Matthew VanDyke is an activist, filmmaker, and North Africa/Middle East expert from the USA. VanDyke graduated from Georgetown University with a master's degree in Security Studies, but his knowledge was confined to the four walls of a classroom and the pages of his books. To learn firsthand about the region and to make a unique documentary film he spent four years traveling by motorcycle across Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. During this four year period, from 2007 to 2011, VanDyke's adventures took him from the vast reaches of the Mauritanian Sahara desert to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2011, his Libyan friends whom he had remained in contact with since his travels there in 2008, told him about their families and friends being killed by Muammar Gaddafi's regime as the Libyan revolution began. VanDyke realized that he could not sit by in the comforts of his Baltimore home and watch his friends and their families be slaughtered while he did nothing.
He joined the revolution as a rebel fighter and was captured by Gaddafi's army during a reconnaissance mission in the city of Brega on March 13, 2011. For the next six months he was a prisoner of war in two of Libya's most notorious prisons, Maktab al-Nasser and Abu Salim. He was psychologically tortured in solitary confinement, as the Gaddafi regime denied having him in custody reinforcing the popular belief that VanDyke was dead.
On August 24, 2011 other prisoners broke the lock off of VanDyke's cell, and he escaped with them from Abu Salim prison. VanDyke did not return to America, but instead returned to combat on the front lines in Libya. He served as an infantryman and heavy machine gunner on a jeep driven by his Libyan friend of five years, Nouri. They participated in combat during the Battle of Sirte and only after Gaddafi was killed and freedom for Libya had been secured, did VanDyke return home to America.
In 2012, VanDyke returned to filmmaking. He traveled to Aleppo, Syria to make the film Not Anymore: A Story of Revolution.