Over a quarter century, the renowned British international correspondent Lindsey Hilsum has covered crisis and conflict around the world. In February 2011, at the first stirrings of revolt, she went to Libya, and began to chronicle the personal stories of people living through a time of unprecedented danger and opportunity. She reported the progress of the revolution on the ground, from the conflict of the early months, through the toppling of Gaddafi’s regime and his savage death in the desert. In Sandstorm, she tells the full story of the events of the revolution within a rich context of Libya’s history of colonialism, monarchy and dictatorship, and explores what the future of Libya holds.
Sandstorm follows the stories of six individuals, taking us inside Gaddafi’s Libya as events unfold, change accelerates, and those who had never before dared to speak, tell their stories for the first time. We see the dynamics of the insurrection both from inside the regime and through the eyes of the men and women who found themselves starting a revolution. Woven into her account is a revelatory exposé of the dysfunctional Gaddafi family, the scale of whose excesses almost surpasses belief. She tells the stories of Libyans who lived in the United States or Europe, but went home to risk everything to provide secret intelligence, or commit daring acts of civil disobedience, to bring the regime down, knowing that the punishment if caught would be torture and death.
The fall of Gaddafi, who was for forty-two years the great autocrat-madman on the world stage, is among the past decade’s most dramatic pivot points. In Lindsey Hilsum, it has found its definitive chronicler.
Journalist Hilsum, international editor for Britain's Channel 4 News, draws on her reporting from the front lines of Libya's 2011 revolution for this dramatic account. Inspired by Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Libyans took to the streets in February 2011 to challenge strongman Muammar Gaddafi's "forty-two years of brutal and capricious rule." Over the next eight months of "revolutionary conflict," the author made four trips to Libya to cover the turmoil. Embedded with the rebels, she reports the conflict almost exclusively from their vantage point. However, she is careful not to romanticize them or the revolution itself. Hilsum's portrait of Gaddafi's four decades of misrule and support for "militant and terror groups" is devastating, but the opposition is far from pristine. She reports that the rebels' early "war effort was a shambles" and was only reversed with foreign military intervention. She uncovers evidence of "revenge killing" and random violence among the victorious rebel factions, and warns that the Islamists are in a position to dominate the June 2012 elections for a new constituent assembly. Hilsum concludes with a warning that contrary to Western hopes for a democratic outcome, the "new Libya was a blank canvas." Though it's too soon for a definitive account of the Libyan revolution, Hilsum's early assessment is a timely first draft.