A Student Reaction to Violence in Libya

Photo courtesy of Yuri Kozyrev of TIME Magazine.

Charles Mullin

Staff Reporter

Libyan protesters chant as they walk down an abandoned street towards shadowy figures in the distance that resemble soldiers. Shots ring out and the camera ducks behind a nearby tree as screams fill the air. On the road lie several murdered protestors who were brave enough to speak out. These people were not carrying weapons or bombs, only voices.

This is what I saw on youtube.com one morning when I was just first hearing about the protests. I had no idea of the violent action Colonel Muammar Gaddafi had taken before then. I was horrified and beyond words.

Focusing on other topics like whether democracy could ever work in a nation like Libya would take away from the true significance of the violence in Libya. Day by day Libyan citizens are being murdered for standing up for what they believe in.

North Africa, as a whole, seems gripped by revolution. In Yemen protestors have taken to the streets against their President Ali Abdullah Saleh over the corruption and terrible economic conditions. In Egypt, the starting point of all of this, a revolution has already forced the current corrupt government to dissolve into a military-state waiting for elections in six months.

The fact remains that revolution is born from the blood of innocents. In Egypt the death toll is close to 400 because of citizens killed in the chaos of protests and riots. The bloodshed in Libya began with Gaddafi taking unwarranted violent action against protestors on February 17th with snipers and helicopters, killing 27 unarmed civilians.

The murder of 27 unarmed civilians has now grown to a possible 1000 people dead due to Gaddafi’s violence and the growing civil war. No leader should ever murder his own people. President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have both pushed for Gaddafi to step down along with other international leaders.

Gaddafi won’t listen though. He has been hiding in a delusional world for years now where he believes all of his people love him and that the protests are not because of their anger over his corruption, but rather the foreign media, drugs, and the influence of terrorists.

Since the initial killings of unarmed protestors, Gaddafi has taken the madness one step further by hiring mercenaries to fight for him against the rebel forces. In other words, Gaddafi is hiring soldiers to kill his own people.

The revolution has now turned into an all-out civil war with rebels and military forces that have turned on Gaddafi against a few pro-Gaddafi supporters in the South and Tripoli with hired mercenaries. Diplomats and politicians have also been joining the rebels as the killing continues.

The civil war at this point seems like it won’t stop even if Gaddafi is indeed killed or dethroned. Gaddafi still has a lot of supporters led by his sons (who have gone on record saying that they would utilize just as much violence as their father).

Forgotten among the pile of statistics and Gaddafi’s mad speeches are the innocents hiding in their homes that are afraid of their country’s future and whether they can leave their front door without being shot. There are many Libyans that don’t know when there will be peace in the streets again and the sky will not be filled with the sounds of war and the smoke of artillery fire.

With the crimes against humanity being committed by Gaddafi, the United Nations is imposing sanctions on Libya and preparing for rescue and aid. The United States already has Navy and Marines stationed in wait outside the border ready to be called by the Libyan rebels.

Many of the rebel forces are adamant though about only wanting outside advice and not military aid in fear of too much international interference. When the civil war ends and Libyans pursue the democracy they seek, they do not want outside involvement in the development of their new government.

When and if Libya gets to the point where they will be creating a new government, they will be in a similar situation as Sudan. With startling facts like an unemployment rate of 98%, Sudan is being split between north and south with a new referendum in the works.

Deng Deng Nhial, Deputy Head of Mission Trade and Investment Officer with the Government of Southern Sudan, recently came to speak at McDaniel to enlighten the campus on the possible future of the referendum and the reasons behind it. When asked on his position on the chaos in Libya Nhial said, “The International community has to respond swiftly. When people are killed mercilessly, you cannot watch. It takes leadership to make a decision.”

Still, our country has not had a good history with foreign policy recently. Sophomore Travis Compton said, “We like to stick our nose in other countries business. I wonder what will happen when our nose finally gets bitten off.”

I think that the United States should help Libya with rescue aid operations, but not military intervention. As a nation, we should not take part in any violence happening in Libya.

The protests in Libya turned into a revolution that became a violent uprising that is now a civil war. As a student in college, the conflict forces me to reevaluate things I might take for granted in the United States.

We are not afraid as a people to take to the streets to protest a bill, politician, or budget proposal because there is no threat of violent action from the government. We have a right to free speech and freedom to express opinions that the Libyans do not possess.

I think back on the video of the courageous Libyan protestors lying dead on the street for standing up for what they believe in. An image of a Libyan stripping off his clothes above the body of his friend, showing that he has no bomb and then being shot down particularly sticks with me.

We as college students and as Americans can start acknowledging the revolution and violence taking hold of North Africa by appreciating the rights we possess. Does that make us better? No. It just makes us lucky.


This is the video I watched of violence taken against unarmed Libyan protestors. It is also the same video that inspired me to write this commentary. The content is graphic.