By Jamie Prentis.
Tunis, 23 February 2017:
Two days after eastern military governor Abdul Razzaq Al-Nazhuri suspended his widely-opposed ban on women under 60 years of age traveling abroad unless accompanied by a male guardian, he had now decreed that both men and women between the ages of 18-45 must have permission from security officials to leave the country.
He said he made the order “to protect national security and Libyans of this age group from being lured by terrorist organisations”.
Those planning to travel abroad will have seek clearance from the intelligence service and submit a variety of documents, including a certificate from employers, to gain security clearance.
Social media has erupted with outrage at the move, comparing it to the Qaddafi’ regime’s ban in earlier years on all Libyans from travelling abroad without security clearance.
Nazhuri’s earlier ban on single women travelling was also justified supposedly on security grounds, but the claim then was that they might be in contact with foreign intelligence services. The fact that men might also have been in contact with foreign intelligence was ignored. Hours before that, the justification was that there would be “negatives aspects” to Libyan women traveling in foreign countries.
The latest move, however, is seen as attempt to deflect criticism that the real reason for the ban on single women travelling was pressure from Salafists.
It will, moreover, affect only those flying out of Labraq Airport, the sole international airport subject to Nazhuri’s authority as military governor from Ben Jawad to Derna. When he issued his earlier ban, it did not affect women flying from Tobruk airport.
The order was not sent there because it was outwith his remit.
The new one though, is unlikely to have any effect other than in alienating people. Libyans between the ages of 18 and 45 living in Benghazi or the Jebel Akhdar who would normally use Labraq will still be able to travel abroad without permission if they fly from there to Tripoli and then onwards.
This is likely to have a knock-on effect, if the ban lasts any length of time, of a cut in international flights out of Labraq.
The move is also likely to face legal challenges, if enacted, on the basis that it is unconstitutional. The right to freedom of movement, unless restricted by law, is enshrined in the 2011 Constitutional Declaration which acts as Libya’s constitution for the time being.
There has been no law that says that adults between 18 and 45 travelling out of Labraq have to have a security clearance,