The detailed account of Farrell’s 4-day ordeal is unlike anything we’ve ever read, and if you can read it without tearing up — especially at the end when Farrell speaks about his translator Sultan Munadi who was killed during the rescue raid — then you are certainly made of stone.
Farrell’s story is unique because many journalists that survive captivity seem too shaken to speak about their experiences, particularly in the first days after their release. Times reporter David Rohde, who escaped from months of Taliban captivity earlier this summer, has yet to tell his story, and Laura Ling and Euna Lee, recently freed from North Korea, took a few weeks before making a statement about their arrest. They still haven’t given specific details about their captivity. At least not the way Farrell has.
Farrell speaks at length about this captors’ organization or lack thereof, their efforts to indoctrinate him into the Muslim faith and their threats against Munadi:
“There were good hours, and bad ones. Progress and setbacks. They reported to Sultan that their elders — the word ‘commandant’ was used frequently — thought that we were ‘not security people so are to be treated well.’
But then our status as journalists was called into question again, and it became an endless series of assurances and reassurances. They allowed Sultan to talk to his mother and father, which was encouraging, but on the second day Sultan picked up that they might be seeking money, and on Day 3 an exchange of prisoners. He became glum at this, especially so when two Taliban told him that while they were confident that an exchange could be arranged for me, not so for him…Another reminded him that an Italian journalist had once been exchanged, but his translator was no so fortunate. ‘He was beheaded,’ the unsmiling youngster said, to Sultan’s face. He translated it, faithfully but with a gray face.”
In the end, Munadi could not escape the Taliban’s clutches alive. When British forces raided the compound where Farrell and Munadi were being held on Wednesday morning, Munadi moved ahead of Farrell, leading the way. He was fatally shot.
In his account of the events, Farrell is intensely grateful of Munadi and praises his efforts to help him right up until the end:
“It was over. Sultan was dead. He had died trying to help me, right up to the very last seconds of his life.”
His harrowing experience is worth a read, and food for thought for any journalist considering working as a war correspondent. Although the threat of kidnapping, torture and death are very real, these journalists seem to push the ideas from their minds in order to do their jobs. Farrell and Munadi’s experiences may not affect any reporters enough to draw them out of war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq, but it is undoubtedly a must-read for anyone considering that line of work.
That Farrell also had the piece of mind to keep his reporters’ wits about him during his detainment enough to write such a detailed story about it a day later is a credit to his experience and professionalism. His experience on the other side of enemy lines will certainly color any commentary he will make on the Taliban in the future and we look forward to reading it.
It has also reminded us how important it is for reporters working in hostile nations to stay safe and be careful. It’s a dangerous world out there.
A Reporter’s Account: 4 Days With The Taliban –The New York Times