Four months after heroically escaping from his Taliban kidnappers, New York Times reporter David Rohde has decided to tell the story of his seven months in captivity in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Rohde’s five-part series, “Held by the Taliban,” debuted yesterday and will continue all week. His recollection of his kidnapping is frightening and moving — a reminder of the dangers reporters in war torn territories face every day. With each word, you have to remind yourself that Rohde managed to survive, otherwise it would be too difficult to read.
“Over those months, I came to a simple realization. After seven years of reporting in the region, I did not fully understand how extreme many of the Taliban had become,” Rodhe writes. “They wanted to create a fundamentalist Islamic emirate with Al Qaeda that spanned the Muslim world.”
Rohde was kidnapped last November along with local journalist Tahir Ludin and their driver Asadullah Mangal. Rohde was in Afghanistan doing research for a book and was on his way to interview Taliban leader Abu Tayyeb. Although Rohde wanted to speak with Taliban leaders, he knew it was risky:
“For the book to be as rigorous and fair as possible, I decided that I needed to get the Taliban’s side of the story.
I knew that would mean taking a calculated risk, a decision journalists sometimes make to report accurately in the field. I was familiar with the potential consequences. In 1995, I was imprisoned for 10 days while covering the war in Bosnia. Serbian authorities arrested me after I discovered mass graves of more than 7,000 Muslim men who had been executed in Srebrenica.”
The series’ second part was published today, and it follows Rohde, Ludin and Mangal as they are transported to the tribal areas of Pakistan, which Rohde says is the stronghold of the Taliban:
“Through seven years of reporting in the region, I had pitied captives imprisoned here. It was arguably the worst place on earth to be an American hostage. The United States government had virtually no influence and was utterly despised.”
Rohde’s fear pervades his writing, but he is matter-of-fact. It makes for powerful reading, a true commentary on challenges faced by journalists. We can’t wait to read Rohde’s description of his harrowing escape in June, which will probably come in the series’ final section. But we’ll be reading every word until then.
Part One: 7 Months, 10 Days in Captivity
Part Two: Inside the Islamic Emirate