Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Libyan people are suffering

The Medina (market) in Tripoli in 1996 during happier times
I realize the world news services are focused on defection of the Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa, however I choose to focus on the Libyan people in today's blog.

Can you imagine living under such a ruthless dictator for over four decades? Most if not all of the rebel fighters have lived in a locked-down police state all their lives.  If it were not for hearing about the uprisings in their neigbhouring Arab states, they probably would have continued to keep their heads down and tried to survive and prosper under their tyrannical leader.

Stop to think what it would be like to live in Mistrata or Zintan.  Gadhafi's forces have had those two cities under siege for over a month. With both water and power cut off, and food supplies running low, can you imagine what the conditions must be like?  Residents of those two cities are simply trying to survive, while tanks roam the streets, snipers shoot from rooftops, and bombs rain down on them constantly.  Yet they hang on, hopeful that the rebellion will prevail, and that the coalition forces will take out Gadhafi's deadly weapons.

One story on the Guardian's online website touched me deeply: "The tank shell amputated my leg" - one Libyan boy's story from Misrata.  This boy's life has changed forever, and yet his father is proud of him, and wants to treat him as a martyr.  They had the courage to tell his story to the world, for which I'm glad.  Perhaps after watching this video, those who question why we are involved in Libya will finally get it.  We are there to protect Libya's citizens from their ruthless leader and his henchmen. We are there to hopefully allow this boy to grow up in a peaceful and democratic country, despite his sacrifice and horrible injury.

Libyan scouts in the Eclipse Camp south of Jalu
When I visited Libya in 2006 to observe a Total Solar Eclipse of the Sun, I met many Libyans along the way.  Everyone was very friendly to us. They went out of their way to help us experience their country and the culture and people.  This, despite the fact they could not travel within their own country like we did.  There were checkpoints along every highway, and nobody passed without having permission.  Can you imagine living such a life?

The photo I have posted shows a group of Libyan Scouts posing with one of our tour members.  They were brought in to setup the thousands of tents and other facilities in the middle of the Sahara Desert south of Jalu.  There were three instant cities created in the desert which each housed 5,000 visitors.  The scouts were thrilled to be there, and those who spoke some English asked us about the eclipse, our countries of origin, and about ourselves and our families.  They were thirsty for knowledge from their honored visitors.

I wonder about these young men, as I watch the conflict unfold in Libya.  No doubt many of them are fighting in the rebellion.  I'm sure some of them have died or are seriously injured in the conflict.

This is why I have a connection with the beautiful Libyan people, and why I write this blog about their rebellion.  I am with them.  I support them, and I am proud a Canadian general is now leading the NATO forces tasked with protecting them.

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