American Citizen and self professed "freedom fighter" Matthew VanDyke was shocked when TV broadcasts in Syria labeled him a 'terrorist,' but he wasn't surprised.
" I'm not the first one they've called a terrorist, and I won't be the last," he said in a recent FaceBook post.
VanDyke's expertise in Middle Eastern, specifically Libya and Syria, affairs was on the rise as he headed out to Syria to make a film about the Free Syrian Army. The film wasn't his only objective though.
He didn't go to fight, but he's not quite a journalist:
I wear a military uniform in Syria. I do this to protect journalists, at great risk to myself. I also wear a Free Syria flag patch on my body armor much of the time to clearly identify myself as pro-FSA. I am not a journalist and want to ensure that nobody mistakes me for one. Journalists do not make pro-FSA films to help the FSA recruit members and raise money to purchase weapons and ammunition.
VanDyke is no stranger to the fighting — he helped Libyans overthrow Gaddafi. About Libya and being a freedom fighter, VanDyke once told us at Business Insider that longtime friends from the country had called and said that family members were missing.
"That's when I called my mother and told her I was going to Libya," VanDyke said.
Then he fought on behalf of the Libyan revolution, was even captured and held in solitary confinement. Now he's in the process of making a film he openly calls "Pro-FSA." VanDyke has no qualms showing where his allegiances lie.
"When we are under attack and I fear being captured, I don't ditch my uniform and change into civilian clothes. I continue to wear the uniform and stand with the fighters around me - I don't sneak off and change into clothes to blend in with the journalists."
VanDyke's recent twitter posts indicate that people are recognizing him on the streets, because the high-visibility TV broadcast effectively shot his photo around the whole country.
"Some people on the street have already recognized me from the television reports ( numerous broadcasts on 4 different channels — Akhmariya Suria, Dunya, Sama, Khabar) . I am now more of a target than ever. I'm not sure how much the regime would pay for my capture or death at this point," says VanDyke in the post.
He vows to keep up his support of the FSA though, to keep producing his documentary, though he's not a journalist, and continuously reaffirms this point — he got the label during his tenure in solitary under Gaddafi's forces.
The media created the myth that I was a journalist in Libya, and then when I returned to the front lines in Libya after escaping from prison some in the media tried to hang me with the very same myth they had created.
VanDyke prides himself as an Middle East analyst and freedom fighter above all, and vows to continue his work, despite resistance from the media or, worse yet, overt targeting on behalf of the Assad government.
"This won't affect my work, I will not alter my schedule and I will finish the film before going to Libya to give a speech at the Libya Summit in Tripoli, as planned," VanDyke wrote in his latest Facebook post.
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