On February 15, 2011, in reaction to widespread unrest across the region demonstrators in Libya staged a “Day of Rage” protesting Qaddafi’s rule, calling for an end to his 41-year reign — the longest in the Arab world.

Initial protests in Tripoli quickly spread across the country, prompting a violent response by Qaddafi’s government as security forces opened fire on protesters killing at least 500 civilians. The Libyan despot used fighter jets, tanks, snipers and heavy artillery to target civilians in major urban areas under the control of the opposition.

The international community, led by the United Nations Security Council, responded with diplomatic efforts, condemnation, sanctions and a threat of accountability through an International Criminal Court investigation.

As Qaddafi’s forces approached the opposition stronghold of Benghazi threatening to fight door to door showing no mercy, the UN Security Council took decisive action to protect civilians through a no-fly zone calling upon member states to take “all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat”. The no-fly zone was administered by NATO and allied countries and subsequent airstrikes in support of opposition ground forces helped to deter attacks on Benghazi and eventually turn the tide on Qaddafi.

Continue learning about Libya