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March 23, 2011

Libya: The Charger at the Ottawa demonstration

The Canadian Charger

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Libyan Canadians and their supporters gathered across the street from the office building where Libya has offices comprising its embassy. They were there in support of the uprising and to demand that Gadhafi leave. They waved flags, hoisted placards, chanted slogans, and listened to speakers.

They later marched to Parliament Hill to call for action by the Canadian government.  They want Canada to recognize the Libyan National Transitional Council as the legitimate de facto government and to support the imposition of a no-fly zone, citing the principle of the Responsibility to Protect. 

Other demands are the lifting of the arms embargo insofar as it applies to the LNTC and the issuance of arrest warrants for Gadhafi, his family and his henchmen.

Anisa Ali Senussi was the organizer of the demonstration.  In that capacity, it was she who made the necessary contacts with police, arranged publicity for the demonstration, and recruited speakers for the event.  The week before the demonstration, local Libyan Canadians formed the Canadian Libyan Council.  “I am in charge of media relations for the Council,” she told the Charger. 

Anisa is a student at the University of Ottawa, where she will be pursuing conflict studies and human rights in her course work next session.  The university is bilingual, and so is she.  At the university she is on the executive committee of Solidarity for Palestinian Rights.  This young woman is clearly headed for leadership roles.

Safiah was another participant in the demonstration.  Because she has family in Libya, she chose not to give her family name.

In outlining her family’s history, she indicated that at one point her father had to flee Libya because of a crack-down by Gadhafi on those whom he found to be too devout for what he might want to impose.  The father left hurriedly for Italy, and her mother followed soon after.  It was in Italy that Safiah was born.

When Safiah was nine, the family moved to Canada, returning to Libya between 1990 and 1995.  The family again had to leave, returning to Canada.  “My father did not say exactly why we had to leave.  He tried to shield us from such worries,” she remarked. 

Her father, mother, brother, and sister are back in Libya now.  Her father is retired, her brother works in a hospital, and her sister is a student.  They were in a liberated city, but she has not been able to make contact recently, so she really does not know who is in control of the city now. Of course, that is worrying.

In the light of the recent major advances of Gadhafi’s forces, the Charger asked if the rebels were too optimistic when they said that they did not need outside help. Safiah disagreed.  “They didn’t want foreign ground troops,” she said, “but right from the start they wanted a no-fly zone and weapons.” 

During the interview, her three small children were present.  At the mention of Gadhafi’s name, eight-year-old Fatima exclaimed, “He’s an alien.”  She may be too young to be a Star Wars fan, but the lingo survives into the next generation.

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M. Elmasry

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