This Guy Played for Gaddafi’s Basketball Team at the Start of the Libyan Revolution
There are a few things to expect when you start playing basketball at an international level: a grueling training regime, competitive teammates, and maybe some kind of sponsorship deal involving toiletries or luminous drinks. Stuff you generally don’t prepare yourself for, however, is almost starving to death while the army shoots at civilians just outside your apartment, being forced to survive on cockroaches and toilet water and fleeing a country by way of a border occupied by rebel guards.
That’s what happened to Alex Owumi, an American ball player who moved to Benghazi, Libya after being recruited by Al-Nasr, a team owned by the Gaddafi family. Alex arrived at the end of 2010 and enjoyed a few months as the team’s point guard, before the revolution broke out in February of 2011 and he found himself trapped in his apartment—a lavish place owned by Gaddafi’s son, Mutassim—without any food or electricity.
With little contact to the outside world, he survived by eating worms and drinking toilet water – his teeth turning rotten and the pigment on his face discolouring—until he got a call from his former coach, who smuggled him over the border to Egypt. After arriving in Alexandria, he recovered and started playing for the city’s El Olympi, helping them win 13 games in a row and eventually take the championship.
I gave him a call to talk about his experience, the Gaddafi family and how the revolution changed his outlook on life.
VICE: So, that’s quite an experience you went through. Can you tell me how you ended up in Libya?
Alex Owumi: It was a pretty bad time for me as a player, then my manager phoned me up and told me there was this team in Libya that wanted me to play for them. At that point it was either doing this for me or going back home. And I was welcomed there with open arms.
Did you know at that point that it was Gaddafi’s team you were going to play for? I didn’t find out it was Gaddafi’s team until I first got into my apartment. It was all beautiful and state of the art, but I noticed there were also quite a lot of pictures of Gaddafi and his grandkids. That’s when I finally asked my team captain whose apartment this was, and he told me it belonged to the Gaddafi family.
Cheers to the Revolution: Kiev’s Beautiful Molotov Cocktails
Kiev’s Euromaidan protestors use fire to their advantage. With fire, the protestors were able to defend their barricades, extend their lines, and fortify their positions. They were mobilized throughout the city to collect as many bottles as possible, and thousands of Molotov cocktails were used to set fire to tanks, other armored vehicles, and buses. These little bombs were the only real weapon protestors had against the government’s well-armed forces.
Donald Weber spent this February in Kiev photographing for VICE. Follow our coverage of breaking events in Kiev on VICE News.
Syria’s Revolutionaries Are Fighting Back Against Foreign Jihadists
As the revolutions of our time tend to, it started with a Facebook post. “Together for a Day of Rage in Syria to end the state of emergency in Syria and end corruption,” read the post back in February 2011. One revolution, two bloody years, and 11 dark months later, came more Facebook posts—this time calling for: “A day of Anger against ISIS.”
The posts sparked protests on Friday that, once again, turned into armed conflict and a variety of rebel groups are now fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) across Aleppo and Idlib governorates. Activists are calling it “another revolution.” Things are getting pretty meta in northern Syria.
Widespread anger at the repressive and arbitrary nature of ISIS’s methods in northern Syria has been growing since the group arrived in the country in May 2013. ISIS’s primary goal extends further than simply the formation of an Islamic state in Syria, a view shared by the more fundamentalist Islamic brigades within the country. Rather, ISIS, wish to see the restoration of the caliphate across the Levant, a region consisting of much of the eastern Mediterranean and stretching into Iraq.
Since the ouster of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi by the military on July 3, clashes between pro-Morsi supporters and the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) have left the country’s streets stained with blood.
On July 24, General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi called for a security mandate that would fight the “violence and terrorism,” and for a 7 PM to 6 AM curfew to be enforced. The situation took a turn for the worse this week when the military opened fire on Morsi supporters and Muslim Brotherhood members near Nasr City. The death toll from the massacre climbed to over 600. The country has completely shut down: businesses remain closed, railways are suspended, and people are terrified to leave their homes. The original revolutionaries who marched for democracy are squeezed out of the equation as the military and Morsi supporters keep fighting and bodies continue to spill out of morgues and into mosques.
We video chatted with Gigi Ibrahim, a prominent activist in the Egyptian revolution, to try to make sense of everything that’s been happening in the country.
On June 30, exactly one year after Egyptians voted for Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi to become their first-ever democratically elected president, millions of protesters filled central Cairo and town squares across Egypt demanding his dismissal.
The Defense Minister, General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, promptly issued Morsi with a 48-hour deadline to heed the protesters’ demands or face military intervention.
Was this another Egyptian revolution, a military coup or—as some feared—the beginning of a civil war?
With the clock to the army’s deadline ticking down and the whole country poised to see what would happen next, VICE went to Cairo to find out.
Early on Saturday night, the protest village of tents and flags that had been set up in Istanbul’s Gezi Park was razed, and its inhabitants emphatically tear-gassed and cleared, at the behest of Turkey’s combative Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In response, anti-government protesters (mostly, but not exclusively, made up from Turkey’s young urban middle class) took to the country’s streets all weekend, building barricades and clashing with riot police, with crowds of several thousands blocking major highways and bridges in an effort to join them.
On Sunday—after a morning of tear-gassing in Istanbul, Ankara and other major cities—Erdogan delivered a set-piece speech to a huge pro-government rally on the outskirts of Istanbul. Designed to be a show of national unity under his Justice and Development Party (AKP), his speech was defiant and paranoid. He derided protesters as “marginal” and blamed the international press—CNN and BBC, in particular—for being “provocateurs.”
A Mass Grave Raises Questions in a Libyan Ghost Town
At an army checkpoint on the way into the Libyan city of Misrata, an angry police officer with a pistol tucked into his pants demands I give a blood sample before locking me in a trailer. For what should be obvious reasons, this is a deeply paranoid town. When I eventually get into the center of the city, a protest against the Tawergha—a black-skinned tribe that used to live 25 miles away in the neighboring town of the same name—is in full swing. Worked-up young men tell me they’re ready to kill if they don’t get what they want.
The demonstrators want to know who I am. They want to know where I’ve come from and they want to know what I think about human rights. “So what do you think of this organization, Human Rights Watch (HRW)?” Hassan, a former English teacher, asks me.
I quietly assure Hassan that I view all human rights organizations as parasitic scum feeding on the aftermath of war and turning it into dirty money to be squirreled away into its employees’ snakeskin pockets. “They turn tragedy into PR stunts,” I tell him. “They have to transform victors into villains. That’s how they make their money. It’s sad. It’s perverse. But it’s all they know.”
Hassan nods slowly while other anti-Tawerghan protesters crowd around.
"Public opinion matters a great deal to us," he says, seriously. "During the revolution, Misrata withstood great pressures and made great sacrifices. It was a hero, a champion. But now people are starting to say that we are the bad guys. It’s not right."
The acid of toxic loathing that’s disfiguring Misrata’s public image is its intense hatred of the Tawergha tribe. It’s one of many tribal feuds that have festered since the revolution, further destabilizing the country at a time when the government is struggling to maintain any semblance of control. The feuds have also helped to ensure that violence, guns, and explosions continue to slosh around the country, staining the reputation of free, postrevolution Libya.