For anybody who works in News 2011 was all about the Arab Spring. For me that meant Libya. In May 2011 myself and colleague Andrew Harding were dispatched to Benghazi to cover the ongoing conflict between the Freedom Fighters and Gadaffi loyalists who still controlled much of the country.
After kicking our heels for a week we finally managed to negotiate places on board a fishing trawler that was taking supplies into the besieged city of Misrata. It was a rickety old wooden boat that was commanded by a grizzled, Russian speaking Captain. The journey lasted for thirty six hours and we had to sleep on deck, crammed in alongside a group of young fighters.
Misrata had become a symbol of the bravery and toughness of the Libyan Freedom fighters and we arrived just as they were beginning to break the siege. Not long before our arrival two well known and extremely talented Photojournalists had been killed in the bitter fighting along Tripoli street and so we approached the front lines with extra care, aware of the risks we were taking.
Our first film captured the suffering and hope of the Misratan’s.
For a city that had been subjected to terrible bombardment there was still a surprising amount of functioning infrastructure. The hotels had closed but we managed to secure a space in an abandoned office block that we used as our bedroom and edit suite – it even had working Wi-fi!
We spent over a week in the city, visiting the front lines, prisons and graveyards. It was a fascinating and terrifying time but also an uplifting one. The Misratan fighters were brave, proud men who were always friendly and courteous.
If you want to read more about the battle then Wikipedia has a good overview and timeline here.
The team and I returned to Libya in September 2011, just after Ghadaffi had abandoned Tripoli and made a dash for Sirte. Things were calmer than our last visit to the country but sporadic fighting still continued around some scattered towns and cities. We made the following film on the edge of Bani Walid. . .A Gadaffi strong hold that didn’t fall to the National Transitional Council forces until October.
We returned to Tripoli and visited the Bab al-Azizia – Gadaffi’s former compound that had now become a battered tourist attraction. It was fascinating to explore his old house and the tunnels that ran for miles underneath. . .
I also spent a morning at the ancient ruins of Leptis Magna and made this self authored film that ran on BBC World
I haven’t returned to Libya since September 2011 but I would like to go back soon. The attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi left me numb and unable to understand how the most welcoming place I have been could have descended to such lows. Fingers crossed that the country will steer clear of further violence.