Libyan locals protest against Gadhafi at Speakers Circle

Wednesday, February 23, 2011 | 9:19 p.m. CST; updated 9:39 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 24, 2011
A group of Libyans living in Columbia protest for the freedom of Libya Wednesday in Speakers Circle at MU. They supported the protests in Libya and expressed their urge for the stepping down of Moammar Gadhafi, the current leader of the country.

COLUMBIA — The worst part is not knowing.

Despite many attempts, Khaled Adem, a 36-year-old working toward a doctorate  in mechanical engineering from MU, has not spoken to his family in days. 

Adem said he fears what might happen to them.

"I still worry about this crazy man because we don't know what to expect from him," he said.

The lack of communication was caused by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's crackdown on phone and Internet services in response to protesters calling for him to step down, according to a New York Times article. Gadhafi has ruled as an authoritarian leader for 40 years. 

Libyan citizens began protesting against Gadhafi on Feb. 17. According to a New York Times article published Wednesday, Human Rights Watch confirmed that 300 people have died as the protests continued, though the article noted that this figure was "conservative" because of the loss of communication.

Ahmed El-Tayash, part-owner, with his father, of Columbia's Campus Eastern Foods, agreed, saying these estimates are far too low.

Much like Adem, Ahmed El-Tayash and his brother Osama said they are worried about relatives. They have not been in contact with their aunt, who lives in Tripoli, for a couple of days. Prior to the loss of communication, their mother received a very frantic phone call from the aunt, in which gun shots could be heard in the background. 

The brothers, who were both born and raised in Columbia, still have family living in Libya. Their parents moved to the United States in 1979.

"I'm an American, but I'm still a Libyan," Ahmed El-Tayash said. "I still have Libyan cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents there."

Social media have played a vital role in this revolution. Ahmed El-Tayash said the Libyan people knew violence would erupt in the wake of a protest. He believes Libyans were afraid of revolting in the past because of isolation from the rest of the world. Social media have allowed others to be aware of the government's reaction and the level of violence, he said. 

Osama El-Tayash said Libyans have been making videos in their homes and taking pictures to post on Facebook. He said he was told by family and friends that women in Benghazi are sending their children to the streets to fight. They believe there are two options: "Go and die for freedom, or die a slave for this country," he said. 

All three men said they are uncertain about the future of the country and what Gadhafi may do to the Libyan people. 

"We don't even know what is coming," Adem said. "We expect he will kill, if he could, every Libyan. He's a killer. He's a killing machine. He built his regime on blood."

Ahmed El-Tayash, Osama El-Tayash and Adem were a part of a group of about 40 men and women who gathered at Speakers Circle and City Hall Wednesday morning  to rally in support of the protests in Libya. Protesters held homemade signs reading "How many more?" and "350 protesters killed in 3 days" accompanying pictures of dead protesters.

The group hoped to gain the attention of leaders. 

"We're trying to get support of other leaders of other countries to put pressure on (Gadhafi)," Ahmed El-Tayash said. "Without that happening, there are no reparations."

Osama El-Tayash said he also hoped to raise awareness in the community. 

"Just if people knew what was going on, even the slightest difference will make a success," he said.

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once dmw February 24, 2011 | 3:56 p.m.

Why does the guy in the first photo have a Palestinian flag?

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