The Libyan Emergency Task Force and Syrian community members in Southern California held a demonstration in support of the people of Syria and Libya on April 2 at the Federal Building in Los Angeles with approximately 80 in attendance.
Since protests began in Syria last month, over 170 have died. In Libya, the rebel army has been pushed back to the front lines of their strategic stronghold by oppressive Libyan forces, according to the New York Times.
The protesters in both countries have suffered numerous human rights violations including unlawful arrest, torture and unexplained disappearances, according to the U.S. State Department’s most recent country reports on human rights practices.
According to the report, violations of over 190 countries from 2010 are detailed, but being published three months into the new year, “perspectives on many issues are now framed by the dramatic changes sweeping across countries in the Middle East in 2011.”
The report also stated the restrictions imposed in both countries, including freedom of speech and press, of Internet and academic freedom.
Local demonstrator and resident of Irvine Asma Saad said that rumors have spread regarding the Libyan government’s fear tactics when holding journalists and family members in compounds.
The demonstrators gathered outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles echoed these sentiments.
“It takes a lot for people to come out and protest,” said international lawyer from the city of Orange, Malek Shibley. “People are afraid to have their picture in U.S. papers because their families overseas may be targeted.”
This concern did not stop supporters with family overseas from coming out in solidarity with not only Libya and Syria, but also with Bahrain, as well as the entire Middle East.
Protestors were of all ages, from elders to young parents to children and teenagers. They held signs that read, “Freedom, Justice, Dignity,” and shouted, “From the desert to the sea, the Middle East will be free!” and “1,2,3,4 get Qaddafi out the door, 5,6,7,8, stop the killing, stop the hate.” Several honks from drivers passing by voiced their approval.
A little girl about five years old stood with her older brother on the curbside of the building holding her sign high above her head, yelling “Free Bahrain!”
The State Department’s report outlined three major efforts that generated revolution in the Middle East, including instant communication through mobile phones and Internet, nongovernmental advocacy organizations such as Amnesty International focused on democracy and human rights issues and causes and the growing violence, persecution and discrimination of certain groups.
A student at the protest from nearby Beckman High School in Irvine expressed hardships faced locally.
“It’s really hard in school being the only Libyan there. Everything gets shut down. No one really understands. They mostly think it’s a joke. It’s been really hard.”
DeVry University Professor Ibrahim Ighmeiwa is trying to go back to Libya to educate the people.
“I want to go back to help my country,” Ighmeiwa said. “I think the country needs a lot of help. I may even stay for good.”
“The way the West depicts it is as a civil war when it’s not,” said Asma Saad. “90 percent of the Libyan people want him [Qaddafi] gone, and maybe 10 percent are keeping him in power because their pockets are full.”
Saad believes a new, democratic Middle East will soon be born and with it, a possible decline in terrorism.