December 27, 2019 Special Dispatch No. 8438

In Libya, Criticism Of Increasingly Close Relationship Between Turkey And Al-Sarraj's Government Of National Accord (GNA): Erdogan Wants To Bring Back The Ottoman Empire, Al-Sarraj's GNA Is Like The Vichy Government

December 27, 2019
Libya, Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 8438

Turkey's involvement in Libya and its signing of maritime and security Memoranda of Understandings (MOUs) with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), headed by Fayez Al-Sarraj,[1] is being harshly criticized inside Libya by elements opposed to the GNA. The criticism, on both social media and in the Libyan, news media following statements by senior Turkish officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, about Turkey's readiness to dispatch military forces to Libya to assist in the fighting against Libyan Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who controls the eastern part of the country, and particularly following Erdogan's recent statement that millions of Turks reside in Libya.

In a December 22, 2019 speech at a ceremony inaugurating a new Turkish-made submarine, Erdogan said that Turkey would not back out of its security MOU with Libya, which, he noted, does not violate international law. Emphasizing that Turkey was prepared to increase its military aid to Libya if necessary, and rejecting the criticism in Turkey about his regional policy, he added: "If Libya wasn't interested in us, then what was [Turkish Republic founder Mustafa Kemal] Ataturk doing there?... Libya is a place we are duty-bound to support when necessary, even if it costs us lives. Like anywhere else in North Africa, our people living in Libya number in the millions, who view themselves as the brothers of the Turkish people."[2] 

In response, 'Aqila Salah, speaker of the Libyan parliament of the Tobruk-based government in the east of the country, released a statement condemning Erdogan's comments and calling them an attempt to "harm the social fabric of the united Libyan people and foment civil war among the citizens" and also "to justify the Turkish military attack on Libya. He then demanded that the international community take a firm stance against Erdogan's statements.[3]

Erdogan's statements also prompted many enraged responses on social media in Libya, and the creation of a hashtag, "I Am Libyan But Not One Of The Million," referring to Erdogan's claim about the Turks in Libya. Libyan Twitter user WafaaAltaib shared the hashtag with an image of a foot stomping on the Turkish flag with Erdogan's face on it., December 22, 2019.

Likewise, Twitter user Matog Saleh tweeted: "We must thank Fayez Al-Sarraj and Erdogan – the former who has lost the only thing he had that gave him international recognition, and the latter who has clarified his true intentions with regard to Libya – that is, a return to the Ottoman state, not protecting the 'state of freedom and democracy' [in Libya] as he claims. Thanks to both you madmen."[4]

In a similar vein, the Facebook page of the Libyan news website Ewan posted a summary of Turkey's numerous conquests, writing, inter alia: "...Today, when Erdogan says that there are a million Turks in Libya, he contradicts himself, falsifies history, and alters the facts that prove the opposite. It is Turkey that occupies Arab lands with millions of Arabs, and we are obligated to seek their rights and restore the lands that [Turkey] conquered from them…"[5]

Libyan Writer: With His Relationship With Erdogan, Al-Sarraj Is Committing Treason Against The Libyan State – Like The Vichy Government Did To France

In a December 22, 2019 article, Libyan writer and poet Salam Al-'Awkali also attacked the increasingly close relationship between Erdogan and the GNA, accusing Al-Sarraj of treason against the Libyan state. Comparing the GNA to the World War II Nazi-collaborator Vichy government in France, he also attacked Erdogan's claim that millions of Turks were living in Libya, and compared him to Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini who justified Italy's presence in Libya by saying that he was returning to the land of his Roman forefathers.

Salam Al-'Awkali (Source:, December 22, 2019)

The following are translated excerpts of Al-Awkali's article:

"...Now, after [GNA Prime Minister Fayez] Al-Sarraj has thrown himself into the arms of Erdogan, contributing to the ingress of tens of thousands of terrorists into Syria and leading it to destruction, it is clear that he is unaware of history. [This is because] he has chosen to be like the Vichy government's prime minister [Gen. Philippe Pétain, that threw French history into the garbage – or like those Libyans who joined the Italian Fascists and very quickly sowed destruction [in Libya] and tortured and slaughtered their [fellow] Libyans...

"The moment Al-Sarraj [and the GNA] received international legitimacy, he abandoned Tobruk [controlled by Gen. Haftar] and did not return to it. Moreover, he never [went back] even once to eastern [Libya], although he is the head of what is mockingly called the 'Government of [National] Accord'...

"He never took [my] advice to learn from history,[6] and with regard to treason, the ramifications will be felt by his children and his children's children. If we are to define the treason [that you, Al-Sarraj, have committed], it is the fact that you are taking advantage of your rule to allow the criminals controlling the capital [i.e. your cronies and the militias that support you] to continue with their murders, corruption, and looting, while establishing [Turkey's] interference in a written agreement – like the Vichy government did with the Nazi occupier.

"[U.S. President Donald] Trump will be tried and convicted only because of a phone conversation he held with the president of another country [i.e. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky], by means of which he wanted to raise doubts regarding his [Democratic] rival, candidate [Joe Biden]. If that is the case, what is [the verdict] for a prime minister [i.e. Al-Sarraj] who turns to the [Turkish] government that once occupied the country [Libya] with a request to equip it with arms and fighters so that it can fight [Gen. Haftar's] Libyan army...[?]

"I cannot explain the bizarre alliance with the insane regime whose deeds in Syria and Iraq right now we know... Just as Erdogan once justified his interference in Syria by saying 'We must defend our Turkmen brothers who are under threat of ethnic cleansing,' so [today] he justifies his interference in Libya by saying 'We are entitled to aid our brothers there' – that is, his Libyan brothers of Turkish origin – as part of his statements underlining that Libya is a former Turkish colony. But Libya's society – except for its original residents from the ancient Libyan tribes – is made up also of [people of] Hejazi and Nejadi origin [i.e. from the kingdom of Nejd and Hejaz, today's Saudi Arabia], including this writer, and of Syrian, Greek, Tunisian, Moroccan, Algerian, Chadian, Nigerian, Circassian, Balkan, and Jewish origin... and so on. If every one of these nations had to help build Libya, World War III would break out on its soil. Libya came together geographically, historically, and socially of this fabric, and therefore any emotional manipulation of it by external elements will endanger everyone.

"Many countries are interfering in Libya based on their own interests. But none of them has declared that it is entitled [to operate] in Libya, or [that Libya has on its soil] brothers whom it seeks to help. None of these countries has worked with [Libya's] legitimate authorities [to sign] an agreement that threatens Libya's national security.

"Erdogan's statements remind me of the fascist Mussolini's speech when he invaded Libya and justified doing so by saying that he was entitled to return to the land of his Roman forefathers."[7]


[2], December 22, 2019.

[3] Al-Marsad  (Libya), December 25, 2019.

[4], December 22, 2019.

[5], December 22, 2019.

[6] A reference to advice to Al-Sarraj dispensed by the author himself in a 2016 article.

[7], December 22, 2019. Italy ruled Libya beginning in 1912 as a result of the Lausanne Treaty with the Ottoman Empire. In 1931, Mussolini sent additional forces to Libya to subdue a local revolt.

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