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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

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Taking it to the streets for Libyan people


The turmoil and ongoing battle for control over Libya hit home for a group of UH students, and it has driven them to take action.

Yasmeen Esaklul, a junior double majoring in communication sciences and disorders and liberal studies, has taken action into her own hands by organizing protests every Sunday at the intersection of Westheimer and Post Oak in support of liberating Libya from Muammar Gaddafi.

“We saw what was happening in Libya and we really wanted to protest. We were waiting on someone in the community to put it together — there is a very large Libyan community here,” Esaklul said. “We thought that the men would put something together but they didn’t, so the three of us decided that we would.”

Esaklul, along with UH student Hadeel Bunkheila and Nadeen Mustafa, a University of St. Thomas student, set up Libyans for Liberty, a Facebook group which serves as the source for all the latest news and updates on events and protests.

In addition to posting on the group page, Esaklul reaches out to the local media before every protest. She said that she wants to expand the coverage of the events both abroad and domestically.

“Every time we have a protest, we send out another email to the media with more information about why we’re protesting and what our goal is by protesting,” Esaklul said. “This past Sunday, we had every single local television station come out and cover us, which was really amazing.”

Bunkheila, a freshman double majoring in finance and economics, received upsetting phone calls from relatives living in Libya and had enough. She decided to give her community a voice; she wanted to give her community hope.

“The first few days of the revolution, (Libyans) were in the dark, cut off from the Internet and telephone,” Bunkheila said. “Not only were they fighting with what they could find on the ground, like stones and sticks, but they were forced to broadcast their own revolution.”

Bunkheila was saddened by the lack of attention given to the revolution in its first few days, but is also happy that Libyans finally stood up against Gaddafi’s “tyrannical regime.”

The experience has empowered her, and she has developed a new outlook on her ability to create change.

Bunkheila is grateful for social networking and the underground network that provides her family and friends with a limited peace of mind.

This underground network comes at a cost, however, and Bunkheila cites the death of Mohammed Nabbous, an amateur journalist who was shot by a sniper due to his role in recording and uploading videos showcasing the revolution.

Esaklul is currently working with Islamic Relief, an organization that organizes developmental projects and emergency relief projects, to host a future fundraising dinner.

Esaklul is happy with the progress made and attributes it to the support she and her supporters have received. US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has sent staff members to support at the protest, and Texas Sen. Rodney Ellis has also expressed his support.

“Just looking at the local reaction we can see the difference,” Esaklul said. “We’re making an impact.”

The group’s next protest is scheduled from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the intersection of Westheimer and Post Oak. The protests are scheduled to continue every Sunday until Gaddafi is removed from power.

“It is up to us,” Bunkheila said. “Those who have been blessed with the freedom to speak up, to voice their concerns and shed light on the conditions in Libya — both past and present.”


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