Front Lines of the Libyan Revolution (A Documentary)

Uploaded by vice on 27.07.2012


SHANE: We just got into rebel controlled Libya.
This is a checkpoint the rebels are controlling.
They're controlling more and more and more to Libya with
each passing day.
We're just wondering when they're going to actually get
to Tripoli.

SHANE: They left the army and joined the revolution.

SHANE: Where they worried if Gaddafi won they would get in
a lot of trouble?

SHANE: He's a very courageous man.

SHANE: Like most journalists, I'd been fascinated by Libya
for a long time.
While Gaddafi was in power, it was much like North Korea- a
hermit-like Stalinist cult of personality state, with an
absolute dictator at it's head.
To get in was extremely difficult.
SHANE: In 2010, after years of trying, I managed to wrangle
an invitation to a youth conference there.
We didn't really care about the event itself.
But we wanted to talk to people on the street, and see
what was really happening inside of Libya, and how it
was affected by Gaddafi's brutal regime.
But very shortly after we got there, we were arrested for
sightseeing without our minders, put under house
arrest, and repeatedly threatened with jail.
CAMERAMAN: Was that a knock?
If they ask me why I'm shooting I'm going to say this
is evidence just in case something happens to us.
SHANE: Oh that's good.
They'll take our fucking tapes.
Don't come here.
Don't ever come here.
They finally let us out on the day before we were supposed to
fly, but only with two secret police minders, who wouldn't
be on camera, and one youth guy who was very, very freaky.


We finally got out of Libya in November of 2010.
And this was Libya only three months later, in February.

SHANE: I didn't see Arab Spring coming, not a lot of
people did.
But I especially didn't see it happening in Libya, because
Gaddafi had such a stranglehold of
fear over the country.
But unlike Egypt and Tunisia, which were largely peaceful
protests, Gaddafi wouldn't back down, and soon began
killing his own people.
SHANE: Then it exploded into a full fledged revolution, with
Gaddafi, his army, sub-Saharan mercenaries, and his arsenal
on one side, and citizens turned rebels with whatever
weapons they could find on the other.
SHANE: Surprisingly, Libya had become the tip of the spear of
the Arab revolution.
And we had to go back to see for ourselves what was
happening, and to talk to the rebels who had shocked the
world by opposing their dictator.
SHANE: So in July of 2011, at the height of the conflict, we
headed to the front lines, which were located about 200
kilometers east of Tripoli, in the port city of Misrata.
The problem was getting to Misrata was not easy.
NATO had imposed a no fly zone over Libya, as a way to help
the rebels.
So the only way into the country was to actually fly to
Cairo, in Egypt, then drive 20 hours across the Sahara Desert
to the border.
Once there, you had to wait for the rebels to come across,
and then bring you over.
After that, you had to drive another 15 hours to Benghazi,
the rebel capital where, if you were lucky, you could
hitchhike onto a boat, which was the only way
in or out of Misrata.

As we drove through Benghazi, it was hard to believe that
this was where the revolution had started.
Fisherman's were still fishing.
The electricity was on.
People were working.
It seemed amazing to me how normally people were going
about their daily lives [INAUDIBLE] the fighting here
had just recently ended.
But Misrata was another story.
There was still heavy fighting there.
It was completely surrounded by Gaddafi's troops.
So the few ships the rebels could muster were the only way
to supply the city.
SHANE: We finally got to the port, where we met Captain
Ali, the harbor master, who promised to help us get on one
of the rare boats into Misrata.
Is this the ship?
CAPTAIN ALI: Yes, that's the one.
SHANE: So this ship just arrived.
SHANE: And now it's going to turn right around and go back.
SHANE: And what are they going to load onto the ship?
CAPTAIN ALI: They are loading food, medical assistance.

SHANE: This is the lifeline.
The only lifeline to Misrata is from
this ship from Benghazi.
CAPTAIN ALI: Yes, that's the only one.
SHANE: And is there a lot of fighting in Misrata right now?
CAPTAIN ALI: Yes, right now, yes.
SHANE: And the rebels are trying to
push towards Tripoli?
CAPTAIN ALI: They are pushing towards, not trying.
I We are pushing towards Tripoli.
SHANE: And aren't you worried for being a rebel, that--
No way.
Because I will not allow him to catch me alive.
CAPTAIN ALI: Either we meet in Tripoli or we meet in Heaven.
SHANE: So it's either victory or death.
CAPTAIN ALI: Yes, either victory or death.
There is no other solution.
No retreat, no surrender.
SHANE: And what do the people here think of Gaddafi?
SHANE: He is the father of the devil, not
the son of the devil.
The devil is ashamed of what he's doing now to Libya.
We already know that he is crazy, but we never thought
that he would do this harm to us.

SHANE: Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, or the brother
leader, as he likes to be called, is a textbook
tyrannical dictator.
In fact, he's possibly the worst
despot in recent history.
In his 40 year reign, he's been both
ruthless and eccentric.
He publicly hangs dissenters at home, and he hunts down
those that escape abroad.
And has been the financial supporter of pretty much every
terrorist organization you can imagine.
And he's actually admitted to terrorist acts, like the
Lockerbie bombing in 1988.
And his brutal response to his own people's call for reform
was so barbaric that he's recently been charged with
crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.
CAPTAIN ALI: We will punish them.
We will take them to court and put them in jail.

They came to kill our kids.
They came to rape our women.
They came to vanish us from the face of the earth.
We will get rid of him, sooner or later.

SHANE: And despite the fact that the boat was already
overcrowded, Captain Ali was good to his word, and got us
on the last ferry to Misrata.

SHANE: So we're getting on the last boat to Misrata, to see
the sharp end of the revolution.
They're going [INAUDIBLE] to push to Tripoli.
The slogan of the revolution is, our capitalist revolution.
Meaning they're not going to settle for half and half.
They were telling us today, they're going to fight until
they're dead, because if they don't win, they're dead.

SHANE: Hello.
REBEL: Hello.
SHANE: How are you?
REBEL: How are you?
No Gaddafi.
SHANE: No Gaddafi.
No Gaddafi.
REBEL: No Gadaffi.
SHANE: No Gaddafi.
And so you go every couple of days to Misrata?

How long have you been doing the trip?
Four months?
From the beginning you've been going back and forth?

When did that happen?
One day ago they bombed this boat?

You think there will be more missiles when we go?
SHANE: So in the long boat ride from Benghazi to the
front lines of Misrata, everyone was concerned with
only one thing--
getting back to the fight.
And it didn't matter in what condition.
They could have broken arms and broken legs, and in some
cases, they could even have missing limbs.

So he was just saying that he lost his leg.
And he was supposed to go to complete his statement.
But he snuck out of the hospital to go back
to Misrata to fight.
And how is it there now?
Does he know how it is now?

SHANE: And if they don't kill Gaddafi what happens?

SHANE: Though the fighting had been going on for nearly six
months at this point, every rebel we met on the boat was
still defiant.
Even though the odds seemed so stacked against them, most
were still really optimistic about
their chances for victory.



SHANE: And even though Gaddafi's troops had a vastly
superior arsenal, the rebels would fight them with anything
they could find.

We also spoke to a higher ranking rebel officer, who was
returning to the fight in Misrata, about what conditions
were like on the ground.
Has there been fighting in Misrata recently?

SHANE: Good luck.
OFFICER: Thank you.

SHANE: So we're arriving now in Misrata, which is
completely encircled by Gaddafi's troops.
They're trying to push forwards to Tripoli.
It's the front lines.
It's very close to Tripoli.
In fact, this boat is the only way in.
It's the only way out.
It's carrying about 300 troops, machine guns, aid.
There's been heavy fighting here.
Some journalists have been killed.

As we pulled into the port, there wasn't a lot of evidence
of the past fighting that had gone on.
There was some minor damage to a few of the port buildings.
There were a couple of Mad Max style trucks with machine guns
bolted on the back.
But other than that, it was strangely quiet.
But that quiet didn't last very long.
So we just arrived in Misrata.
We're hearing artillery or rocket attacks.

SHANE: You can see the smoke coming up there.

They know the ship is arriving, so they send some
missiles just to let them know we're here.

Thank you.
Good, how are you?


Driving into Misrata, it seemed like spirits were
really high, and the city was functioning quite well.

Anyone who drove by us beeped their
horns and waved excitedly.
It was only when we reached the city center that we
realized how immediate and devastating the battles had
really been.

SHANE: Some of the heaviest fighting that took place in
the revolution was right here on Tripoli Street, which is
one of the main arteries of Misrata, and connects the city
to Tripoli itself.
Gaddafi had ordered his troops not to surrender in Misrata,
so the fighting had been particularly fierce here.
His troops holed up on a high building, and picked off
fighters until the rebels had finally overwhelmed them.
The old building manager took us inside
to show us the aftermath.

SHANE: The fighting on Tripoli Street had ended shortly
before we got there.
In and front lines had moved on, about 20 kilometers down
the road, towards Tripoli itself.
So to get there we hitched a ride with a rebel driver, who
was running weapons to the front.

SHANE: One of the first places he was bringing weapons to was
this kind of half junkyard, half post
apocalyptic weapons factory.

Every kind of gun or missile launcher, or any kind of
weapon you could possibly imagine, was
affixed to a truck.
And your truck got blown up, fine.
They just put your gun on a new truck,
and you keep fighting.


SHANE: And course, anything that Gaddafi's troops left
behind was put back into use as quickly as possible.

And that included not only machine guns and anti-aircraft
batteries, but also tanks, and other heavy weaponry, like
these grad missile launching trucks that we
spotted on the beach.
SHANE: Stop.
We want to walk down and say hi.

Well, one way to find out.
MOHAMMED: Shane Smitch.
SHANE: Shane Smith, yeah.
MOHAMMED: Smith, Shane Smith.
SHANE: Friend.
SHANE: These missiles shoot 20 kilometers?
At Gaddafi's people?


SHANE: They stole them or took them back from Gaddafi's
troops, and they're firing them at Gaddafi's troops.
And they come out here.
And then they make this big hole with flames.
So they've been firing quite a few out of here.
You can see the spent casings.
And they're targeting where, exactly?

SHANE: And when we came in yesterday at the port, they
fired some grad missiles at the port.

SHANE: And when do they fire their missiles?

SHANE: They were just telling me they get their coordinates
through Google.
Arab Spring--
Facebook, Twitter, for their demonstrations.
And Google if you want to bomb them.
Technology at work.
So you push the button?
MOHAMMED: Yes, boom.
SHANE: Shoot rocket. .
This one's fully charged.
It looks like they're using it a lot more.
Fully charged and ready to go.

New weapons.
You want the newest?
Gaddafi has new weapons.

He's asking Clinton and Obama to send more weapons, so that
they can go take Tripoli, so he can live his a dream, which
is to play for the Miami Heat basketball.
He wants to come to America.


The thing that struck me the most as we got closer to the
front line was just how incredibly young some of these
rebels were.
It was pretty surreal to watch these kids, barely out of
puberty, fighting and dying for this
abstract concept of freedom.
Abstract because real freedom was something they've never
known, as Gaddafi had been in power since
before they were born.

After long days of traveling through Libya, we were 20
kilometers outside of Misrata, and closing in on the front.
Our driver handed us off to other rebels, who could take
us the rest of the way.

When we finally got to the front, they were really
nervous about our camera giving away their location.
And we had to limit our shots.

They were obviously digging in, and preparing an attack
that they told us they were expecting within the next 12
to 24 hours.
In fact, while we were there, they got word that a major
offensive was about to start.
So they advised to leave Misrata as soon as we possibly
could, because they thought the offensive
was going to be huge.

There's no ships out.
We took the last ship in.
So we're going to take this fishing boat.
Aside from ourselves, the captain had also taken on a
few rebels who were heading back Benghazi They saw our
cameras and offered to show us some pics of their own.

The boat back to Benghazi only motored about seven
kilometers an hour.
And this afforded me a lot of time to think about
what I had just seen.
I had witnessed something in Libya that is usually only
read about in history books--
People rising up against a tyrant, and risking
everything to do.
SHANE: Everyone, without exception, when we asked them
why they were fighting, responded the same way.
And so young Libyans are risking their lives to--
CAPTAIN ALI: Only for freedom.
We want to be like Europe, like [INAUDIBLE].
We don't ask for much.
SHANE: Right.



SHANE: Despite still being surrounded by Gaddafi's
troops, everyone on board was convinced that the fall of
Tripoli was just around the corner.
And it turned out they were right.
About a month later, that's exactly what happened.
SHANE: Suddenly, after a long stalemate, on August 21, the
rebels finally stormed Tripoli.
SHANE: Now the next few months will probably be very ugly, as
the rebels switch from fighting to governing, which
will be problematic and filled with uncertainty.
What just happened in Libya gives me hope that indeed we
can write our own history.