Matthew VanDyke: US citizen held in Libya emerges on Syria’s frontline

Matthew VanDyke said he had been asked to fight on behalf of the Free Syrian Army. Photograph: Francois Mori/AP

American who fought with anti-Gadaffi rebels turns up in Aleppo and claims to be filming a documentary

Katie Rogers,, Friday 9 November 2012

An American who fought alongside Libyan rebels, and who was detained in Tripoli’s Abu Salim prison for six months before returning home to Baltimore in late 2011, has turned up on the frontline of the uprising in Syria.

Matthew VanDyke said that he was in Aleppo to film a documentary alongside the Syrian rebel army. But he claims he is also advising the rebels on weaponry based on his experience in Libya.

“I go to sleep and wake up to the sound of artillery shells, and Assad’s jets flying overhead and bombing the city,” VanDyke, 33, wrote in the first of a series of emails with the Guardian. “Most of these booms signal the death of more civilians in Aleppo.”

VanDyke claims to be a journalist-turned-freedom-fighter-turned documentarian, but others accuse him of being a misguided thrillseeker who repeatedly puts himself at risk.

He insisted that he understood the dangers of being in Syria but said the viral potential of the documentary made it worth the risk.

VanDyke has an acute interest in using social media to promote his project – in fact, one of his first check-ins after arriving in Syria on 17 October was with friends on Facebook.

“You see a baby without a head brought to the hospital in Aleppo, and you want to put down the camera and take a gun to the front line,” VanDyke posted, just hours after arriving in Syria with the help of a Washington-based Syrian support group.

He claimed that he had already been asked to fight on behalf of the Free Syrian Army, but said he had promised himself and others that he was only there to film until “next time”.


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