Caliphate Chapter 3: The Arrival | New York Times Audio Series (Transcript)
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FS: From the New York Times and the team that brought you the Daily, this is Caliphate.
AH: So, I got everything together, chilled with my friends for a bit but I hadn‚Äôt talked to some. They didn‚Äôt know either. No one knew. I kept low. I knew they were going to call it terrorist, it‚Äôs looked down upon. Going out on jihad, killing and this and that, so‚Ä¶ One of them dropped me off to the airport. And that‚Äôs from there it went.
AM: All right. Chapter 3: The Arrival.
RC: All right, so you‚Äôve now gotten‚Ä¶ So you landed in Istanbul. It‚Äôs when in 2014?
AH: This was in February.
RC: So, walk me through. I mean, you‚Äôre getting to passport control.
AH: Yeah, I got to passport control and they asked me why I‚Äôm here. I told them I‚Äôm here for a humanitarian mission and I have to go meet up with my agency outside, and I didn‚Äôt really care really. From there, I met up with my link Abu Muhammad.
AM: Did he say, ‚ÄúMeet me at this time. I‚Äôll be in a red hat?‚Äù
AH: No, he found me actually. He told me describe what you‚Äôre wearing and everything, where you‚Äôre standing, beside what are you standing and everything.
RC: You were using your smartphone to communicate with him and saying I‚Äôm wearing this, I‚Äôm wearing that, I‚Äôm standing here.
AH: Yes, I was talking to him through Tumblr and he was a big fat guy. He looked more like a bouncer type guy to me, I guess. When he came up to me and I‚Äôm like, ‚ÄúYeah.‚Äù He said, ‚ÄúOkay, come with me.‚Äù
So, he picked up me and these four or five other guys. We drove just outside of the city. He said, ‚ÄúWe have to get you guys into Syria quick, I have more people to pick up back in Turkey.‚Äù Told us to travel 75‚Äì80 meters along the fence, there‚Äôs guys over there, you pay them and they point you to a hole in the fence.
AM: What kind of fence are we talking about here?
AH: A chain link fence with barbed wire on top and then electric circuitry running up and down it. We paid him each 75 euros and then he pointed us to a hole. He said, ‚ÄúJust go through there, crawl through and run into Syria.‚Äù He said, ‚ÄúJust keep running and you‚Äôll know when to stop. Just run, run and run far as you can. Run, run, run.‚Äù
RC: What were you thinking at this point in time? Is it your heart pounding?
AH: I‚Äôm thinking this was so stupid. Why are we running into a war torn country? Can‚Äôt we just go in like normal people, wouldn‚Äôt cross the border and take us in a truck or something, you‚Äôre recruiting us. That was all that was on my mind. ‚ÄúOkay, I guess training starts here. They‚Äôre starting to test us or something if we‚Äôre loyal or not.‚Äù That‚Äôs what I instantly thought and then I just did what everyone else did.
And we didn‚Äôt run for very long and there was like a truck. It was a pickup truck pay thing. ‚ÄúDid you guys come from Turkey?‚Äù and I was like, ‚ÄúYeah.‚Äù ‚ÄúThey all keep coming, get in.‚Äù And then we left and he straight showed us into Jarablous.
RC: When you got to Jarablous, did you see the ISIS flag?
AH: Yes, that‚Äôs the first thing I saw.
It looked glorious. I was like, ‚ÄúWow.‚Äù It was waving in the windows. It would just look like a glorious Black Flag and I‚Äôm like, ‚ÄúFinally, I can live under the banner of Tawhid.‚Äù