published originally by the Italian online newspaper La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana.
If you are interested in reading more articles by Mr. Giaiani, on this blog you will find several. In the previous post, which happens to be about Libya too, you will find a link to an older artcile and from there you'll be able to find your way to the older entries.
Thank you very much.
Your comments, as usual, will be greatly appreciated.