Members of the university chapter of STAND, an anti-genocide coalition, are hoping to spark a groundswell of campus support for the Libyan uprising.

Though STAND was founded to protest genocide in Darfur, the Georgetown chapter has now diverted its attention to the violent unrest sweeping through Libya in protest of longtime leader Moammar el-Qaddafi.

“Raising awareness is the first thing that needs to happen,” club member Sarah Marie Ryan (COL ’11) said. “Before you can do the advocacy, you need to increase awareness.”

The group had planned to have a protest in Red Square on Monday, but the inclement weather forced a change in location to the Leavey Center. The group is enlisting students to sign a petition, sponsored by its parent organization the Genocide Intervention Network, to Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The petition asks Rice to support a no-fly zone over Libya, preventing possible air strikes on protesters.

Additionally, a coalition of students from Georgetown, The George Washington, American and Catholic Universities participated in a joint rally outside the U.S. State Department on Friday.

Daniel Solomon (SFS ’13), national advocacy coordinator for STAND and one of the organizers of the protest, said he hoped it made the campaign more visible.

“We are trying to augment the behind-the-scenes campaigning,” Solomon said. “We want to put a public face on the grassroots effort.”

Ryan and Bridget O’Loughlin (SFS ’11) agreed that STAND was emboldened by the actions taken by the United States and U.N. Security Council over the weekend.

“I’ve been impressed with the speed and the unity of the international community and the U.N.” O’Loughlin said.

The U.N. Security Council issued economic sanctions against the Libyan government at its meeting Saturday.  Its member states also agreed to investigate possible human rights violations and war crimes committed by the Libyan government during the popular protests.

“I feel like something will happen sooner rather than later, because now we have the entire international community against [Qaddafi],” Ryan said.

Libya is one of a group of nations in the Middle East — including Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Algeria, Iraq and Yemen — that have experienced political upheaval in recent weeks.

In early February, protests opposing Qaddafi’s autocratic rule emerged in the country’s coastal city of Benghazi and quickly spread to other urban centers and the capital city of Tripoli.

Qaddafi’s refusal to step down from the seat of power has spurred violence between government forces and the demonstrators.

Qaddafi has been a hot button issue at Georgetown in the past.  In 2009, the controversial leader addressed students in a live video speech sponsored by the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. The invitation to speak was marked by the protest from a former World Bank official who argued that the lecture legitimized Qaddafi’s past abuses of power. In addition, families of the victims of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 asked that the event be cancelled.  Ultimately, the event continued as planned without major disruption.

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