“Libyans united will never be defeated,” yelled the protestors.
“Gaddafi, criminal,” they chanted.
Just another Saturday in downtown Regina.
While it may sound like a scene more familiar to northern Africa, on Saturday, Feb. 26, the Queen City’s citizens came out to show their support for their Libyan brothers and sisters. Those marching began their stand at city hall, and marched down Victoria Ave.
This wasn’t the first rally against Libya’s dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, that the city has seen. Supporters for the cause had braved the minus 20 degree weather the previous weekend. And this showing will not be the last, either.
“We will meet next week, same time,” a voice boomed over the crowd. “Even if it’s a celebration, we still meet.”
Eman Abdulhadi has been at both rallies. She’s noticed that the movement seems to be gathering some steam. “This time, there’s more people. So, I hope awareness is getting out, and more people are noticing what’s going on. Hopefully, it’ll put pressure on the Canadian government to say something.”
It is over 7,000 kilometres away, yet the citizens in Regina feel a connection to those struggling under Gaddafi’s over-40-year reign. While it’s something that pleases Abdulhadi, she is not surprised by it and credits the strong presence of her culture.
“I know the Libyan community tries to put itself into every aspect of Canadian culture,” she explained. “Whether its sports, whether it’s debate, whether it’s anything … I think people see that, and that’s why they’re concerned for us and why they’re concerned for our families back home.”
While this show of solidarity may seem almost common to those accustomed to free speech, for members of the rally it was a new – and brave – step.
Mona Aboudheir knows the pressure the Muslim community has felt to stay quiet. Even after living here for almost two decades, her family was never comfortable speaking out against Gaddafi.
“Until now, parents would say, ‘Do not say anything opposing the Gaddafi regime,’ because that’s how powerful he was for so long. He’s instilled that fear into people even when they’re away from the country.”
The world has been changing quickly. Aboudhier credits movements started in Tunisia. She said she believes the effect snowballed from there.
“That one brave nation started a domino effect and everyone has found that spirit in them to say, ‘This is enough – we’re better than this and we have to stand up.’ And the world is answering their call.”
The long line of people marching in front of the Cornwall Centre on Saturday suggests action surrounding Libya’s tense political situation is gaining coverage and recognition in Canada. One reason could be that the issues are connecting people, past race or creed.
“Forget if you’re Muslim, forget if you’re Libyan, forget if you’re Arab. They’re human beings. If that person is a human being living in Libya and you’re a human being living here, why do you get the benefits that you have and they don’t?” Aboudhier asked. “We all deserve the simple thing of wanting to have freedom in this world.”
The rally ended with those involved meeting again at city hall. Signs that read “Free Libya” and “Democratic Reform” waved alongside flags of red, black, and green. People chanted, hugged, danced, and sang together. Whatever power Gaddafi had held that had kept people silent for so long had obviously been broken.
Aboudhier agreed, “The fear is gone. From the very first person who stood up and told Gaddafi to get down.”