Arabic-speaking Muslims of mixed Arab-Amazigh (Berber) ancestry constituted 97 percent of citizenry. The principal minorities were Amazighs, Tuaregs, and Toubou. These minority groups are predominantly Sunni Muslim but identify with their respective cultural and linguistic heritage rather than with Arab traditions. Several nomadic groups live in areas along the country's desert borders, including Tuareg and Toubou. The country was home to an estimated 1.5 million to two million foreign workers and undocumented migrants, many of whom fled or were displaced during the conflict. Of those, nearly one million were thought to be of Sahelian or sub-Saharan African origin.
Under Qadhafi, Arabic was declared the only official language, and the regime denied the existence of non-Arab citizens. Amazigh people faced discrimination, including limitations on the use of their native language. Amazigh fighters participated in the revolution and were able to publicly use Amazigh symbols and the alphabet. At year's end, they pursued fledgling efforts to advocate for equal protections for Amazigh culture and language.
There was societal discrimination and violence against dark-skinned Libyans, including those of original sub-Saharan descent, in part due to allegations that Qadhafi used African mercenaries during the conflict.