Rally-goers support Libya

Mar 272011
Authors: Jesse Benn

The nearly constant sound of car horns accompanied the Arabic chant, “Down! Down with Gadhafi!” as protesters held signs and waved flags Saturday afternoon at the intersection of Mulberry Street and College Avenue, demonstrating their support for Libyans and gratitude for the recently imposed no-fly zone.

The atmosphere of Saturday’s rally was boosted by news that rebels successfully retook Ajdabiya. This strategically important city is considered a gateway to Eastern Libya, the territory controlled by rebels. The progress marked the first major victory against military forces loyal to authoritarian ruler Moammar Gadhafi since the start of Coalition airstrikes just over a week ago.

“I’m very happy they took back Ajdabiya and are on the move,” said Sohaib Fallah, a CSU senior and native of Tripoli, Libya.

CNN reported continued rebel success Sunday with the retaking of two more key cities, al-Brega and Ras Lanuf.

Sohaib Fallah’s sister, Eman Fallah, owner of Indulge Café, helped to organize Saturday’s event.

“We have people here today from all over Colorado –– all over the world really,” Eman Fallah said. “At least six or seven nationalities –– from Syrians and Egyptians to Americans –– everyone is here to show their support.”

Keeping in touch with family still in Libya is difficult, according to Eman Fallah, but they have managed to make some contact since the fighting broke out. Amira Misurati, a CSU freshman from Misrata, Libya who attended the rally has not had such an opportunity.

“I haven’t been able to speak with them since the fighting started,” Misurati said. “I’m hoping for the best.”

Misurati said that several family members are doctors, potentially making them targets.

“Gadhafi is having doctors killed and kidnapped,” Eman Fallah said. “People just disappear.”

Over the last several months, protests and revolution have swept across the Middle East, beginning in Tunisia and Egypt where peaceful protests overthrew long-ruling authoritarian regimes.

However, as revolts spread to countries like Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and others they have been met with repressive violence. In Libya, the government violence was countered with violence by opposition groups, further escalating the situation.

Gamze Cavdar, CSU political science professor and expert on the region, explained some of the reasons violence broke out in Libya and not Egypt.

“Two factors led to the violence,” Cavdar said, “First, the protesters in Egypt made a conscious decision to commit to non-violence. This was not the case in Libya. Second, security forces in Libya sided with the protesters and the military divided.”

Egypt also had the benefit of organized opposition groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and the April 6th Youth Movement –– both committed to nonviolence –– helping keep the protests peaceful.

As the fighting continues in Libya, Reuters reports that Gadhafi’s forces have shifted the focus of their attacks to rebel-held Misrata since losing Ajdabiya. The report also said that shelling by Gadhafi’s fighters would pause when coalition planes flew above the city, an example of how the no-fly zone can help level the playing field.

Currently, the Libyan opposition fighters are drastically outgunned by Gadhafi’s military might, something even more apparent before the no-fly zone was implemented. Although it began with a UN mandate, the no-fly zone is now transitioning to a NATO mission that will be led by Canadians. Supporters for the Libyan opposition don’t seem to mind who is leading the mission, as long as it continues.

“We just want everyone to know that we support a no-fly zone,” Eman Fallah said.
As appreciative of the military support as Eman Fallah was, it’s only one type of support needed by Libyans. Food, medical supplies, doctors and other basic aid were also high on her list of priorities.

Sohaib Fallah had a simple request for fellow CSU students.

“Just having awareness, some understanding of what’s going on in the Middle East, especially Libya, that’s all I’d ask,” he said.

Eman Fallah was pleased with the event’s turnout and the outcry of support from passing drivers –– she wasn’t the only one.

“The people driving by honking make me feel so happy,” Misurati said.

For Sohaib Fallah, returning to Libya in the future is a priority.

“I will go back as soon as I can after the fighting,” he said. “Of course I will go back, we’ve been waiting for a free Libya all of our lives.”

Staff writer Jesse Benn can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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