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Panel: Middle East countries are unique
Arabic professor says Libyans want 'democracy, justice and dignity'
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A panel at North Georgia College & State University allowed around 100 audience members the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding Monday night of what's really going on in the Middle East, which is different from country to country.

"What we see is for public consumption, but it doesn't get to the heart of the issue," said Anna Rulska, assistant professor of political science and moderator of the panel.

The panel, which focused on Libya, was a follow up of one held about a month ago, before the United Nations issued the "No Fly Zone" resolution over the country.

Audience member Whitney Followell, 21, of Dahlonega attended both the first and second panel. Because of the panelists she learned to separate Libya's conflict from other Middle Eastern countries and their issues.

"They clarified to me that we can't compare Libya to Iraq, Afghanistan or Egypt or Tunisia," she said. "It's unique, and we have to take that into consideration."

Panelists said part of the error of the western civilization is its tendency to compare and treat all countries in the Middle East the same.

Western politicians also compare the wrong the things, panelists said, like dictatorship and democracy, when there is no democracy in the Middle East, and say the eastern part of Libya is fighting the western part.

"It's not a struggle between regions, it's a struggle between people and their own leader," said Salem Salem, professor of Arabic who is from Libya.

The situation has become more complicated now that the United Nations and other countries are involved, said political science professor Jon Miner.

While everyone agrees on the goals of humanitarianism and promotion of democracy in Libya, figuring out how to accomplish that is a difficult task.

"It's really difficult to get everyone to agree on what's the best way to pursue (these goals)," Miner said.

And the while the international community agrees that Libya's leader Moammar Gadhafi has got to go, no one is sure how that's going to happen.

"How is Gadhafi going to be removed? It's a puzzle, honestly," history professor Tim May said.

Audience member Stu Batchelder, 56, of Dahlonega suggested the US stop buying oil to take the power out of dictators' hands.

"If we could just (turn off) the oil faucet over there, then it would eliminate the power the dictators have," he said.

Miner said a country does not have to be oil-rich to be oppressive, and Salem said oil was a vital export.

"What are we going to with the oil? We're not going to drink it," Salem said, and the audience laughed.

Salem went on to say if the money was shared among the people and not Gadhafi, the country would be well-off.

"I think oil will never be an obstacle for having democracy in the Middle East," he said, "I think it can be one of the best foundations for having democracy."

Many audience members wanted to know what will happen after Gadhafi either steps down or is removed. They wondered if Libya will actually follow through with a democracy or if they will become susceptible to terrorist organizations like al-Qaida.

Arabic professor Abdeslam El Farri noted there are different versions of democracy and it's up to Libyans to figure out what works best.

"Don't think that the democracy here will be copied in Libya, because there are many other factors," he said.

Panelists agreed it was important for Libya to have ownership over new government, whenever and however it is created.

"We have to have faith in the Libyan people to create something successful for them, and we have to have patience for them," Miner said.

Salem said Libyans are not that different from everyone else.

"What are the differences between the Libyan people's dreams and yours? Nothing," Salem said, "They want democracy, justice and dignity."

 

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