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't talked to some. They didn't know either. No one knew. I kept low. I knew they were going to call it terrorist, it's looked down upon. Going out on jihad, killing and this and that, soÔøΩ One of them dropped me off to the airport. And that's from there it went.
AM: All right. Chapter 3: The Arrival.
RC: All right, so you've now gottenÔøΩ So you landed in Istanbul. It's when in 2014?
AH: This was in February.
RC: So, walk me through. I mean, you're getting to passport control.
AH: Yeah, I got to passport control and they asked me why I'm here. I told them I'm here for a humanitarian mission and I have to go meet up with my agency outside, and I didn't really care really. From there, I met up with my link Abu Muhammad.
AM: Did he say, "Meet me at this time. I'll be in a red hat?"
AH: No, he found me actually. He told me describe what you're wearing and everything, where you're standing, beside what are you standing and everything.
RC: You were using your smartphone to communicate with him and saying I'm wearing this, I'm wearing that, I'm 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'm like, "Yeah." He said, "Okay, come with me."
So, he picked up me and these four or five other guys. We drove just outside of the city. He said, "We have to get you guys into Syria quick, I have more people to pick up back in Turkey." Told us to travel 75ÔøΩ ÔøΩ80 meters along the fence, there's 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, "Just go through there, crawl through and run into Syria." He said, "Just keep running and you'll know when to stop. Just run, run and run far as you can. Run, run, run."
RC: What were you thinking at this point in time? Is it your heart pounding?
AH: I'm thinking this was so stupid. Why are we running into a war torn country? Can't we just go in like normal people, wouldn't cross the border and take us in a truck or something, you're recruiting us. That was all that was on my mind. "Okay, I guess training starts here. They're starting to test us or something if we're loyal or not." That's what I instantly thought and then I just did what everyone else did.
And we didn't run for very long and there was like a truck. It was a pickup truck pay thing. "Did you guys come from Turkey?" and I was like, "Yeah." "They all keep coming, get in." 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's the first thing I saw.
It looked glorious. I was like, "Wow." It was waving in the windows. It would just look like a glorious Black Flag and I'm like, "Finally, I can live under the banner of Tawhid."