By Cat Viglienzoni — 02/26/11
Click here to see more photos of the protest.
You could hear chants of “Gadhafi must go,” “Down, down with Gadhafi! Down, down with the assassin!” and “Stop the killing, stop the crime!” at Copley Square in Boston today. Supporters of the Libyan protesters rallied to raise awareness about the growing violence in the African nation.
Roughly 100 people showed up to the to show solidarity with the Libyan protesters. For many who came waving flags, holding signs and chanting, the violence hits home.
Ruba Bagegni said her mother, Soad Azzabi, is from Libya, and their family is caught in the escalating violence. Bagegni said she can only imagine what is going on over there.
“I can’t speak for my family because I have no connection with them right now,” she said. “But a few days ago we would call them and it wasn’t them who would answer the phone, it was somebody else. And it was somebody else’s voice who did not speak Arabic. I don’t know who it was. But all I can say is my heart just stopped beating for a good minute, and I didn’t know what to do.”
Azzabi came to the United States from Libya when she was 18 in the early 80s with her husband, who had a three-year scholarship to study. They ended up staying and raising their family here, but she left behind siblings, parents and friends.
“We couldn’t go back,” she said. “After that, in the 80s, he started killing, and our – my – family told us, do not come home because if you come [and] he knows you are coming from America, he will kill you.”
The only time she did return a year ago, Azzabi called the conditions “terrible” and more like a zoo than a country. She said when she was visiting and got sick, she went to a hospital and saw the conditions firsthand.
“They didn’t have anything,” she said. “They didn’t have any equipment. I told him [the doctor] I came from America to visit my country. The doctor, he shouted at me and he said ‘Why you come here? Stay there!’ That’s what he said. It’s hurt me. It’s my country! I want to come, I want to visit, I want to see my people, I want to see my friends!”
Previous U.S. leaders have so far avoided directly calling on the Libyan leader to step down, but today, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for Gadhafi to resign. In a statement, Clinton said Gadhafi had “lost the confidence of his people and he should go without further bloodshed and violence,” and that the Libyan people deserve a government that “protects their universally recognized human rights.”
At least 1,000 protesters have been killed in Libya, and some estimates put the death toll at closer to 2,000. Yesterday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the unrest in Libya had driven 37,000 refugees into neighboring countries Tunisia and Egypt, and many more want to flee but are too scared to leave their homes. Reports emerged today of Gadhafi supporters arming gangs to help their leader keep his 41-year-rule.
Though Azzabi said she would like to see her country reflect the wealth of its resources, she said she doesn’t want oil interests before those of the Libyan people.
“You know what I wish for?” she said. “I wish [to] go there and blow all the oil. All the oil. I don’t want oil anymore if the oil is more expensive than my blood, my brother’s and my sister’s blood.”
Protestors Speak Out