For most CSU students the fighting in Libya is far-removed from the reality of their daily lives â€“â€“ outside of footage seen on the television â€“â€“ but for students like Abdul Belgasem and Mahdi Omar, who have family amid the fighting, the conflict is all too real.
The majority of both Belgasem and Omarâ€™s families remain in Libya, many in Benghazi, the rebel capitol where an Interim Governing Council has been set up. One of Omarâ€™s brothers has joined in the fighting, and Belgasemâ€™s family has also been involved.
â€œThey feel that if they donâ€™t go everybody will expect the other person to and eventually nobody will,â€ Belgasem said.
Omar, who hadnâ€™t heard from his family for nearly a week, finally got a phone call from them during his interview with the Collegian.
â€œThey had to use somebodyâ€™s satellite phone, they said everybody is okay,â€ Omar said after hanging up, clearly relieved.
Despite some confusion in the U.S. media over the oppositionâ€™s goals beyond overthrowing Gadhafi, they are clear to Omar.
â€œWe want to see a country that has freedom, justice and democracy,â€ he said. â€œAll the rebels want this. I know because I am in touch with many of them.â€
Help attaining these goals from the U.S. and the United Nations in the form of a no-fly zone is welcome support for both Omar and Belgasem, even if they result in unintended civilian deaths.
â€œThey will be martyrs,â€ Belgasem said, â€œIf the U.S. accidently kills some people in airstrikes it will still be less than Gadhafi would kill. If theyâ€™d let him go to Benghazi who knows how many people â€“â€“ it would be a bloody river.â€
Belgasem also said that Libyans were angry that U.S. airstrikes were not targeting Gadhafi directly.
â€œSo what are you trying to do?â€ he asked rhetorically.
The U.S. mission in Libya has been unclear and rapidly evolving. But it appears the Obama administration is trying to distinguish between its diplomatic goals â€“â€“ that include removing Gadhafi â€“â€“ and its military goals like imposing a no-fly zone.
While Belgasem said he doesnâ€™t think Libyans want to see U.S. troops on the ground, the U.S. could do more to help level the playing field.
â€œThey (the rebels) just need weapons, and they will go attack him (Gadhafi) and take him out,â€ he said.
Omar personally supports putting U.S. troops on the ground but said that it might not be the best approach.
Although there is no official measure of support among the Libyan populace for the anti-Gadhafi forces, Belgasem and Omar both said it was an overwhelming majority.
â€œHe (Gadhafi) keeps using the word â€˜weâ€™ in his speeches to describe the people of Libya, like we are all with him,â€ Belgasem said. â€œBut we are not with him. We are totally against him. Iâ€™d say at least 90 percent of the people are against him.â€
Violence in Libya has been more intense and widespread than other Middle Eastern countries, but authoritarian regimes across the region have and continue to use violence against civilians to put protests down.
According to Dr. Gamze Cavdar, a CSU political science professor and expert on Middle East politics, several factors led to a Western military intervention in Libya.
One factor was the â€œnearly international consensusâ€ to take action.
Others were the support of the Arab League and lessons learned from the revolts in Egypt.
â€œSecretary Clinton traveled through the region and saw first-hand the cost of being too cautious,â€ she said.
But the biggest factor, according to Cavdar is that, â€œLibyaâ€™s unrest has huge implications on oil prices.â€
â€œIf thereâ€™s one thing you can say about the U.S. policy in the region, itâ€™s that it has been consistently inconsistent,â€ Cavdar said.
Although the violence in Libya has been described by some as a civil war, Belgasem doesnâ€™t believe Libyans will accept a divided country.
â€œThe Libyan people donâ€™t want the country to be split,â€ he said.
â€œThis will never end until his regime, including his son, all are taken into the International Criminal Court.â€
The prospects of Gadhafi actually making it to the ICC if captured seem to be in question though.
â€œIf the people get their hands on him, theyâ€™ll hang him,â€ Belgasem said.
Belgasem and others are holding a rally to show solidarity with the Libyan rebels this Saturday from 3 â€“ 5 p.m. at the intersection of Mulberry Street and College Avenue in Fort Collins.
â€œOur hearts are still with those people,â€ Belgasem said. â€œWeâ€™re staying at home, Facebooking, tweeting, trying to get the message out.â€
Staff writer Jesse Benn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.