UW's Libyan students rally for peace in home country

2011-03-02T23:45:00Z 2011-03-03T00:18:56Z UW's Libyan students rally for peace in home country

By CHRISTINE PETERSON

Casper Star-Tribune‌

The Billings Gazette

LARAMIE, Wyo. — She held a sign saying her family might be dead.

In her other hand, University of Wyoming student Wafa Farhat held a picture of Libya’s dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, crossed out with red lines.

“I have no way to express my feelings about this. We don’t need this guy anymore. Forty-two years is enough,” she said.

She and about 10 other Libyan students gathered Wednesday afternoon outside of UW’s student union for a peaceful demonstration to tell Wyoming students and teachers what is happening in their home country.

They held homemade signs pleading for peace and waved the Libyan flag. Some shouted about the injustices in Libya and the need for democracy.

Other UW students passed by, many stopping briefly to watch before moving on.

About a dozen Libyans attend UW, according to the international student office.

Farhat, here earning a master’s degree in education, has spoken with some of her family but not all of them. She worries that they won’t tell her if something bad happens.

“We would like to show the people here what’s happening in Libya. Gadhafi uses heavy weapons to kill people who have nothing to protect them,” she said.

Gadhafi, who seized power in Libya in 1969, recently said he would “fight to the last drop of Libyan blood” to defeat the revolt.

The UW students said Gadhafi has ruled long enough. The Libyan people have given him enough chances and now they want him out. Despite being an oil-rich country, Libya’s economy, infrastructure and education system are poor.

“All aspects of life in Libya are bad. The people are not able to live their lives anymore. This is not a democracy,” said Ismial El Fallah, a UW postgraduate who is studying communications.

A Libyan flag tied around his neck, Fallah said Libya needs the support of the international community; the people need the United States’ backing.

Fallah said his aunt and uncle are in a hospital in Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, recovering from injuries sustained while peacefully protesting.

“You can’t imagine what is happening. They were just standing like this, without weapons, saying they need change,” he said, as he gestured to the other Libyan students.

Engineering doctoral student Abdul Wahab Tuwati helped organize the rally because the Libyan students wanted to show their support for protesters at home. He also wanted UW faculty and students to know that Libyans need freedom and peace, that they want democracy.

He knows his family back home won’t tell him everything. They can’t talk freely over the phone, as they are worried about spies.

Tuwati watches Libyan TV and other networks to try to piece together the story.

“I am scared. I can’t concentrate anymore in school. I wake up and can’t sleep and so watch TV. My mind is shattered,” he said.

While he is here, he’s sending money for food and trying to educate other students about the struggle.

UW math and science student Glen Lehmitz stopped and listened to the protesters as he rode his bike through campus. He’s followed news of the revolt in Libya and waited to talk to some of the students to hear a personal view of the protest and violence.

“The big question is, what will the international community do?” he said.

Americans should know that Libyans are nice people who want democracy like many other countries already enjoy, said Ahmed El Ghriniay, a postgraduate civil engineering student. He said it’s their dictator who is corrupt.

Ghriniay held his 1-year-old son, Albra, during the rally. Albra’s cheeks were painted with the Libyan flag.

“I just want peace for Libya and peace for my children,” he said.

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