Students respond to turmoil in Libya

In the past few months the world has witnessed tensions escalate between the Libyan people and its government to the point of war. NATO countries were at the helm of a coalition effort to bombard the capital of Tripoli and other Libyan cities in order to aid rebel forces in their attempt to topple the government led by Col. Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s autocratic head of state. Gaddafi has served as Libya’s leader for approximately 40 years, coming to power following the overthrow of that nation’s monarchy.

The six month long conflict came to a tentative conclusion following the rebels’ capture of the capital city of Tripoli. Gaddafi himself has yet to be captured, although it is rumored that he is hiding elsewhere within Libya. Meanwhile, several of his relatives resurfaced in neighboring Algeria during the past week. In the wake of the victory the coalition forces are meeting for a summit to discuss post conflict management of the situation. As a new nation prepares to build afresh, the future of the 6.6 million Libyans remains uncertain.

While Tech may be on the other side of the globe, students expressed their views on the upheaval sweeping across the Arab world.

“I have sympathy for the rebel cause,” said Ahmed El-Rifai, a second-year BIO major and Egyptian citizen.  “Libya needed a strong leader like Gaddafi at first, but he is crazy now.  One man should not rule for such a long time,” said Rifai.

In February 2011, thousands of Libyans rose up against the regime to demand a representative and democratic form of government. The uprising was part of a wider movement in the Middle East collectively known as the Arab Spring.

Massing together an ad-hoc force of anti-government advocates, the rebels began their campaign in the eastern part of the country in Feb. 2011, capturing cities and gaining supporters.

However, the sudden surge of the rebel offensive lost momentum as Gaddafi’s better-equipped and more experienced soldiers retaliated. Within a month the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya, was under severe threat from Gaddafi’s advancing forces.

At that point, the United Nations Security Council voted to grant military support for the rebel cause.

The legitimacy of the uprising has been generally accepted among the global community, but the question of whether foreign powers, should have intervened remains. “U.S. involvement prevented another massacre,” Rifai said.

Rafey Qureshi, a second-year CHBE student said, “Other revolutions, like Syria right now, are on their own because they don’t hold valuable assets for the U.S. The U.S. should not be in Libya because it gives us a bad image to the rest of the world. Other countries should step up and do their part and when the revolution is over, they should let Libya build itself up. The youth definitely have the potential to do great things for their country.”

“There were other personal incentives for the intervention: protecting U.S. oil supply,” Rifai said.

There are also those who believe that the U.S. is justified in committing itself in the affairs of the Libyans. Nick Beyer, a second-year ME said, “The U.S. is like a big brother to these countries,” Beyer said.  “We should support the most worthy causes, but we won’t be able to support all of them.”

Now that the Gaddafi regime has been ousted, the role of western powers has been called into question.  “We should set up a democracy, good leaders, and a police force,” Beyer said.

“I am not sure what to think.  The West tends to think something must be done, but there is strong doubt as to whether it is always right. Time will tell,” said professor Tahseen Kazi, who teaches an introductory course in international relations.

“It’s a tricky business supporting revolutions because everyone has their own interests.  These types of situations require a fair amount of reflection, but considering the U.N.’s quick decision, I’m not sure if it occurred this time.”

The political outcome of Libya’s civil war is unknown, but it is only a matter of time before the country will have to unite and rebuild under new leadership.


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