Eyewitness to the Fight for Freedom in Libya

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

Dr. Mahmoud Traina, an American born cardiologist of Libyan descent, visited the besieged city of Benghazi from the 23rd of February through the 5th of March. The city of Benghazi was the birthplace of the revolution against Muammar Qaddafi and the scene of the greatest violence and injury for the freedom fighters.

It was in Benghazi that the freedom fighters are trying to coordinate the efforts of the war. A number of former Qaddafi supporters, including members of the military,  joined the side of the freedom fighters. This includes membership in the Transitional National Council (TNC), the council of the freedom fighters.  Dr. Traina met one of the Libyan freedom fighters, Omar Al-Harari, a member of the TNC though not the head.

Dr. Traina reports that the spirit in Benghazi was euphoric for the people. Despite attacks and deprivation the people were joyous and optimistic in their efforts to secure the freedom that so much of the world takes for granted.

One person told him, “You can’t imagine the feeling of now being free after 42 years. Now that we have tasted freedom, we will never go back, no matter the price”.

Dr. Traina had received word earlier in the day from his sister that she and her family escaped from Misrata and were currently in  England.  Other family members and friends were still in harm’s way putting a cloud over this good news.

The living conditions in Benghazi are horrendous. There is no electricity, no water, and no sanitation. There are no infant supplies. Only the most basic medicines are available. A Cholera epidemic is a very real possibility. The hospitals are so crowded that they have had to dislodge half of their patient load to be cared from outdoors under tents. Injuries to limbs, normally treatable by orthopedic surgery, have often resulted, due to these primitive conditions, in amputations. There are no functional Intensive Care Units to treat for the critically ill and/or post surgical patients.

The lines for bread involve a three hour wait.

Dr. Traina spoke of the conditions he witnessed. “In Benghazi, people were beginning the process of self-rule and organization.  Volunteers manned the traffic signals, and organized traffic.  Others helped to feed the people with donated food in improvised “soup kitchens”. Other groups were going around cleaning up the debris in the city left from the violence. Medical staff was working overtime to care for the ill, especially the nursing staff who remained. (A large number of the nursing staff were foreign workers, and many of them left the country, but many stayed, and said they couldn’t abandon the patients who needed them)”.

Dr. Traina said that Qaddafi, after 42 years of despotic rule, believes that Libya belongs to him as one would own a personal possession. Qaddafi has said that if necessary to keep his power he will kill every Libyan and restock the country. He has used mercenaries from Chad, Mali and Niger. This became obvious when some of the mercenaries became hospitalized, and the personnel in attendance realized these patients spoke no Arabic.

In addition, Dr. Traina believes that there are pro-Qaddafi cells in Benghazi ready to spring into action when called upon.

When asked about opinion in the street about the United States and NATO as having a role to play, Dr. Trains replied that the Libyans want to win their freedom through their own acts. It is they who must play the leading role.

The Libyan people, he continued, want freedom as Americans know freedom. They want an open and accountable government and the freedom to form political parties. Nearly 100% of Libyans are Muslim, and Islam will play a role in their government. This is comparable to the role Christianity played in the early days of the American republic. Islam and freedom are totally compatible, he said, citing the Prophet Muhammad (s) and his early followers.

Dr. Traina dismissed the idea that the revolution, when successful, could be hijacked by radical forces. The people have fought too hard for their freedom and would guard in jealously.

Some organizations, he continued, have been able to get aid in by working with United Nations agencies. Others based in Ireland and the UK have been successful in this arena because they are not subject to the same sanctions.

Dr. Traina has suggested two web sites that he both recommends and is involved with. They are: www.libyanemergencyaid.com and www.islamicreliefusa.org/libya .

Dr. Traina is Assistant Professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and on the cardiology staff at Olive View – UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar.

The Muslim Observer thanks him for his time.

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“Where’s My Vote?”

June 18, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent

“The tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

–Thomas Jefferson

2009-06-15T113648Z_01_BAZ09_RTRMDNP_3_MALAYSIA-IRAN-PROTEST

An Iranian demonstrator shows a placard against Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a demonstration outside the United Nations office in Kuala Lumpur June 15, 2009. Malaysian police used teargas to break up a crowd of around 500 Iranians demonstrating outside the United Nations mission against Iran’s contested presidential election, a Reuters photographer said.

REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad

United by the common rallying cry composed of a mere three words,  “Where’s my vote?”, enraged Iranian protestors hit the streets this past Saturday in a show of defiance against the reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  They numbered in the millions as they filled the streets to march against perceived election fraud.  The popular candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, was seemingly robbed of certain victory as he received overwhelming support during his candidacy.  Over the course of less than a week protestors have clashed with security personnel and pro-Ahmadinejad supporters on a daily basis.  The result has been several horrendous and often vicious encounters that have played out on live TV and social networking sites on the Internet.  Many protestors have been beaten to a bloody pulp and some have lost their lives in this unwinnable battle of hearts and minds. Iranian security forces show no mercy as they beat anyone, including women, with their batons. There have also been several recent reports of protestors being shot at with live ammunition, with at least seven protestors having been shot to death.

One would expect the commander in chief of any nation to calm the storm until cooler heads prevailed. Not Ahmadinejad, who is relentlessly holding on to his stifling reign of dictatorship. Instead of rising above the controversy, he is stirring the pot to keep the tensions at a fever pitch. Perhaps his strategy is to keep his detractors busy so that no one can challenge his win or recount the ballots.  Why else would he clamp down so hard on media reports in Iran? Some journalists have been arrested while others have been forbidden from filming the bloody protests, Iranian reformists have been detained and telecommunications have been blocked.

But somehow, some way, the information keeps flowing.  The battle has moved into cyberspace where it began and has taken on a life of its own to tell the world about the injustice being meted out to an innocent populous. Once again social networking sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have been fundamental in uniting pro-Mousavi Iranians into a central force as well as harnessing global condemnation regarding the brutality in which demonstrators have been dealt with.  Not since President Obama’s candidacy for the White House has there been such a political revolution been played out in cyberspace.  In this case, American-operated websites have been vital in keeping the stream of information running. Twitter cancelled a scheduled site maintenance and rescheduled it to coincide with the Iranian time zone, which came at the request of no other than President Obama. YouTube has also been a willingly ally and has kept video footage of demonstrations up on its website. Normally, YouTube’s policy is to remove violent videos, but plans to leave the Iranian protest videos up for their “documentary” value.

As of press time, it seems that a minuscule wind of hope is beginning to blow into the Iranian capital of Tehran. The Ayatollah Khameni has promised a partial recount of the votes in question under the auspices of representatives of both parties. Meanwhile, the fight goes on in the Iranian streets with both sides refusing to coalesce. Rallies for both sides were held on Tuesday. Touting a ban on public gatherings, opposition leaders have scheduled even more rallies in the coming days.

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