Libya, Remembered – Bhenghazi, 17/02/2012.

Posted: February 15th, 2013

In June last year, I went to Libya to discover for myself Gadaffi’s legacy and its impact on post revolutionary Libya.The anniversary approaches on 17/02/2012 for the beginning of the revolution in Benghazi; and   it seems like a good time to shown the work again – to remember the courage and loss of the Libyan people.

Here  are the pictures , a link to the full body of work, and an explanation of the motivation behind the work:

Out of all the countries in the Arab spring Libya for me seemed the most interesting.  There was something inspiring and clean cut about the way the people removed such a brutal dictator whilst  introducing democracy and keeping control of the revolution ; side stepping the drift into insurgency ( as has happened in Syria).

In Libya the whole country it seems is behind the process of democracy. After the recent, and highly regrettable, killing of the American ambassador , 30 000 people came on to the streets to remove the militias allied to Islamic extremism deemed responsible. This truly is a popular Revolution.

However, although we have heard much about the Islamic extremists how many people know  about this huge  popular response to extremism  days later.

The nature of the news machine is to report the most dramatic, the most inflammatory stories if you like. My personal response to this is, and has always been to think  ‘there has to be a more complex and honest way to report on and understand a situation’.

I reported in my introduction:

“Our perceptions of Libya are constricted by a news industry that focuses on the most dramatic events – the fighting and global strategy. However, it’s only by talking to the individuals intimately involved with the revolution, that we can truly see the big picture and understand the legacy of Muammar Gaddafi.

So driven partly by my fascination with Libya and partly by the urge to tell stories in a less sensational manner I felt compelled to visit Libya.

I was first inspired to work like this in Kosovo and have since been to Afghanistan and Haiti, ( working in a similar way.

Of course there are many difficulties still in Libya as it recovers not just from revolution but 42 years of a brutal dictatorship.  While I was in Libya there was a gun battle outside my hotel, and the airport hijacked by a disgruntled militia (more of this on my earlier blogs).  Shocking as this is, it was in no way indicative of my lasting impression of Libya.

I met some truly amazing people, such as the lawyer, turned soldier, turned lawyer Ghelaio who fought to protect his family and is now fighting for a truly free Libya or the 15 female revolutionaries in Tajoura who risked their, lives fighting for freedom.

When every house hold has a gun, and easy access to grenades its not surprising that trouble happens, but what I was always amazed by was how little trouble there was. This is a country with problems but also of moderation.  For the most part the Libyans were friendly, and optimistic that there would be a better life for them and their country men.

I shot on film, taking my time, and interviewed people, sometimes at length. I felt it was also important to document and pay tribute to the ordinary people involved in extraordinary events and to report on their tragedy, courage and stoicism not to mention other unexpected qualities such as  moderation and tolerance.

Often for the most part people seemed grateful that they could at last speak openly, and people were always friendly.

My one regret was I didn’t get to see the fabulous Roman city outside Tripoli. I’m betting if I return to Libya in a few years or so it will be along with thousands of tourists enjoying a peaceful country with an amazing history.


Libya: ‘Talking About A Revolution’

Posted: August 23rd, 2012

So after what seems like an eternity of transcribing interviews; far to many conversations with retouchers about removing dust marks on film scans; and a crash course in Adobe Indesign I am finally showing my feature from Libya in pdf form.  Anyone  who would like a copy please get in touch, ( in the meantime here is a taster. The project  explores the legacy left by the revolution and Gadaffi’s dictatorship and pays tribute to the suffering and courage  of the extraordinary people of Libya.


Libya, reposted

Posted: July 29th, 2012

So it’s 12.30 at night and I can’t sleep – not because of the usual reasons: traffic , insomnia,  noisy neighbours, but because there is a guy outside shouting very angrily and he has been there  ever since he fired his AK47 off  into the kebab shop opposite my hotel 30 minutes ago, and I’m trying to remember if the doors to my hotel are glass or not.


In case you’re wondering I’m not in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire where the only thing one has to worry about is whether someone is going to steal your parking space or not , I’m in Tripoli, Libya where there’s a lot more to be worried about.  ( Ok so it’s gone very quiet now – or has it? No there’s shooting still but not immediately outside).


The thing is about this town and country is that at times,  it can feel deceptively charming,  peaceful  even. In day time Tripoli,  there is a  feel in places, especially near me in Martyr  Square, of  a bustling, sophisticated metropolis.  People are friendly, they want to tell their stories, there is shopping and café living.  But there is a dark and angry flip side, a violence that is there, just beneath the surface.


According to the quietly spoken hotel concierge, the man with the gun was drunk and trying to catch/kill the guy in the kebab shop for whatever reason. And there are many possible reasons: he could have been a pro-Gadaffi secret policeman hiding his murderous past, or maybe he served him a dodgy kebab and gave him a stomach upset.


When every man has a gun (thank God, including the quietly spoken concierge) then things like this will happen, as I am frequently told. Anyway the military are here now so I think that’s good.


It is worth pointing out however that this a country of extremes, and where there are stories of violence there are also stories of courage and strength. Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting some (15 actually) of the Tajoura female resistance –  charming and elegant, as they are brave. (The shooting is starting again, great,  brilliant! There’s a full scale gun battle outside my hotel , including automatic fire) . This was organized by the Tajoura media department ( no not the gun battle the line up of classy Libyan women) so I couldn’t help thinking it was a masterstroke in PR when I was introduced to 15 highly educated, rather beautiful,  women of Tajoura who risked their lives during the Ghadaffi regime. They are female revolutionaries if you will.


There were lawyers, teachers, doctors and dentists.  They told me that the simple act of distributing an anti Ghadaffi flyer ( or broadcasting an anti Ghadaffi video as they have done)  would have meant arrest, and after arrest , they told me , would come torture ( the regime would want to see if they could  extract information from you).


I wanted to come out to Libya to see for myself something of what was happening before and during the revolution and to see what kind of future there is for Libya. Can they wean themselves off the brutalitly of the iron fist of Ghadaffi, or will they be inspired by western influences and the calls of companies like Human Rights Watch to clean up their act? According to HRW, Libya recently “ has passed some shockingly bad laws, mimicking Qaddafi laws criminalizing political dissent and granting blanket immunity to any crimes committed in “support” of the revolution.”  So that is not a good sign, and until they get some of these guns off the street things are going to be unstable at the very least for some time to come .


But still the women of Tajoura give me hope, and the strength of the family unit is inspiring as well. Families are close. This gave them the strength to rid  them selves of Ghadaffi and also  helped them show much restraint since. This country is dangerous but considering what has happened out here, some  credit should be attributed to the fact the place is not shooting itself up like Iraq for example.



worker photographed through the bullet hole , made the previous night when a disgruntled Libyan decided to shootup his kebab shop


The shooting eventually stops ,and the following morning I discover what happened. The guy who came with a group of his mates had apparently been drinking ( this is fortunately quite rare as it’s illegal out here) . He was upset over an earlier detention and came to make a point . The owner of the kebab shop being high up in the military, had something to do with it so he decided to shoot his shop up, I don’t think there was an intention to harm, but it’s just the way it is out here right now –  I need to make a point, how do I do it?

On the day I arrived my flight had been diverted as the the international airport had been closed down by a brigade from Tahouni  doing pretty much the same thing.  Well the elections are coming soon and we have to hope the influence of democracy will change this mind set.


On a positive note yesterday I saw the Tahouni  group who earlier had closed down the airport  with their anti-aircraft guns, protesting outside the police station , peacefully.  Maybe things will move on quicker than expected.