North Texas Demonstrators: "Down With Dictators"

Dallas demonstrations support freedom in Mideast

By Scott Gordon
|  Sunday, Feb 20, 2011  |  Updated 11:02 PM CDT
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Chanting “down with dictators,” North Texans from Iran and Libya rallied in Dallas on Sunday to push for freedom in their homelands.

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Chanting “down with dictators,” North Texans from Iran and Libya rallied in Dallas on Sunday to push for freedom in their homelands.

Separate demonstrations were held across the street from each other in Dealey Plaza.

An Iranian group tore up photos of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, threw them on the ground and stomped on them.

Libyan protesters called for the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi and yelled, “free Libya” and “down with Gadhafi.”

The families and friends they're supporting may be thousands of miles away, but in an Internet-connected world, they couldn't be closer.

Almost instantly, several demonstrators received tweets from friends back in Libya as they marched in Dallas.

"It says, 'Libyan people have encircled one of the headquarters of Gadhafi in Tripoli,'” one man said, translating a Tweet from Arabic.

"With this Twitter and Facebook, people are very updated, and they know that sooner or later, all these dictators in the Middle East are going to go away,” said Reza Alizabeh, a leader of the Iranian protest.

In Iran, the government has limited access to the Internet and heavily armed police have tried to restrict people from gathering.

Security forces loyal to Libya's Moammar Gadhafi unleashed heavy gunfire Sunday on thousands marching in a rebellious eastern city, cutting down mourners trying to bury victims in a bloody cycle of violence that has killed more than 200 people in the fiercest crackdown on the uprisings in the Arab world.

Anti-government protests that began with uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have spread around the region to Bahrain in the Gulf, impoverished Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula, Tunisia's North African neighbors -- Libya, Algeria, Morocco -- and outside the Middle East to places including the East African nation of Djibouti and even China.

The demonstrators in North Texas maintain close ties to their home countries, even though some of them have lived in the United States for most of their lives. A few of the demonstrators have never had the opportunity to visit their homelands despite close family connections.

When asked where she’s from, Saddyna Belmashkan answers, “Fort Worth.”

The daughter of immigrants from Mexico and Libya graduated from Texas Christian University  two years ago, speaks perfect English and works at her father's used car business in North Fort Worth.

"It's not even the fact that these people are Libyan and I'm Libyan, that they're Arab and I'm Arab, that they're Muslim and I'm Muslim,” she said. “They're humans.”

Belmashkan said she has visited Libya frequently and has seen how poorly the government treats the people.

Hadi Jawad, who sells forklifts in Euless, came to the United States from Pakistan in 1972. He said he came to the demonstration to support his Arab friends.

"Democracy is breaking out in the Middle East,” he said. “What a blessing! Without an invasion, without any guns, without any U.S. airplanes dropping bombs, democracy is coming to the Middle East."

Malick Warshafana, who led the crowd in chants in Arabic, noted that the situation in his home country of Libya is still unfolding.

In Libya, Moammar Gadhafi’s son addressed the nation on television, claiming his father still has the army’s support and vowing to “fight until the last man, the last woman and the last bullet.”

Some reports circulating on the Internet suggested the government had lost control in key parts of the country, including Libya’s second-largest city. International journalists have not been allowed to report from inside Libya.

"Everybody is afraid for their lives over there,” Warshafana said. “There's no democracy. There's no change. We want a democratic state... We want everything that America has to offer over there."

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