The Home I’ve Never Known (9/15/2011)

The Home I’ve Never Known

Imagine living your life in utter fear.  Imagine not being able to voice your opinion without the punishment of death, or imprisonment.  Imagine living under a dictatorship for your whole life.

Many civilians of countries in North Africa and the Middle East have been living in these conditions.  However, in December of 2010, a spring of revolutions was sparked when a vegetable salesman set himself on fire in Tunisia because he had enough of his corrupt government.

This has become known as the “Arab Spring.”

After Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire, the people of Tunisia began peaceful protests for the ouster of Ben Ali.  With their dedication and fearlessness, Ben Ali fled Tunisia, and that is when the Tunisians achieved victory.

The witnessing of such a victory gave the people of Egypt the drive and motivation to began their peaceful protest of Hosni Mubarak’s 30+ dictatorship.  After months of resistance on Mubarak’s part, he was finally forced to relinquish power.  And again, another victory.

It is quite an inspiration to see youth lead these revolutions.  To see these people finally stepping up and demanding their rights has been a breath of fresh air.

Following the liberation of Tunisia and Egypt, my family began to think that maybe it would be possible for our country, Libya, to follow in their neighbors’ footsteps.

And we realized on February 17, 2011, that was very much possible.  Muammar Gaddafi has ruled over Libya for 41 years.  To put this into perspective, that’s more than 3 times any president in the United States.  

My parents never returned to Libya for over 20 years now, and it is because of the corruption Gaddafi has inflicted on his country.  

My parents have been living in exile – away from their families and all they have ever known.  Because of this, I have not been able to set foot in Libya.  All I know of home are photographs, voices over the telephone, and a blurry memory of my grandparents, 18 years ago (when they came to visit).  

Although I have never been home, the videos and photos of civilians of all ages fighting for their rights is among the most beautiful things I have seen.  Not only in Libya, but also in Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, who began protesting as well.

A flag has become much more than a fabric cut into a rectangular shape and waving high on a building.  It has become a symbol of courage. 

Prior to Gaddafi taking control of Libya, the flag of Libya was striped red, black, and green with a white crescent and star in the center.  When Gaddafi took power, he changed the flag to a plain green rectangle.  And since this revolution began, the civilians have brought the flag back.

Aside from Gaddafi’s tasteless green rectangle, he has committed multiple crimes against humanity that have gone unnoticed since they occurred.

From public executions of students in the 1970s to a mass killing of innocent political prisoners, Gaddafi has exercised horrendous crimes against humanity.  

Since the beginning of this revolution till now, 30,000+ civilians have been killed.  Gaddafi used aircraft to shoot down at peaceful protesters and hired foreign mercenaries who he paid daily to kill people.

Despite Gaddafi’s fear tactics, the civilians of Libya who range from students to shopkeepers became Freedom Fighters.

The United Nations implemented a No Fly Zone over Libya and promised to protect the civilians by any means necessary.  A coalition led by France, United States, and Britain took it upon themselves to enforce the No Fly Zone; while NATO began assisting the Libyan Freedom Fighters.  

The international community began helping the civilians of Libya by freezing Gaddafi’s assets, by sending medical supplies, so on and so forth.

With the help of NATO, the Libyan Freedom Fighters were able to advance from Benghazi (the birthplace of the revolution) to the capitol, Tripoli, which many have predicted would be the toughest battle yet – Gaddafi’s stronghold has been Tripoli since he came into power. 

The ultimate end of Gaddafi is near and my first visit to Libya is right around the corner.  It has always been a dream of mine, since I was old enough to grasp the idea, to visit Libya and experience my culture.

Who knew a dictator could have a direct affect on my life from another country?

 

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