After reading "The Arab of the Future", which I enjoyed and recommend.

The author mentions two unusual things about his childhood in Libya.

1) Gaddafi forbade private property and locking home doors. Any house that was empty could be taken, and doors could not be locked. The only way to keep property on a house was to stay inside and to politely inform people that the house is populated.

2) Gaddafi ordered people to swap professions, so that teachers would become agriculturists and agriculturists would be teachers.

Is any of these true, at least to some extent? Or is it just the subjective memory of the author.

  • 3
    Relevant source : li.com/activities/publications/libya-whose-land-is-it "In 1978, Muammar Qaddafi decreed that no Libyan could own more than one house. All rental properties were subsequently reallocated to tenants or confiscated by the state. In 1986, he abolished land ownership altogether."
    – Evargalo
    Oct 30, 2018 at 15:09
  • 1
    Another testimony : next.liberation.fr/culture/2011/04/16/… "Les commerces privés avaient disparu, la propriété était abolie et celui qui occupait un appartement en devenait le titulaire."
    – Evargalo
    Oct 30, 2018 at 15:39
  • 1
    Does sound in line with his communist ideology, which he shared with many in the Arab world, and with his mentors in the USSR.
    – jwenting
    Oct 31, 2018 at 5:09
  • @jwenting - Minor correction here: He was a Socialist, but not a Communist. He was in fact strongly against Communism due to its dogmatic opposition to religion (particularly in this case, Islam). Implying he was a meer Soviet stooge is inaccurate too. He's probably best described as having been a Nasserist
    – T.E.D.
    Oct 31, 2018 at 17:17
  • @T.E.D. at the far end of the spectrum (where both Leninists and Gadaffi lived) there's very little difference, except indeed the religion factor. The USSR fully realised this and used it to their utmost advantage in getting the support of the Arab nations through massive economic and military aid.
    – jwenting
    Nov 1, 2018 at 5:16

1 Answer 1


Much of that seems exaggerated (as you'd expect for a book portraying a young child's point of view).

Gaddafi imposed restrictions on private property but never totally abolished it. Law 4 in 1978 restricted people to one plot of land to build a house on; Law 7 in 1986 abolished private ownership of land, though people could still own their own home. After 1988, Gaddafi focused more on enabling private enterprise and reduced restrictions on property ownership. (Source: Suliman Ibrahim, Property Claims in Post-Gaddafi Libya: Political Debates and Justice Seeking in the Aftermath of Law 4/1978, Hague Journal on the Rule of Law, April 2017, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 135–156)

Based on those laws, the idea that ordinary people (those with one home) were afraid to leave their houses seems an exaggeration; probably those with multiple houses feared their seizure, but the claim that nobody could leave their homes seems untrue. I can't find any reference to banning locks on doors.

The idea that he got people to swap professions seems an amalgamation of different things. He rotated officers in the armed forces to stop them building up a power base and to prevent coups. (History of Libya under Muammar Gaddafi, Wikipedia) He also had many journalists and politicians from the old regime removed from their jobs and jailed early in his regime, and in the 1970s launched an attack on the bourgeoisie, private businesses, and many other people. (Muammar Gaddafi, Wikipedia) Many of these people were doubtless forced into manual labour or to work on farms. (Many revolutionary leaders such as Pol Pot forced the urban middle classes into manual and/or agricultural labour - Cambodia's brutal Khmer Rouge regime, BBC 4 Aug 2014) He also encouraged many women into work, so there would be movement in the other direction as women left traditional employment. But not a "job swap" system.

  • This needs a researched statement on Libyan squatting practice, both de jure and de facto, to be definitive. Netherlands had a multi-decade squatting crisis that was only this year resolved. Nov 1, 2018 at 19:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.