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Mideast protesters share stories with students of blood, kisses

Joe Podelco / Photo editor

Being caught up in a revolution can certainly take a toll.

“I did not get any sleep,” said Mounir Benzegala, a professional basketball player in Tripoli, Libya, who is from Ohio. “There were gunshots going all night long.”

Benzegala said he remembers hiding in his basketball team’s sports complex, only a few kilometers from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s estate. He said he was afraid if he left, he would be killed.

Several people who witnessed the Egyptian or Libyan uprisings shared their firsthand experiences with more than 100 people in the Ohio Union on Friday at an event sponsored by The Freedom Committee called “Report Back From the Land of the Free.”

Despite the violence around them, the speakers said hopes for a freer homeland occupied their minds.

“We are not rebels,” said Shahrazad Kablan, an English as a Second Language teacher at Mason High School in Mason, Ohio, and Libyan protest supporter. “It’s the whole country that wants to get rid of the regime.”

Kablan said Gadhafi’s technique on quelling the uprising could be simplified.

“Either I rule or you die,” Kablan said.

The United Nations said that by Feb. 28, the death toll in Tripoli alone could have exceeded 1,000.

The Egyptian revolution, which began at the end of January, has resulted in more than 300 deaths and 5,000 injuries, according to The Associated Press.

Both sides of the Libyan revolution are united and strong, Kablan said.

“This (the Libyan revolution) will get a lot bloodier,” Kablan said. “People are choosing to die.”

Mohamed Soltan, a fourth-year in economics, went to Egypt to protest.

“The ideological barriers have been broken forever,” Soltan said. “I felt and tasted freedom.”

Mohamed Ghany, 30, said he was not very involved in his Muslim community in Columbus until he was spiritually called to go to Egypt. Ghany and Soltan traveled to Egypt together.

Ghany said Egypt’s Tahrir Square felt like a war zone. He said Egypt as a whole felt sad, but this could change.

“There’s the wound that’s been bleeding for 30 years,” Soltan said. “And now it’s nothing.”

The unity and kindness of the Egyptian people was unmatched, Soltan said.

“You bumped into someone and they kissed your cheek,” Soltan said. “The people made the experience worth it.”

Ghany recreated a picture of a beautiful 15-year-old girl he saw dead in the street, bludgeoned with a rock.

Soltan remembered running through the streets, crying out in the name of freedom, proud to be an Egyptian.

Soltan said he prayed and never felt closer to God. 

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