Libya problems hit home

March 30, 2011

by Mary Timmons, STAFF REPORTER

Since the Egyptian revolution in late January, there have been similar uprisings in Libya as well as other Middle Eastern countries.

With a craving for change, the citizens of these countries engage in what started as peaceful protesting. Their hopes were soon shattered when military and security forces used violence to attempt to end their protesting. According to CNN.com, over the past month more than 300,000 people have left Libya in response to the violence.

Nazir Atassi, assistant professor of history, is a Syrian native.

“These protests are becoming a growing issue in the Middle East,” Atassi said. “These dictators have been ruling for so long that they feel that they own the people. They are born and raised to be in power, and all of their society is born within their authority.”

The Libyan uprising began shortly after the Egyptian revolution ended. On February 15 civilians in the city of Benghazi began to protest in front of police headquarters. After being violently disrupted by the police, civilians continued to gather and planned a protest for February 17. They called it a “Day of Rage.” Their leader of 42 years, Muammar el- Qaddafi, did not take these protests lightly. Qaddafi used his military power to retaliate against citizens within his own country.

“He has killed and suppressed so many of his own people,” Atassi said. “Qaddafi has intervened with several other Middle Eastern countries. If he remains in power, he will continue to try and use his military power against his own people.”

Chaos and concern continued to swirl through Libya even after the U.S. and others decided to take action by enforcing a No Fly Zone last Saturday.

Atassi said the most the U.S. can do at this point is weaken Qaddafi, but it will be a while before he leaves power.

“The U.S. being involved is a very sticky issue,” Atassi said. ” They waited until the Libyans wanted help. The U.S. participating in helping is very crucial. It is good they intervened, but I don’t know what their goals are. Their goal could be about anything from enforcing infrastructure to gaining oil. There are always other motives behind another country’s actions.”

Some feel that the U.S. involvement in enforcing a No Fly Zone was inappropriate.

Anna-Claire Sisemore, a junior psychology major, said she recently started following the Libyan protests in the news.

“I feel like the missiles were unnecessary,” Sisemore said. “I feel like there could have been alternate options for the U.S. to take. Maybe if we gained more support from within the Libyan military, I would feel differently about the situation.”

Though Sisemore does not agree with the tactics the U.S. has taken, she also believes that Qaddafi should be removed from power.

“As for Qaddafi, I don’t think he should have used his military power to against his own people,” Sisemore said. “They were just trying to gain freedom through peaceful protesting.”

Milan Gautam, a junior medical technology major, said that Qaddafi’s rule is too harsh.

“I think that it is OK that the U.S. has gotten involved,” Gautam said. “I don’t think that in any country a ruler has the right to harm his own people.”

According to the National Oil and Gas Company, Libya has the largest oil reserves in Africa. With 42 billion barrels of oil and over 1.3 trillion cubic meters of gas, it serves as Europe’s largest oil supplier.

Riley Woods, a junior psychology major, said he believes that the Libyan protests are partially responsible for the rising of gas prices in the U.S.

“I’ve heard that Libya is one of the top contributors’ in the oil and gas industry,” Woods said. “I feel that this protesting and the acts of violence have had a huge impact on our gas industry.”

Atassi said he does not think Gaddafi will step down from power.

“Libya is a prime market for everything,” Atassi said. “You don’t want civil war in a region that you want to keep stable.”

“Ten years ago, some of these protesters were supporters of their president,” Atassi said. “He has control of everything within Libya. He is very charismatic, and he once knew how to captivate his people. Times have changed as the people started to have less trust in their government and military.”

Atassi also said the protests of the Middle East have inspired many people in other countries.

“It takes an incredible amount of courage to overcome 40 years of oppression. What these people are doing by revolting against their leaders is absolutely remarkable.”

E-mail comments to mnt005@latech.edu.