The Boy Scouts of Libya
On three occasions, I’ve seen Libya’s Boy Scouts (al-kishafah) playing a role in relief efforts and in helping to manage the social dislocation this conflict has caused.
In Al-Marj, in the heart of Cyrenaica’s farm belt, I visited the meeting site of a local Boy Scout troop, which was packing relief supplies and finding accommodation for refugees who had fled Benghazi on March 19, as Qaddafi’s forces began shelling the city.
“Why did you join the Scouts?” I asked Ahmad, an 18-year-old troop leader. “I wanted to volunteer and help other people,” he said, simply. And that’s what they were doing.
On March 27, in Ajdabiyah – which was just trying to recover from three weeks of siege and back-and-forth fighting – I saw a long line of relief workers and citizens outside the door of the city’s Boy Scout headquarters.
And yesterday (March 28), again in Ajdabiyah, at a gas station with a wait of several hours (the rebel government decided to give away free gasoline in Ajdabiyah), I saw a middle-aged man in Boy Scout uniform helping to manage the lines and traffic.
In a country where formal social institutions have been either gutted or monopolized by a dictator for 42 years, the foundations of civil society can come from interesting places.