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Moammar Gadhafi: A Life of Violence


In the wake of reports that former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi has been captured and killed by revolutionaries in his country, EducationWorld presented the following timeline of key events that took place during his regime. This timeline is designed to guide the discussion so that the emphasis remains on the impact Gadhafi had on his country and the region, and what his removal meant for the future of Libya. See also EdWorld's Lesson Plan Booster: History of the Coup.

Gadhafi, shown here with Russian President Putin, was deposed as leader of Libya.

1969 Gadhafi Seizes Power - The frustration and shame felt by Libyan military officers following Israel's massive defeat of the Arab armies on three fronts in 1967 led to their desire to unify the Arab community by overthrowing the Libyan monarchy. It was at this point, while a cadet, that Gadhafi first started planning the overthrow of the monarchy.

On September 1, 1969, a small group of junior military officers led by Gadhafi staged a bloodless coup d'état against King Idris of Libya. Idris's nephew, Crown Prince Sayyid Hasan ar-Rida al-Mahdi as-Sanussi, was formally deposed by the revolutionary army officers and put under house arrest; they abolished the monarchy and proclaimed the Libyan Arab Republic.

1970s: Libyan Freedom Dies - In 1969, Gadhafi created the Revolutionary Committees to keep tight control over internal dissent. Ten to 20 percent of Libyans worked as informants for these committees. Surveillance took place in the government, in factories, and in education.People who attempted to form political parties were executed, and talking about politics with foreigners was punishable by up to three years in jail. Arbitrary arrests were common. The government conducted executions and mutilations of political opponents in public and broadcast recordings of the proceedings on state television. Dissent was illegal under Law 75 of 1973, which denied freedom of expression.

1980s: Gadhafi Amasses Wealth While His People Suffer - Libya enjoys bountiful natural resources, but its wealth has been concentrated on Gadhafi's family and the social elite, who have amassed vast fortunes. Most of the business enterprise has been controlled by Gadhafi and his family. Meanwhile, a large proportion of the population lives in poverty.

1980s: Libya Sponsors Terrorism - Gadhafi supported militant organizations that held anti-Western sympathies. The Foreign Minister of Libya called the massacres "heroic acts."Gadhafi fueled a number of Islamist and communist militant groups in the Philippines, including the New People's Army of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The country still struggles with their murders and kidnappings. In Indonesia, the Organisasi Papua Merdeka was a Libyan-backed militant group. In the South Pacific island nation Vanuatu, the ruling party also enjoyed Libyan support. In Australia, he attempted to radicalize Australian Aborigines, left-wing unions and Arab Australians against the "imperialist" government of Australia. In New Zealand, he financed the Workers Revolutionary Party and attempted to radicalize Maoris.

1990s: Gadhafi Courts the West - In 1994, Gadhafi began to court a relationship with the Western world. His first step in the process was his atonement for the Lockerbie bombings. For years, he had refused to extradite two Libyan intelligence agents indicted for planting a bomb on Pan Am Flight 103. South African president Nelson Mandela negotiated with the United States on Gadhafi's behalf.

2011: Gadhafi’s Regime Falls - On February 17, 2011, major political protests began in Libya against Gadhafi's government. During the following week, these protests gained significant momentum and size, despite stiff resistance from the Gadhafi government. He would eventually flee Tripoli before being captured and killed by revolutionaries in October 2011.

Related resources

Lesson Plan Booster: History of the Coup

Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
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