On Jan. 17, the Arabic TV network al-Jazeera aired a video, apparently from the Iraqi kidnappers of American journalist Jill Carroll, demanding the release of Iraqi women prisoners. A 72-hour deadline was given.
With their daughter a prisoner of unknown kidnappers in Baghdad, Jim and Mary Beth Carroll decided in the United States to make televised pleas for her release. The FBI urged a strong man-to-man statement from Jim Carroll. Other advisers said the first appeal should come from Mary Beth and it should depict Jill, not as a lone adult, but as the missing piece of a family — a point they felt would appeal to Iraqi hearts.
In the end the family opted for the mother-first tactics. A day after Mary Beth's appearance, Jim made his own televised appeal. He appeared on both al-Jazeera and its more reserved competitor, al-Arabiya.
But there was one important thing about their appearances that Jim and Mary Beth didn't know: Would Jill's captors be watching? — Peter Grier
As we stood in the small kitchen, Abu Ali, the insurgent with the salt-and-pepper beard who had abducted me, proudly declared that his wife wanted to die.
"Um Ali wants to be a martyr. She wants to drive a car bomb!" he said, beaming.
Of course, she'd have to wait, since she was now four months pregnant. It is forbidden in Islam to kill a fetus at that age, he explained.
"Oh, OK, OK, oh wow," I said. I feigned confusion while I tried to think of what to say.
The chaos of dinner preparation swirled around us. The kitchen was typically Iraqi: a cramped space with thin metal countertops that have no cabinets beneath.
Someone had sewed a skirt for the countertop out of gaudy fabric, but one part had torn away. Next to the refrigerator was a giant freezer, covered all over with stickers advertising Maggi-brand soups.
Three children played around our feet— all progeny of the would-be bomber.
I was still unused to captivity, still learning the boundaries, both physical and mental, that my kidnappers had imposed. I didn't want to offend. But I was shocked at the talk of a mother's suicide; shocked that Um Ali would blush at her husband's praise of this plan.
"Oh, I didn't know women could be car bombers," was all I could muster.
Later I was told that this was the only way women could be part of the mujahedin. The men could have the glory of fighting in battle. Women got to blow themselves up.
Meanwhile, the big silver platters of food were ready. Men carried them out to the group of insurgents meeting behind the closed door of the sitting room. Based on their comments, this house seemed to be in western Baghdad or near Abu Ghraib.
I talked with Um Ali and other women in the kitchen. Yes, I traveled back and forth between countries for my job, I said. They replied that it was wrong for them to work, that they left school at age 12 to learn to cook and keep house.
Then the dinner platters returned, with the food ravaged — rice everywhere, bones with the chicken chewed off, nothing left but scraps, really.
And the women sat and began to eat the scraps.
I couldn't believe it! After all the time they'd spent preparing the meal, they got leftovers.
But I sat down with them. And, as I would often do with women over the next three months, I ate from the remains of the communal stew.
Held against my will, I learned more about Iraqi insurgents than I would have dreamed possible. On one level, I got a firsthand look at the way they live. While I was imprisoned alone in rooms for long periods, I was also allowed to mix with insurgent families in some of the houses where I was held. I even played with their youngest children — a small joy that helped me endure.
On another level, I heard a lot about what they think, both about themselves and the United States. I wanted them to see me as more valuable alive than dead, so I told them that as a reporter I could write their story if I was freed.
They seized on this idea, perhaps to a degree I hadn't anticipated. After dinner, some of the men drew up plastic chairs in a walkway area in the middle of the house and held an impromptu press conference — minus questions, and with me as the lone member of the press.
They insisted that they weren't terrorists, that they were just defending their country against an occupation. They had nothing against Americans, they said. It was the U.S. government that was their enemy.
"If you come to us as a guest to our country, we will open all of our homes to you and feed you and you are welcome," said one of the men that night. "But if you come to us as an enemy, we will drink your blood and there will not be one of you left standing."
I hoped the little briefing would help establish my persona as a reporter. To placate them, I'd memorized verses in the Koran. But I never seriously considered the idea of converting. As I learned more about this brand of Islam, and the life of women tied by marriage or family to the insurgency, the more convinced I was that I couldn't even pretend to convert. As long as I was seen as a reporter and a Christian woman, I figured they might tolerate my missteps. But if I acquiesced to conversion, even if it was insincere, would a "good Muslim" — like Um Ali — also be required to embrace martyrdom?
At moments like this, I thought they were becoming more comfortable with me. Perhaps they wouldn't kill me.
Um Ali's son, Bakr, was 3 years old, cute, and spoiled rotten. He'd jump in my lap, and we'd play a little game: He'd put his nose against mine, his head against my head, and we would whisper really quietly together, him in Arabic, me in English. In the early days of my captivity, we'd do it often, and I'd look in his little eyes, and it really comforted me. It felt so good just to hug somebody.
Still, getting through each hour was an accomplishment. Every day was so long. Um Ali would do something nice, like bring me some tea, and I'd try to react normally. But then I'd remember that they'd killed Alan, my interpreter.
That refrain was constantly in my head: Don't be fooled, Jill. They killed Alan. Don't be fooled.
Next part: Mujahideen movies of attacks.