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Dallas Organizations Educate Locals on Middle East Revolts

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By Janan Buisier

Tunisia: nearly 300 killed from December 2010- January 2011. Egypt: about 800 killed from January 2011- February 2011.  Libya: thousands killed from February 2011- October 2011, Syria: almost a million killed from March 2011- present.

Civilians in the Middle East have been protesting in hopes of overthrowing their governments. While the violence had slowed in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, some continue to fight for freedom in Syria. The uprising in each country has resulted in a violent response from the national government. Despite the so- called Arab Spring unrest in The Middle East for almost a year and a half, many Dallas residents are finding it hard to relate or stay up to date, with the issues occurring in the region.

“I try to keep up as much as I can,” said SMU freshman Aarol Parks. “I don’t really have a lot of time.”

Organizations in Dallas are stepping up to help educate those of us far away from the action by connecting with Arab Americans, holding rallies, writing letters to legislators and holding public information sessions. Because of the work of these international organizations, information about important events and issues in the Middle East is being assimilated to the Dallas community and helping bridge the gap between cultures, races, and religions .  These efforts are bridging the gap between cultures, races and religions, say organization officials.

“As we’re seeing wars abroad, it only makes sense that we work to advocate their end as expeditiously as possible,” said Kelli Obazee, executive director of the Dallas Peace Center , an anti-war, non-violent organization located on Cedar Springs Road.

Obazee said that the center works with congressional members through awareness campaigns and by building local knowledge. The center helps prepare groups to advocate on behalf of their issues in addition to offering coalition support to join them. They also do conduct work on the street; helping plan protests in Dallas.

The center works through research, dialogue, education, action and advocacy. All of these components are designed to reach out to the local community to educate them about the atrocities abroad, and their impact at home, said Obazee.

The Dallas Peace Center has built strong affiliations with faith-based organizations such as North Haven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Masjid- Al-Islam, a mosque also located in Dallas, and Richardson Mosque. It has also partnered with Texas Coalition for Free Syria, the local Egyptian community and the local Libyan community to offer one of the first educational panels. The event was used to educate Dallas locals about what is taking place and why it was taking place, said Obazee.

Egyptians underwent their first elections since the revolution in July of 2012. Mohamed Morsi was elected as president and promised to improve the life of every Egyptian.  A sector of the country’s reformed constitution circulated the country, and resulted in the recent demonstrations in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt. The final draft of the constitution is expected to be released soon.

In August of 2012, Libya elected Mohammed Magarief as its new president. The country continues to suffer from battles between rival militias that kill civilians.

The Middle East Peace Committee (MEPC) is one of Dallas Peace Center’s many committees. It has reached out to the Arab-American community in Dallas to help contribute to their mission, which is to stop violence and bring peace to the Middle East.

Co-chair of MEPC, Aftab Siddiqui, said the organization has spread awareness about the current events in the Middle East in a number of ways.

“We went out and had some events. We had a rally and we had a prayer session for all of these new emerging Arab spring countries,” Siddiqui said.

When the violence erupted in Libya and Syria, the MEPC gathered individuals from both countries, brought them to congressional offices and held local press conferences.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) conducted a rally for Syria in Dallas. The funds that the organization collected were donated to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on behalf of the Syrian children. UNICEF works for children’s rights: their survival, development and protection (unicef.org).

“We have conducted a walk for the Syrian children, specifically for the humanitarian event,” said the local Dallas CAIR president, Amina Rad.

CAIR is an Islamic body that focuses on presenting an accurate picture of Islam to America by breaking cultural, racial and religious barriers in hopes of working together to achieve peace and justice, Rad said.

Individuals from Iran, Iraq and many other Middle Eastern countries are currently fleeing to Syria to either fight with the rebels or the current regime. Civilians continue to die and the country’s now-turned civil war is far from over.

The Dallas Peace Center continues to help prepare people to advocate on behalf of their issues, in addition to offering coalition support to join them, said Obazee. Their goal is to unite those of Middle Eastern descent with the entire Dallas Community to contribute and get involved.

“We bring a diverse group of individuals from youth, to those in their eighties, from African American, to Latino, to white. For all different religious backgrounds to come and advocate on these particular issues,” said Obazee.

Sawsan Gharib is a spokesperson for the 6 April USA, an Egyptian-American organization. Gharib used the power of social media to communicate with activists in Egypt long before the revolution started. When the government blocked the Internet during the revolution, she decided to connect with activists in Egypt through dial-up Internet. She was committed to spreading awareness throughout Dallas and the world about the current events in Egypt.

“I decided to be the voice that channels what pieces of news I can get from Egypt and send it all over the world via Internet, ” said Gharib.

 

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