In January 2011, the Arab Spring began to sweep across North Africa and the Middle East. People were demanding change in countries that had autocratic rulers for decades. Libya broke out into civil war in February, changing the country’s future forever.
Alsatoor was working at his home in Brierfield from the moment he returned from teaching at his new workplace, Craven College, Skipton, until he went to bed in the early hours. He would sketch whilst on the phone, watching TV and researching online. His blog was overloaded with posts, photos and information people were sharing with him. He was doing his best to operate as a pro-revolution news outlet, and it worked, as shortly afterwards the newly-established Libya Al-Ahrar TV asked him to join them in Doha, Qatar, and work for them.
Alsatoor, hesitant to leave his job and wife behind, knew this was his calling – his chance to join like-minded Libyans and have his work broadcasted. Like many others involved in the channel, he worked around the clock to deliver news to the masses around the world who were following Libya’s fight for freedom.
In October 2011, Gaddafi was captured and killed in Sirte and the whole world watched. The man he had observed from a distance, the dictator who had been the subject of his work, the source of his woes, the reason he left his family behind in Libya, and the reason he left his family behind in the UK, too, was now dead.
The work didn’t stop there for Alsatoor; if anything, the new state of chaos in Libya was far more demanding due to the political complexities. He began churning out cartoons, criticising political players from all angles. The form of his work had changed, but his message had not – no one escaped Alsatoor.
Even though Hasan had pledged to stop drawing Gaddafi once his regime fell, his daily publications continued to criticise Libya’s debilitated political landscape, and those who chose to enter it. From those in parliament, Western diplomats and politicians, to religious figures and journalists. As sociopolitical issues flared up across the country, Alsatoor watched on like a hawk.
Subsequent years saw a string of events rip Benghazi apart – the attack on the US consulate, and a long string of assassinations of civil rights activists and army officers. Alsatoor would always honour the fallen through his art published online, expressing solidarity with people whose lives were lost in the fight for freedom.
Doha sucked the creative spark from Hasan; he tried painting in his hotel room where he lived, but he claimed that Qatar provided him with little inspiration. He wanted to return to the UK, but he gave into the demand for Alsatoor, and in reality the money was too good to turn down.
During his final years, his artistic flair was subsumed by Libya’s poisonous political landscape. But this could also be considered Alsatoor’s golden era – Libyans could freely discuss politics and air views across social media, making his work live, interactive, relevant. He corresponded with people online, and surrounded himself with those he respected and trusted.
One of those was Omar El Keddi, a Libyan writer who many initially believed to be Alsatoor.
‘He was a wonderful, talented man. I started giving him ideas for his cartoons, and he often put my name under Alsatoor. Many people started thinking I was him! I remember when I published my own name after the revolution, and Alsatoor’s response was, “OK great, they’ll kill you, not me.” I miss him so much.’
In 2014, Hasan left Doha after three years and returned to the UK. Libya Al Ahrar TV had become a mouthpiece for Qatar and Alsatoor didn’t suit the outlet. He continued producing work, but was in limbo as to whether he should return to teaching or focus on Alsatoor. The latter seemed like the most sensible option as the momentum was already there.
A year later he went to Amman, Jordan, to work for the newly-founded news station, 218TV. He didn’t want to leave his family behind for a second time and return to the Middle East, although Amman seemed like a place that offered more to Hasan than Doha ever could. Sadly, he fell ill while working there and had to return to the UK in the following.
He passed away on 12th August 2016 aged 60.