The Arab Spring swept across North Africa and the Middle East early 2011. On 17 February that year, rebels in Libya rose up against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. The West hoped the Libyan uprising would, like Egypt’s, be a quick revolution. But the Libyan uprising has become a long, bitter, grinding conflict. Many have lost their lives.

NATO initially did not want to aid the rebels and declined to become involved, fearful that armed intervention would draw parallels with Iraq. Like Iraq, Libya is rich in oil, and, under Gaddafi, western access to Libya’s fields was restricted. The rebels formed a new government – the Transitional National Council (TNC) – and promised easier access to Libya’s oil once their revolution succeeded.

NATO eventually relented, imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, framing the intervention as a humanitarian mission. NATO was protecting civilians from Gaddafi’s terror.

Benghazi

In Benghazi, the rebels’ headquarters, the TNC used all their PR skills, trying to get their message across to the Western press. For its part, NATO focuses mainly on the brutality of Gaddafi’s regime and does not question the rebels’ motives too closely. Perhaps it is true that the first thing that gets lost in war is the truth. With a lot of gunfire in the city and a bomb explosion every now and then Benghazi surely isn’t a peaceful city.

Black refugees

Salloum is a small town close to the Libyan and Egypt border. A UNHCR camp just outside of town provides shelter for black Africans, mostly Darfuris, from western Sudan. They fled Benghazi because many rebel supporters thought the Darfuris were mercenaries, brought in from Chad and the Central African Republic by Gaddafi to bolster his army. Many innocent Africans have been killed in revenge attacks by the Libyan rebels.

NATO supports Libya’s rebels without  questioning their  possible  misdeeds. While photographing the refugees it became clear that the authorities wanted to stop us from telling this particular story. We were arrested by the secret police, bundled into a pick-up truck and driven across the border into Egypt. Nobody knows what will happen to the refugees in Salloum.

Gaddafi is going to fall

When visiting Libya for the second time in October 2011, the revolution against Colonel Gaddafi is still ongoing. Most parts of the country are taken by the new temporary government (TNC). It wouldn’t take long before Gaddafi’s regime is going to fall.

Standing on somebody’s image is one of the worst insults you can make in the Arab world.

Gaddafi as Amy Winehouse.
Rebels are guarding at the front-line. Gaddafi is still active and his army is trying to regain ground that’s taken by the rebels.
Inside a rebels’ house. Children have to deal with the fact their father is often fighting at the front-line.
First day of school since the start of the revolution. Some children as missing.
Gun traces are visible everywhere during the nights. Most of the time just because of happyfire; people shooting in the air for fun.

Almost all Gaddafi-supporters left Libya’s capital Tripoli. But the Gadaffi-forces were still fighting 100 km outside Tripoli.
A lot of citizens carry guns and are proud to be able to fight for their country.
The pre-Gaddafi-era flag is proudly waved again in Libya. It’s the new national flag.
Now Gaddafi is gone people discover more and more of the cruelties Gaddafi committed.

Under Tripoli’s surface there are many tunnels. Nobody knows how many and where they lead to. Now Gaddafi is gone, rebels start to explore the tunnels.

Martyr’s square in Tripoli. Rebels gather here every night.
In front of former Gaddafi’s complex.
Hotel lobby close to Benghazi.
Black refugees fled Benghazi because they’re chashed at by the rebels. They think black people work for Gaddafi as contract killers.
The refugees sleep in make shift tents at the Egyptian border.
Egypt is not willing to let the refugees enter so they have to stay in the no man’s land zone between Libya and Egypt.
On the 200 km road between Tripoli and Misrata there are 22 checkpoints.

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Hi, mijn naam is Eric Kampherbeek en ik ben een fotograaf, beeldend kunstenaar en visual storyteller uit Den Haag