'If They Clear the Bodies' Says UK's FM Johnson 'Libya Could be the Next Dubai'

Published October 4th, 2017 - 09:13 GMT
Libya could be the next Dubai, Britain’s foreign secretary says, if they just “clear the dead bodies away” (Wikimedia)
Libya could be the next Dubai, Britain’s foreign secretary says, if they just “clear the dead bodies away” (Wikimedia)
  • Britain's FM has said that Libya's Sirte could be a tourist site if it "clears the dead bodies away"
  • He has angered many in the U.K. and beyond with his comments
  • Sirte was liberated from ISIS less than a year ago
  • The U.K. is still under fire for its role in Libya's civil war, six years ago


by Rosie Alfatlawi

Libya could be the next Dubai, Britain’s foreign secretary says, if they just “clear the dead bodies away”.

"There's a group of U.K. business people, actually, some wonderful guys who want to invest in Sirte on the coast,” Boris Johnson told members of his ruling Conservative Party at its annual conference on Tuesday.

"They have got a brilliant vision to turn Sirte into the next Dubai.”

"The only thing they have got to do is clear the dead bodies away," he said, before laughing.

Johnson, already unpopular among many in the U.K. for his frequent gaffes, has been slammed for the comments.


Politicians from the opposition Labour party, and from within the Conservatives, have called for Johnson to be sacked for his “unbelievably crass, callous and cruel” words.

Conservative MP, Heidi Allen, tweeted:

Instead of apologizing, Johnson proceeded to make things worse for himself by accusing people of “playing politics” with the situation in Sirte.

He added: “The reality there is that the clearing of corpses of Daesh fighters has been made much more difficult by IEDs and booby traps.”

“That’s why Britain is playing a key role in reconstruction and why I have visited Libya twice this year in support.”

Sirte was retaken from ISIS in December 2016, a year-and-a-half after its capture by the Islamist fighters.

The birthplace of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, it was a major stronghold for loyalists during the 2011 civil war. Gaddafi was captured and killed there by rebel forces later that year, in a battle that destroyed the majority of the city.

Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary for Labour, said:

"It is less than a year since Sirte was finally captured from Daesh by the Libyan Government of National Accord, a battle in which hundreds of government soldiers were killed and thousands of civilians were caught in the crossfire, the second time in five years that the city had seen massive loss of life as a result of the Libyan civil war."

"For Boris Johnson to treat those deaths as a joke - a mere inconvenience before U.K. business people can turn the city into a beach resort - is unbelievably crass, callous and cruel.



Criticism has not just come from with the U.K., however. Some Libyans have picked up on the shocking statement.

Dr Nagi Barakat, former Libyan health minister, tweeted this:

Will Britain succeed in bringing together the views of Libyans? Especially as Boris Johnson says Sirte is full of bodies and cleaning them will make tourism there successful. God knows best, Boris.

One reply read:

Tourism is the last thing we are thinking about in the midst of this chaos.

Libya has faced considerable instability and unrest since the overthrow of Gaddafi six years ago.

Rival governments in the East and West have failed to contain the multiple militias vying for power across the divided nation. A political vacuum has seen extremists, arms dealers and human traffickers gain a grip on the country.

Another Libyan angrily posted:

Listen to the Foreign Secretary of Britain insulting Libya. They spoiled it and they are laughing.

Britain joined the U.S. and France in bombing regime sites during the 2011 civil war, an action for which it received much internal and external criticism. The intervention, which was based on incorrect information, has been blamed for the rise of ISIS in Libya.

After a Libyan suicide bomber targeted a concert in Manchester earlier this year, killing 23 people, the U.K. promised more than $9 million in aid to help fight terrorism and promote stability in the war-torn country.

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