'Freedom Fighter' Matthew VanDyke to Film in Syria

UMBC graduate spent 166 days imprisoned in Libya and joined rebels who deposed and killed Moammar Gaddhafi.

Matthew VanDyke, the self-described "freedom fighter" and filmmaker who spent last year, plans to travel to Syria in September to continue documenting the Arab Spring and efforts to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

Along with Libyan musician Masood Bwisir, VanDyke intends to embed with Syrian rebels that have been fighting Assad since March of 2011 and record the historic events that are underway in that country.

On July 25, VanDyke launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $19,500 by Aug. 22 in order to cover travel expenses, supplies and equipment needed to make the trip.

VanDyke said he will produce a video, with English and Arabic subtitles, that will be posted to YouTube and elsewhere.

"The message of the film is to inspire and motivate people to protest for freedom in their own countries, propelling the Arab Spring forward into the next phase," VanDyke wrote at the Kickstarter site.

The Arab Spring is a wave of revolutionary protests and demonstrations that has swept through Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and other Middle Eastern countries for the last 18 months.

VanDyke, 32, graduated from the in 2002 with a degree in political science.

In February of 2011, VanDyke traveled to Libya to support friends who were fighting to overthrow Gaddhafi's brutal dictatorship. He was and held in  at several prisons, including the notorious Abu Salim prison near Tripoli.

The people captured along with him were killed by Gaddhafi's troops, according to VanDyke.

After escaping from Abu Salim on Aug. 24 of last year, VanDyke arranged by Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, D-MD, a ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, and remained to fight with rebels in Sirte until Gaddhafi was killed on Oct. 20, 2011.

The Kickstarter campaign is to raise funds for a video camera, computer, body armor and other equipment to film in a war zone.

"I have very little equipment because when I was captured by Gaddhafi, all of my equipment was taken," he said. "I'm starting from pretty much nothing."

VanDyke said that he expects to spend about four weeks in Syria and may have a video finished by October. In the meantime, he will keep followers updated with information through Twitter and Facebook.

The fighting between rebels and government forces in Syria is fierce. VanDyke will be going into a conflict that he says is riskier than his experience in Libya.

"The situation in Syria is different," he said. "It's a larger country, more spread out. I don't have the level of personal connections that I had in Libya. Safety is definitely more of a concern."

In Libya, VanDyke said that he did things that were reckless, "perhaps dangerously fearless."

"I'm definitely more cautious after my experience in Libya," he said. "Syria will be dangerous, but that's no reason to stay at home." 

number9dream July 26, 2012 at 11:33 AM
I wonder why he calls himself a "freedom fighter"? How much fighting has he done? The "freedom" that the Egyptians thought they won from Mubarak hasn't turned out to be quite what they expected. I'm sure this is also the case in countries such as Libya and will be the case in Syria should Assad be overthrown. It's a good example of being careful what you wish for. Instead of living off these "kickstarter campaigns", this snakeoil salesman VanDyke needs to get a real job.
Cristina87 July 27, 2012 at 04:20 AM
While things haven't gone smoothly in Egypt, just remember that the point of a democracy is that people have the freedom to vote, not to install Western-friendly governments. You don't have to like who they vote for, you just have to appreciate that they finally have an opportunity to truly vote at all. Furthermore, the recent elections in Libya were won overwhelmingly by moderate candidates and NOT by Islamists or extremists or whoever it is that you seem to assume has won. And as for asking how much fighting Mr. VanDyke has done, if you read this article (or any others about him) you will see that he was captured during the war, spent several months in a Libyan prison, and then fought in the city of Sirte (where Gaddafi was eventually found). You are certainly entitled to your opinions (this is a democracy afterall, where we have such freedoms), but you should check your facts first next time.
JuliaSchmidt August 03, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Please leave Syria alone! We don't need more armed Rebells. We don't want anymore of our people to be killed. We wanna continue the Reforms and live in Peace! Stay out CIA and Quatar and mind your own business!
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