On February 28, only 11 days after Libyans began protesting and about a week after those protesters became rebels and liberated the city of Benghazi, Eleanor Gillis emailed an editor at the The Atlantic to introduce her sister, Clare Morgana Gillis. Clare had traveled to Egypt to cover the revolution there as a freelance journalist but, having missed the biggest protests, crossed the border into Libya instead. She began filing for TheAtlantic.com, USA Today, and other news outlets.
Then, on April 5, while reporting from the front lines near Brega, Clare and three other journalists were surrounded by loyalist troops. One of the four, South African photojournalist Anton Hammerl, was shot and killed. Clare and the two other survivors were held by the Muammar Qaddafi regime for a month and a half before their release. Their captivity was at times terrifying, at times darkly and absurdly comedic, and often uncertain. As the war waged around them and the regime slowly crumbled, it was not always clear if they would ever make it home.
Clare reveals, for the first time, the full story of her detention in Libya in the new issue of The Atlantic. Here are the stories for TheAtlantic.com that she filed before her detention:
March 4: Using seized weapons, they've charged themselves with defending against Qaddafi's attempt to retake their cities.
March 9: Is it paranoia, or could pro-regime elements remain in the ranks of military defectors?
March 10: While defected generals struggle to lead an army, eastern Libyan civilians find a provisional government marred by secrecy and disarray.
March 11: "We left everything. We are never going back. We just wanted to escape."
March 30: U.S. and European missions have cleared the rebels' way forward, but their next steps will require more than bombs.
April 6: Behind the front lines, civilian volunteers form an ad hoc supply chain to keep the rebels fighting.
April 8: After losing several oil towns, the fighters are attempting to build a real military organization.
A few days after her release from Libya and return home to Connecticut, I interviewed Clare about her experiences and what it felt like to still carry the weight of Hammerl's death, which she had kept secret while in detention. Here's my write-up of the interview and my story on Hammerl's death, which is filled with Clare's insights and memories. Here is information on the benefit for Hammerl's three children.