22 Feb 2011

Anxious wait for Libyans in NZ

9:08 pm on 22 February 2011

Libyans living in New Zealand are frantically trying to keep in touch with family and friends, anxious to see what will happen to the country's leader, Muammar Gaddafi.

After days of violent unrest in the eastern city of Benghazi, thousands of people have joined protests for the first time in the capital, Tripoli, Colonel Gaddafi's stronghold.

Parts of the Middle East and Northern Africa are experiencing a wave of pro-democracy protest, fuelled by the fall of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak on 11 February and long-time Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key is urging authorities in Libya and Bahrain to show restraint when dealing with popular protests.

One of the bloodiest revolts to convulse the Arab world appears to be seriously threatening Colonel Gaddafi's 42-year grip on power.

Khalifa Alhafi lives in Christchurch and has been keeping a close eye on what is happening by watching several international news channels and getting updates on the internet.

But he has not been able to get through to his family in North Africa since last week.

Mr Alhafi says he came to New Zealand to find peace and hopes that after four decades of military rule his family back home will soon get to experience that too.

"There is no freedom in Libya ... every single Libyan now wants Gaddafi to go - he and his children."

Parts of Libya 'already liberated'

Baha Mabruk and his wife are in constant contact with their family, ringing them every few hours. He says they have told him the area where they live, Misurata, has already been liberated from Colonel Gaddafi.

Mr Mabruk says relatives have told him people are out in the streets tooting car horns and that all military and security forces "are with the people of Libya now".

Mr Mubruk says he thinks Colonel Gaddafi will be gone in a matter of hours or days, but wants him to stay in the country and be accountable to the people.

Another New Zealand Libyan, who will not be named in case it would put her family at risk, feels anxious but hopeful about what is happening.

The woman has managed to get through to some of her family in Libya and fears for their safety. However, despite the bloodshed that has occurred since the demonstrations began, she feels proud of the Libyan people for taking a stand.

"At the end of the day, the Libyan people deserve freedom - they deserve what we have in New Zealand and they deserve basic human rights which they haven't had for many years."

What the Libyan people need now from other countries, including New Zealand, is support and to condemn the regime, she says.