Libyan people

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Libyan people
Mustafa Ben HalimOmar Mukhtar
Regions with significant populations
 Libya 6,244,174[1]
 Canada 5,515[2][3]
Arabic (main), Berber and English (main foreign)
Sunni Muslims (main)
Minorities: Muwahhid Muslims, Christianity, Judaism (all residing outside the country)

The Libyan people reside in Libya, a country located on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, to the west of and adjacent to Egypt. Ethnically, the Libyan population is primarily Arab or a mixture of Arab-Berber ethnicities. There is also a small number of Berbers, who retain their own culture. According to DNA studies, 90% of the Arab Libyan population descended from the Arab-Berber inter-ethnic mixture[4] and the remaining 10% are Phoenicians, black Africans (especially in the south of the country) and other North African, Asian and European peoples. The 2012 worldwide Libyan population is estimated at 7 million and the ethnic Arab Libyan population from that estimate is around 6.4 million after the Libyan Civil War.[citation needed]


Main article: History of Libya

Over the centuries, Libya has been occupied by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Italians, and Egyptians. The Phoenicians may have had the biggest impact on Libya as the capital's name, Tripoli, is Phoenician, and also many of the coastal towns and cities were established by them as trade outposts within the southern Mediterranean coast in order to facilitate the Phoenician business activities in the area. Starting in the 8th century BCE, Libya was under the rule of Carthage.[clarification needed] In the 7th century CE Libya was conquered by the Arab Muslims as part of the Arab conquest of North Africa. Centuries after that the Ottoman Empire conquered Libya in 1551 and remained in control of its territory until 1911 when the country was conquered by Italy. In the 18th century Libya was used as the base for various pirates.

In the Second World War Libya was one of the main battlegrounds of North Africa. During the war, the territory was under an Anglo-French military government until it was overrun by the Axis Powers, who, in turn, were defeated by the Allies in 1943. In 1951, the country was granted independence by the United Nations, being governed by King Idris. In 1969 a military coup led by Muammar Gaddafi resulted in the overthrow of King Idris I. Gaddafi then established an anti-Western dictatorship. In 1970, Gaddafi ordered all British and American military bases closed.

Gaddafi used money from the sale of oil to improve the living conditions of the population and to assist Palestinian guerrillas in their fight against the Israelis. In 1979, Libya fought in Uganda to assist the government of Idi Amin in the Ugandan Civil War, and in 1981, fought in the Libyan-Chadian War. Libya had occupied the Aozou Strip; however, in 1990 the International Court of Justice submitted the case and allowed the full recuperation of territory to Chad.

In 1992, the UN Security Council accused Libya of sponsoring state terrorism, and would forbd air flights and arms sales if they did not hand over the Lockerbie bombing suspects to the United States, Britain, and France.

Therefore, in April 1999, Libya handed over the suspects of Lockerbie to the UN. This lifted the sanctions. In December 2003, Gaddafi renounced the production and use of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons after negotiations with the United States and Great Britain, it also unannounced[clarification needed] its allowing of international inspections. In 2004, Libya acknowledged that it had produced chemical weapons which resulted in the United States lifting most of the remaining sanctions.

In September 2008, Italy and Libya signed a memorandum by which Italy would pay $5 billion over the next 20 years to compensate Libya for its dominion over Libya for its reign of 30 years.[5]

Libya continued to be recognized as a sponsor of terrorism until 2011, when the Libyan Civil War broke out between the Anti-Gaddafi rebels and the Pro-Gaddafi government, culminating in the death and overthrow of Gaddafi. Nevertheless, even today Libya still continues to generate problems within the area and beyond. Many of the weapons from the old regime are scattered in places as far as Mali, Syria, and Iraq.


For more details on this topic, see Demographics of Libya.

Genetics and population[edit]

According to the census conducted in the 2000s, most of the people of Libya are primarily Arab or a mixture of Arab-Berber ethnicities. In addition to this, modern Libyans received large genetic input from other ethnicities like the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Greeks, Mamelukes and Ottomans, who had either conquered, settled or conducted trade in ancient Libya before its conquest by the Islamic Empire, followed by the genetic contributions from Arabs from the Arabian Peninsula and indigenous African Berbers. Arab culture was adopted by the ancestors of modern Libyans through submission, cultural and ethnic assimilation/inter-marriage of indigenous Libyans with the incoming Arabs, as in most of northern Africa during the expansion of the Umayyad Caliphate into North Africa. This indicates that most Libyans (North Africans in the general) are more racially linked with the Mediterranean peoples of southern Europe than with the peoples of the Arabian Peninsula.[citation needed]

Of the over 6,000,000 Libyans that live in Libya, more than a million are immigrants.[citation needed] It is very difficult to determine the number of people of a given culture, as the Tuareg, many of whom live in Libya, are nomadic and therefore are not included completely in any census.

The Libyan population has grown sharply since after 1969. They were only 523,176 people in 1911, 2 million in 1968, and 5,000,000 in 1969. That population growth was due in large part to King Idris and Gaddafi granting citizenship to many Tunisians, Egyptians and other immigrants.[citation needed] Many migrant workers came to Libya since 1969. Among the workers were construction workers and laborers from Tunisia, teachers and laborers from Egypt, teachers from Palestine, and doctors and nurses from Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. 1,000,000 workers, mainly from other neighboring African countries like Sudan, Niger, Chad and Mali, migrated to Libya in the 1990s, after changes were made to Libya's Pan-African policies.[4]

Most Libyans live in Tripoli, the capital of the country and first in terms of population city and Benghazi, Libya's second largest city.


Analysis of Y-chromosome have found three Y-chromosome lineages (E1b1b-M81, J-M267 and E1b1b-M78) at high frequency in Libya like in other North African populations. Some studies suggest a Paleolithic component for E-M81 and E-M78, while other studies point to a Neolithic origin. E1b1b-M78 has probably emerged in Northeastern Africa and is today widely distributed in North Africa, East Africa, and West Asia. E1b1b-M81 show high frequencies in Northwestern Africa and a high prevalence among Berbers (it is sometimes referred to as a genetic "Berber marker"). Its frequency declines towards Egypt and the Levant. On the other hand, E-M78 and E-M123 are frequent in the Levant and Egypt and decline towards Northwest Africa. Another common paternal lineage in Libya and North Africa is haplogroup J through its subtypes J1 (M267) and J2 (M172). J1 is prevalent in all North African and Levantine groups and found at high frequencies in the Arabic peninsula. It has been previously associated with the Islamic expansion. J2 is sporadically detected in North Africa and Iberia and is very frequent in the Levant/Anatolia/Iran region. Its spread in the Mediterranean is believed to have been facilitated by the maritime trading culture of the Phoenicians (1550 BC- 300 BC). E-M2 is the predominant lineage in Western Africa.

Listed here are the human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroups in Libya.[6]

Hg Libya (n=215)
E-M81 35.88%
J-M267 30.53%
E-M78 11.07%
E-M2 8.78%
G-M201 4.20%
J-M172 3.44%
R* 3.43%
E-M123 1.53%
E* 0.76%
R-M17 0.38%


The official language of Libya is Standard Arabic, while the prevalent spoken language is Libyan Arabic, spoken by about 6 million Libyans. 95% of the total population speak in Arabic or one of the Arabic dialects. The Arabic dialects are partly spoken by immigrant workers and partly by native populations. These dialects include Egyptian Arabic, Tunisian Arabic, Sudanese Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, Ta'izzi-Adeni Arabic, South Levantine Arabic and Hassaniyya Arabic.

The Berber languages is still spoken by some the Tuareg, a rural group in Libya's south.[7]

Indigenous minority languages in Libya:[8]

Non-Arabic languages are spoken by foreign workers, and those languages with more than 10,000 speakers include Punjabi, Urdu, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Sinhala, Bengal, Tamil, Tagalog, French, Italian, Ukrainian, Serbian, and English.


Main article: Culture of Libya


Libyan cuisine is heavily influenced by Mediterranean, North African (Tunisian cuisine) and the Middle Eastern (Egyptian cuisine) traditions. Notable dishes include Shorba Arabiya, or Arabian soup, which is a thick, highly-spiced soup.[9] Bazeen is a traditional Libyan food, made from a mix of barley flour and a small amount of plain flour.


Libyan Arab instruments are the zokra (a bagpipe), a flute (made of bamboo), the tambourine, the oud (a fretless lute) and the darbuka (a goblet drum held sideways and played with the fingers). Bedouin poet-singers had a great influence on the musical folklore of Libya, particularly the style of huda, the camel driver's song.


Almost all Libyans are Sunni Muslims. Foreigners contribute to a small Christian presence. Historically, there was a small Jewish community living in Libya, but the entire Jewish community fled the country for Israel, Italy, or the United States, an exodus mainly precipitated by the anti-Jewish riots in the wake of the 1967 Six-Day War between Egypt and Israel.

Tribal groups[edit]

Libya is largely structured along tribal lines with tribes being very important in Libyan society. A tribal name affects the surname of its inhabitants. There are more than 20 major tribal groups,[10] and around 140 tribal networks, many of which are subdivided into clans and groups. These groups, however, are not fully documented.

Some of the ancient Berber tribes include: Adyrmachidae, Auschisae, Es'bet, Temeh’u, Teh’nu, Rebu, Kehek, KeyKesh, Imukehek, Meshwesh, Macetae, Macatutae, Nasamones, Nitriotae, and Tautamaei.[4]

As of 2012 the major tribal groups of Libya, by region, are as follows:[11]

  • Tripolitania: alawana-Souk El Joma'a, AL-Mahameed, Warfalla, Tarhona, Misurata tribes, Al-Jawary, Siyan Tribe, The Warshfana tribes, Zawia Groups, Ghryan Tribes, AL-Asabea, Al-Fwatir, Awlad Busayf, Zintan, Al-jbalya, Zwara, Alajelat, Al-Nawael tribe, Alalqa tribe, Al-Rijban, al Mashashi, Amaym.
  • Cyrenaica: Al-Awagir, Magharba, Al-Abaydat, Drasa, Al-Barasa, Al-Fawakhir, Zuwayya, Majabra, Awama, Minfa, Taraki, alawana, Shwa'ir and in Kufra Zuwayya; Toubou.
  • Sirte: Awlad-Suleiman, Qadhadhfa, Magharba, Al-Hosoon, Ferrjan
  • Fezzan: Awlad Suleiman, Al-Riyyah, Magarha, Al-Zuwaid, Al-Hutman, Al-Hassawna; Toubou, Tuareg.
  • Kufra: Zuwayya; Toubou.


  1. ^ "Libya". CIA World Factbook. Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  2. ^ Statistics Canada. "2011 National Household Survey: Data tables". Retrieved 11 February 2014. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c Temehu. Libyan people and Ethnic tribes. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  5. ^ The Country & People of Libya. Posted 2003. Retrieved January 4, 2012, to 23:53 pm.
  6. ^ Karima Fadhlaoui-Zid et al. (2013) Genome-Wide and Paternal Diversity Reveal a Recent Origin of Human Populations in North Africa. PLoS One. 2013; 8(11): e80293. See Table S2
  7. ^ The people of Libya. Retrieved January 5, 2012, to 0:30 pm.
  8. ^ (English) Ethnologue report for Libya, Languages of Libya
  9. ^ Served as "starter", the soup is mentioned in the New York Times
  10. ^ Jon Hemming, Tribal ties key to Gaddafi rule, Reuters (2011)
  11. ^ Souhail Karam, Jon Hemming, Tribal ties key to Gaddafi rule, Reuters (2011)[1]