If you're following coverage of the Libyan uprising, you're probably hearing a lot about the Libyan "rebels," whom the international community has intervened military to protect from assaults by forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi. But let's get past the media shorthand. Who exactly are the Libyan rebels?
Qaddafi's four-decade rule, The Financial Times explains, has left Libya with "no established opposition groups, civil society groups or strong state institutions," but "lawyers, academics, businessmen and youths" have stepped in to fill the vacuum since the uprising in Libya began. They've formed committees like the 31-member transitional council in Benghazi, which established an interim government on Wednesday.
The transitional council, according to The Wall Street Journal, mixes "former government insiders" with "hardened dissidents who spent years in prison," and the members appear to have been selected to appeal to "powerful tribes in western Libya, traditional elites in the east, and regime officials wavering over which way to throw their support." The Journal adds that "some of the officials are known in Washington and European capitals as secular, pro-Western and pro-business" and that "Islamists among the rebels have been largely kept out of the public spotlight, though they are believed to have support in eastern Libya and have assumed key functions in the rebel efforts to unseat" Qaddafi.
Venetia Reiney at First Post claims that the council's key members are from the the north-eastern Harabi confederation of tribes, which have "strong affiliations with Benghazi that date back to before the 1969 revolution that brought Qaddafi to power ... Consequently, their stance is not necessarily representative of the wider Libyan attitude to Qaddafi."
Here is a brief overview of the top officials:
Name: Mahmoud Jibril
Position: Head of interim government
Bio: Before he was asked to lead the interim government, Jibril served as a foreign envoy for the opposition, meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris on March 10 when France diplomatically recognized the rebel government. Jibril, according to Reuters, has a degree in economics and political science from Cairo University and a doctorate in strategic planning and decision-making from the University of Pittsburgh. Qaddafi's son, Saif, asked Jibril to return from a self-imposed exile in 2009 to serve as chairman of Libya's National Economic Development Board, with the mandate to boost foreign investment and economic growth in country, the Journal says. But Jibril soon quit when he felt his proposals for reform were falling on deaf ears. Jibril also joined other intellectuals in a project known as Libyan Vision, which aimed to transform Libya into a democratic state.
Name: Mustafa Abdul Jalil
Position: Transitional council's chairman
Bio: Jalil is a former judge who often ruled against the regime. He was appointed Libya's minister of justice in 2007 during a period when Saif Qaddafi was trying "to cast himself and the regime in a more reform-minded light," the Journal explains. As justice minister, the Journal says, "he earned opposition plaudits for taking public stands against the regime." He even tried to resign in January 2010 on national television in front of Qaddafi because of the government's refusal to release political detainees, but Qaddafi rejected his resignation. When Jalil visited Benghazi on Qaddafi's orders at the start of the uprising, "and saw the violence being used against protesters, he promptly resigned," the Journal notes.
Name: Ali al-Issawi
Position: Transitional council's foreign envoy
Bio: Issawi joined Jibril to meet with Sarkozy earlier this month. A career diplomat, he previously served as Libya's trade minister and ambassador to India but resigned during the crisis. He has strong relationships with foreign companies, the Journal says.
Name: Omar Hariri
Position: Transitional council's defense minister
Bio: Hariri, a former general, was actually part of the 1969 coup that brought Qaddafi to power. But he was jailed by Qaddafi in 1975 for his role in a coup attempt, and served 15 years in prison.