Syrian former hostage recounts ordeal
They knew he was Christian right away because of his name. And that’s all they needed, to decide to kidnap him.
"Your name is very strange,” said the Muslim men dressed in black as they looked at the man’s identity card. "So I knew they realized I was Christian."
He tells the harrowing story anonymously to New York magazine’s Sulome Anderson, daughter of journalist Terry Anderson, who had been a hostage in Lebanon for seven years. A native Syrian, he was travelling home from Lebanon to visit family and got through 15 Syrian army checkpoints without a glitch. But when he encountered the Mujahideen Shura Council, a group which later joined the Islamic State group, his luck ran out. He and others were blindfolded, chained, tortured and electrocuted. Some were shot. Some, like this anonymous former captive, were used as part of the group’s plan to increase their wealth, by demanding ransom money from family.
The Christians among the hostages apparently were targeted specifically for their religion, according to the anonymous ex-hostage.
"They’re brainwashed," he told Anderson. "They don’t know anything except that there is a man called an emir, a man who is above them. Not Baghdadi [the ISIS leader]; there are many different levels of emirs. Anything these men say, they believe is true."
And the emirs would tell them, “God says you have to go out and kill.” Because we were Christian, they would say to me, “You killed Muslims in the Crusades.” Another told me I was from the pope’s army and I had killed Muslims in Spain. We would try to tell them it wasn’t true, that we weren’t like that. We’ve always lived next to Muslims in peace. We work together; we like each other.
But these people want the world to be like them, and they kill everyone who isn’t.
The man’s family finally came up with the $80,000 to get him out of captivity, and when the captors "threw us in the streets of Aleppo, he related, "my God, it was the most wonderful feeling I’ve ever had."
There were Free Syrian Army soldiers. We went to them, and they took us to a church. I saw the cross and I thought, I’m alive.
What the man tells Anderson about the current situation in his country is both telling and sad:
It doesn’t seem like this will end. I don’t think Bashar al-Assad is going anywhere. It’s been four years, and he’s still there. I don’t care about Assad. He’s not a good man. But before this happened, Syria was beautiful. You, as a woman, could go across Syria in the day or the night and pass every checkpoint, and no one would bother you. That would never happen now. We have become Iraq. Saddam was not good, but he was better than what came after. And no one can bring Iraq back to what it was. The Syrian people said they wanted freedom. This is not freedom. This is chaos.