By Aisha Ibrahim
The online world was abuzz after the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Working off the momentum of their Tunisian and Egyptian neighbors, Libyan youth declared February 17 as the Day of Anger. The protests in Libya began in Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya.
As a country where it is prohibited to protest, the people of Libya knew the risks they were taking. The peaceful protests began in Benghazi with people chanting “Wake up, wake up Benghazi, the day you have been waiting for has come.” The protesters were confronted with live ammunition. In the meantime, the regime controlled the media-aired footage of pro-Gadaffi rallies and people chanting slogans against Al-Jazeera News, who was quick to air any amateur footage that they received. This marked the beginning of what was to become a bloodbath in the coming days. Most of the deaths are concentrated in the eastern cities of Benghazi, Al Baydah, Shahhat, and Derna.
Libyans are living in a state of constant paranoia and fear, a result of the regime’s tactics to end the protests immediately. A man who spoke to CNN reported that he joined the protests because he became tired of constantly looking over his shoulder in fear of getting arrested. No official opposition against the government exists since anyone who even thinks of protesting is quickly taken out by incarceration or death. As a child living in Canada, I remember my parents always being wary of new Libyans coming to Canada because it was impossible to know whether they were Gadaffi spies or pro-government people. Some people went as far as to deny that they were Libyan so as to remove themselves from the radar of these people – nicknamed “antennas” by the families of Libyan dissidents in the west. Although at times exaggerated, these fears were not completely misplaced – when dissidents were finally able to return to a country which banned their entrance for many years, they were interrogated by members of the internal security forces who showed them pictures of themselves, their homes and even their license plates in Canada.
The Gadaffi regime uses the tactic of spreading false rumors to frighten the peaceful protestors from protesting. Among these rumors are that the people protesting on the streets were external agents that were going to ruin Libya, the water supplies are poisoned, and phones are monitored. Many Libyans who reside outside of Libya have tried to get information to share with the world, only to have their relatives tell them that “everything is ok.” Cities in the west such as Tripoli and Misratah have such a heavy security presence that it makes it difficult for protestors to leave their homes. The regime has gone as far as to ban groups of people walking together on the streets of Tripoli; some residents claim that every home is under surveillance.
Through these challenging times, Libya’s young men and women are taking to the streets, where they are faced by foreign mercenaries hired to suppress their voices; hundreds have died. Through this devastating struggle we are reminded that from this same land came one of the most inspiring figures throughout history – Shaykh Omar Mokhtar – a brave fighter against the facist Italian occupation of Libya during the early twentieth century. On horseback and armed with a rifle, his faith, and his love for his country, he fought and led a resistance against one of the most aggressively and well-equipped armies of their time. Our youth are fighting a regime that has no morals or scruples; they are going out in the streets armed with conviction and determination for a better life. As Shaykh Omar said: “We will not surrender, we will win or we will die, this is not the end! You will fight us and you will fight the generations that follow us, until Libya is free.”
WAYS YOU CAN HELP LIBYANS
- MAKE DU`A’ – the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ has taught us, “The servant’s du`a’ will be answered provided he does not ask for what is sinful or for the breaking off of relations, and also if he does not show impatience.” He was asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah, what is impatience?’ And he replied, “That the servant says: I invoked, but I do not think it (my invocation) was answered, and he becomes disappointed and abandons supplication.” (Muslim)
- INFORM PEOPLE – Write op-eds and letters to the editor to your local newspapers. Blog about it. Use twitter and include the #Libya hashtag.
- SUPPORT NEWS MEDIA THAT IS DOING COVERAGE OF LIBYA – CLICK, CLICK, CLICK on news articles! And comment on them! And share them on Facebook, on Twitter, on Tumblr. This is how news media thrives. It’s a sad reality, but clicks and comments encourage editors to cover a story more. Tweet “Thanks” to Anderson Cooper, AlJazeera, etc. Send them thank you letters.
- SIGN THESE PETITIONS: BP, Pull out of Libya now! (Change.org); Sanctions to stop Libya crackdowns (Change.org); Send help to Libya! (PetitionOnline)
- GO TO LOCAL SOLIDARITY PROTESTS – The Libyan people think no one cares about them. Sending them photos and videos of supporters brings up morale. If there are no protests planned for your city, plan one! Stage one in your university’s free speech zones!
- DISSEMINATE ONLINE RESOURCES – There is a lot of helpful, crowd-sourced material online right now. Like this crowd-sourced list of the dead. Or this number for free unmonitored Internet. Or even these instructions on how to control bleeding of a wound.
- MIRROR VIDEOS – Many videos are being taken down – especially Facebook videos. If you know how to, mirror the video and upload it yourself.
- TRANSLATE – If you know Arabic, help translate things like tweets, videos, audio, etc. The more people this information is accessible to, the better.
- CONTACT YOUR LOCAL STATESMEN AND WOMEN – Tell them you want the U.S. to acknowledge what’s happening in Libya. Tell them you want them to call for the resignation of Gaddafi. Tell them you want them to send aid to Libya. Tell them to support freedom. Tell them to support democracy. Tell them to CONDEMN THIS MASSACRE. Look here and here.
- SEND AID – Muslims Without Borders is organizing a medical convoy from Alexandria, Egypt to Libya. Send them money “earmarked” for Libya.
- Participate in the Global Evening of Qiyam for Libya this Saturday, February 26, 2011.