Egypt protests Gaddafi's war crimes

Lina El-Wardani , Thursday 7 Apr 2011

Libyans and Egyptians stood together today in front of the Libyan embassy in Cairo in support of the Libyan people's uprising against Gaddafi, and to denounce his crimes and his regime

against Gaddafi
(Photo: Lina El-Wardani)

The demonstration started at noon and continued to rise in turnout by time of going to press. Most of the protesters held the Libyan revolutionary flag and lifted signs calling for ending the massacres against the Libyan people and putting Gaddafi on trial for war crimes and worse. The protest comes also in commemoration of 7 April, the day that Gaddafi calls "Day of judgment" when in 1976 he sentenced hundreds of protesting students and activists to death.

The streets leading to the Libyan embassy in Zamalek, a district of Cairo, were cordoned by army forces who harassed protesters and told them that they were not allowed to approach except from one tiny street. They cordoned the protest into a very small area and acted like the former state security police, forcing demonstrators to retreat metre by metre. Overall, soldiers were impatient and angry, and slightly violent.

However, protesters chanted anti Gaddafi slogans: "Shame on you! Shame on you! Gaddafi fires and shoots!", "Gaddafi the tyrant, God's eye never sleeps!", "The blood of the martyrs is between us!", "Libya and Egypt, one hand!", "Libya and Egypt, revolution until victory!", "Enough Gaddafi, we don't want more destruction!", "Eman you are virtuous and honorable, Gaddafi is inglorious and disreputable!" (in reference to Eman Al-Obeidi who was reportedly gang raped by pro-Gaddafi militias in a prison in Tripoli and whose case has been a focus for international media in the last two weeks).

Hanya Saleh is a Libyan housewife married to an Egyptian and resident in Egypt for the past 13 years. This is her first protest. She knew about it from Facebook, only signing up for a Facebook account yesterday. "I had my daughter teach me how to use Facebook. I had to learn how to support my country, especially that for the past 20 days all phone networks were cut off in Messrata and I couldn't reach my family. Although I am 35, but my real birth was on 17 February, [when this revolution began]. Before that I couldn't say I am Libyan," said Saleh while waving the Libyan revolutionary flag.

Most of the protesters were young and active. Abdel Aziz Gebril, 18, was raised in Egypt. His father is from the Libyan opposition so he couldn't enter Libya to join the revolution. "The whole family is on the authorities' black list. So I am here to support the Libyan revolution and show that I remember Gaddafi's massacres of 7 April and to show that the Arab people should get together because the NATO is very slow and not doing enough to protect civilians," said Gebril while holding a banner saying "Gaddafi is a war criminal."

The protest was organised by the Friends of Free Libya in Egypt. Free Libya was founded on 26 March 2011 by a group of Egyptian intellectuals and activists in solidarity with the Libyan people. They announced their support for the Libyan uprising, which broke out on 17 February, and the Libyan people.

In a press release, the Friends of Free Libya in Egypt (FOFL-E) called on the Egyptian government "to recognise the Transitional National Council in Benghazi as the sole legitimate government of Libya." The statement also "calls upon Nilesat to carry the transmission of the satellite channels Libya Hurra and Libya Al-Ahrar", and "in light of the Gaddafi regime's interference with the Nilesat signal of Arab satellite channels, and forcing Libya Hurra off Nilesat as well as the Gaddafi regime's arrest, torture and murder of journalists working in Libya, we call upon Nilesat to cease the transmission of Libyan State TV."

Human rights advocate Amir Salem and women rights advocate Azza Kamel as well as activist and media figure Gameela Ismael were at the protest to represent the Free Libya initiative. "We are here to support the Libyan people by any means — money, medical assistance, anything that civil society can offer," said Amir Salem. He also added that Egyptian civil society will help stop the Gaddafi atrocities and push for his trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.

But why is the protest small compared to the massive Tahrir gatherings? "Because it was a surprise. We only knew about it yesterday, so we didn't have time to campaign. Also many Libyans said that Gaddafi still has a stronghold over Libyans in Egypt. They threaten them, kidnap and sometimes kill them. The regime is still acting criminally in every possible way inside and outside Libya," added Salem.

However, Salem was hopeful that this is the start of a real post-revolutionary Arab solidarity that was not present before. The revolutionary spirit is bonding the Arab people together. They get inspired and support one another. Azza Kamel from Free Libya agrees with Salem that "Arab peoples have to support each other in their revolutions. We have to stand up against this killer. Gaddafi's regime is trying to mass slaughter the entire nation. Our revolution will not be successful until we get rid of all of the Arab dictators who have long governed and tortured the Arab people."

Mohammed, 26, who lives in Singapore and works as a telecommunications expert is in Egypt to help set up a telecommunications service that could work outside Gaddafi's control. "He cut the phones from Tripoli and we can't reach our families or friends. So we have gathered money from Libyans in Singapore and Egypt and we are trying to establish a substitute telecommunications network and hopefully we will get it done soon," said Mohammed, before joining the popular revolutionary singing that continued at the protest site, condemning Gaddafi and blessing the Benghazi-based revolutionary struggle.

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