Date Published: 8 January 2020

Escalating violence in and around Libyan capital, Tripoli, shuts 210 schools

Many thousands of children in northern areas of Libya have experienced further disruption to their education due to the recent increase in fighting in and around the capital, Tripoli.

Earlier this week it was reported1 that on 3 January 2020 four schools were attacked in the Soug al Juma'aa area, east of Tripoli. More generally, fighting in the Ain-Zara, Abu Salim and Soug al Juma'aa regions in and around Tripoli has destroyed 5 schools and caused the closure of 210 schools normally attended by a total of more than 115,000 children.

In its statement on Monday1, UNICEF described the situation in bleak, life and death terms:

" Recent attacks on educational facilities and overall insecurity in and around Tripoli are putting children's lives on the line just by going to school each day. No parent should ever have to choose between their children's education or their safety. Rather than safe places to learn and to grow, schools in Tripoli have become places of fear." UNICEF, 6 Jan'20.

As is well-known from other situations of violent conflict, children who are out of school can be at a heightened risk of violence and recruitment into the fighting. Previous reports of harmful effects on children, such as use of child soldiers, include those of the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (news item, May 2017) which is on-going2,3.

It is widely recognised that education is a basic right for every child. In its short statement UNICEF reminds us all that:

" Attacks on education facilities are a grave violation against children's rights, International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law. Depriving children of the opportunity to learn has a devastating impact on their wellbeing and future." UNICEF, 6 Jan'20.

The on-going confict in Libya dates back to protests collectively known as the 'Arab Spring' that took place across the region in early 2011. Violence began in Benghazi then spread to other cities, leading to civil war, foreign intervention and the deposing and killing of Muammar Gaddafi, leader of Libya since 1969. The civil war of 2011 was followed by on-going violence between armed groups until 2014 when escalation led to what has been called the 'second civil war'. The United Nations brokered a cease-fire in December 2015, leading to the formation of an interim Government of National Accord (GNA) being installed in a naval base in Tripoli. The GNA was opposed by two rival governments (based in Tripoli and Tobruk) and several militias4. The Libyan National Army (LNA) seized Bengazhi in December 2017. The GNA declared a state of emergency in Tripoli in September 2018 after many people were killed in clashes between rival militia groups in the south of the city. The LNA seized the city of Derna in February 2019, then made a determined attempt to seize Tripoli in April 2019.

The conflict for control of Libya continues, as do calls for children to be protected from the violence, including cessation of attacks on schools and indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure.

References:

  1. UNICEF Press Release, 6 January 2020.
  2. reliefweb.int/report/democratic-republic-congo/wfp-democratic-republic-congo-emergency-situation-report-16, accessed 8 Jan 2020
  3. news.un.org/en/story/2020/01/1055141, accessed 8 Jan 2020
  4. See map in news article: 'Libya's unity government leaders in Tripoli power bid', BBC News Archived from the original on 18 July 2018 https://bit.ly/2uGJzBJ. Accessed for this news item, 8 Jan 2020.

Source (or main source): UNICEF
http://www.unicef.org

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