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Libyans in US Welcome 'No-Fly' Zone

People look at weapons belonging to forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, destroyed by a coalition air strike, along a road between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah, March 23, 2011

As international forces intervene to quell attacks by leader Moammar Gadhafi on his people, VOA’s JulieAnn McKellogg spoke with Libyans in the United States, who have been demonstrating for support from world powers for weeks.

International forces are flying over Libya, enforcing the United Nations issued "no-fly" zone. Meanwhile, Gadhafi forces continue to pound targets near the capital, Tripoli.

Activist Aly Abuzaakouk says he is losing sleep at night, trying to get in touch with family and friends in Libya. "It is a massacre and it is a catastrophe there. The services of water and electricity have been cut for weeks now, and the situation is so dire," he said.

Najla, a graduate student in Boston, says she has not been able to reach loved ones in the rebel-stronghold of Benghazi in a couple of weeks. Najla only gives her first name for fear of her family’s safety in Tripoli. "I know everybody got relief from the intervention from the international community, especially in Benghazi. But they are so scared because the longer the crisis lasts, the more uncertainty, we do not know what will happen," she said.

Abuzaakouk is the executive director of the Libya Forum for Human and Political Development. Last time VOA spoke with him, he emphasized Libyans wanted the international community to take a stand against Col. Gadhafi. Today, he says the Libyan people welcome the "no-fly" zone. "With the support of the United Nation forces, I think, we feel the world did not let us down," he said.

But Libyans in the United States say they and their loved ones back home are still holding out for one thing, Col. Gadhafi to be gone.

Abuzaakouk and others agree with U.S. President Barack Obama that international forces should not be the ones to do it. "The Libyans want to have this honor of getting rid of Gadhafi. Because getting rid of Gadhafi is not an American issue, it is a Libyan issue," he said.

We first met activist Kadija Sherif at a rally in Washington D.C. She was leading crowds of demonstrators in chants. She made it clear then she was always in opposition to Col. Gadhafi. She still wants to see him go, and also believes Libyans should do it. "We want to have the privilege of taking him down," she said.

But Najla says Libya can not wait for pro-democracy forces to take down Col. Gadhafi because people are being killed. "If they (pro-democracy forces) cannot, we cannot just stand and say 'Ok, we can do it like next month or next year,'" she said.

And waiting is not what these Libyan Americans are doing. Sherif's son, Fadi Tarapolsi, has joined his mother at rallies almost every day since the protests started. And he too says he wants to give the Libyan people a voice until Col. Gadhafi is gone. "We are getting a little bit tired, but when we think about it, the people that are being killed over there, they are really dying for my freedom. They are dying so that I can go home as a free man one day without any fear of Gadhafi," he said.

And his mother agrees. "I will not be tired. I will do anything to free my country. I will do anything to make Gadhafi step down," she said.

Col. Gadhafi vowed he will be victorious over rebel fighters and international forces. He told supporters from his compound in Tripoli he is ready for a battle, short term or long term.