Monday, 2 December 2013

Antonio Banderas and the Misurata Katibas

So I decided to start blogging again, with Libya as the new inspiration, providing frequent opportunities to laugh, cry, and despair. Or, if you're a woman, to sit at home while other people laugh, cry, and despair. More on that later.

One of the main features of Libya at the moment is the proliferation of armed groups. There are the police. Apparently there's an army (or at least there are pictures of an army on twitter, which were greeted with widespread exclamations of 'We have an army?!' by my Libyan colleagues), militias (katibas) that fought in the war or have been formed since, and various low-level self-defence groups, jihadi groups, gangs and criminals. Of the Katibas, some have official roles performing specific public functions, and some don't. The lines between all of these categories are blurred.

All of this has rather serious consequences for the governance of Libya. I haven't been here long enough to even begin understanding all this, let alone commenting on  it. So I'll stick to what I know... which in this case, is survey design!

A survey I am currently analysing looks at weapons usage by different groups, gets around this by dividing armed actors into 'police/army', 'state armed groups', 'non-state armed groups', 'civilians', and 'others'. As went through, I began discussing with my team what was meant by all the terms, leading to the following conversation:

Lorgy: so what exactly do we mean by 'state armed groups'
A: in Libya right now, we have police and army, but they're very weak. So we have lots of armed groups that take on some of the roles of police, like preventing crime.
Lorgy: so you mean like Katibas that have been given particular roles by the local council?
A: exactly. Here in Misurata, they patrol areas to keep them safe or intervene if there are big problems, like Zorro.
Lorgy: Like Zorro?!
A: yes, they have the weapons and everyone respects them, so they can stop crime and solve problems, like Zorro.
Lorgy: Right...
A: and some of my friends who are in these groups always say to me that if we need anything they can help and they don't need money.
Lorgy: Er... thank you?

So there you have it. Katibas in Misurata are like Zorro.

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