Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Arab Spring Series: Libyan Rebels and Healers

If you were to name the biggest foreign policy stories of 2011, the Arab Spring would top the list. The dominant story of the year began in Tunisia in December 2010 and resulted in government overthrow in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. Civil uprisings have taken place in Bahrain, Syria, and Yemen, and many more countries have experienced protests on varying levels. The geo-political implications of these events have drawn global attention, as has the role of social media in furthering social change.

Continuing our three-part in-depth exploration of the Arab Spring, the World Affairs Council is proud to present a panel of speakers who returned to Libya one year ago to participate in humanitarian efforts and to support the uprising against Gaddafi.

On February 29, 7-8:30pm, at the Swedish Cultural Center, Three Crowns Room, 1920 Dexter Av N, Seattle-area country nationals from Libya will share their stories from the front lines, where they took up arms and joined the rebel forces, or used their knowledge and skills to heal the wounds of war. Tickets are Member: $10, Non-member: $15, and Student: $10. Panelists:

Suehil Abdurrahman was born and raised in the Northwest by Libyan parents. He is currently a student at Eastern Washington University, majoring in education with a minor in history. In the beginning stages of the revolution in Libya, Suehil contributed to the effort through social networking and media outlets to get the spotlight on Libya. Soon after a no-fly zone was enacted over the skies of Libya, he made his way to Tunisia and helped with the humanitarian crisis that was developing on the southern Tunisian/western Libyan border, at the same time acting as a supply officer and logistician with the rebels in the western mountains. After arriving in Tripoli, Suehil was recruited to a squad investigating and arresting former regime officials.

Yousef Elberkawi was born in Benghazi, the city where the revolution began. He left home in 1981 to finish school in England, got a taste of freedom, and spoke out against Muammar Gaddafi. As a result, he was exiled from Libya for the next 30 years. During that time, he was a part of the opposition against Gaddafi and had been waiting for the revolution his entire life. He studied aircraft engineering, which brought him to Seattle. He joined HOPE in the US and did fundraising work to raise money for supplies like medical equipment to send back to Libya. He continued that work once the revolution began, but after 1 1/2 months he went back to Libya and saw his family for the first time in 30 years. He spent five weeks in Libya and visited the front while he was there. He now owns his own business and is married with two children.

Dr. Omar Reda is a Libyan-born psychiatrist who rushed to the aid of the opposition as an emergency physician and trauma counselor for overwhelmed medical staff and victims. He is currently Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Oregon Health and Sciences University. He earned his MD at Al-Arab Medical University in Libya and a Masters Certificate in Global Mental Health from Harvard Medical School. Since then, he has become a highly sought-after speaker and educator on the psychosocial impact of war in Libya and is an expert on psychoanalysis for disaster victims.

Mazin Ramadan worked as Deputy at the Oil and Finance Ministry for the National Transitional Council (NTC) in Libya. He went on to build and manage the Temporary Finance Mechanism (TFM) until December 2011. The TFM was set up by the international community to direct funds to support the humanitarian needs of the people of Libya, and at its peak held over a billion dollars which initiated and implemented projects vital to the socio-economic wellbeing of Libyans during the revolution and post-liberation. Prior to the revolution, Ramadan earned his Master's degree in Computer Science from Clemson University and founded several Seattle technology start-up companies.

Jamal Tarhuni was born in Tripoli, Libya and now resides in Oregon. He has made three trips to Libya since the uprising in Libya began in February 2011, distributing humanitarian aid in many Libyan cities during the war and after the country’s liberation. He is the leader of the Libyan Community Association of Oregon, which helped to raise tens of thousands of dollars for aid groups.

The question and answer session will be moderated by Mohamed A. El-Sharkawi. He is a professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington. Sharkawi, originally from Egypt, is extensively published and accredited in the academic and engineering community. He is a long time resident of Washington and highly active in the Muslim community of Seattle. This is the second event of a three-part series exploring the Arab Spring in depth.

The World Affairs Council’s Global Classroom will organize concurrent teacher professional development events with this series in support of teachers better able to educate their students about current global issues. The World Affairs Council is a non-partisan, non-profit organization which provides a forum for speakers representing diverse points of view. The opinions expressed by any and all speakers, presenters and/or guests at Council events are those of the speaker alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the World Affairs Council members, staff, Board of Trustees, or Advisory Council.

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