Caliphate Chapter 9: Prisoners (Part 1) | 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.
AM: Can you just say what we‚Äôre doing before we get there?
Ruk: It‚Äôs July 22nd and we‚Äôre heading to a police station in western Mosul, and this is apparently the place where police officers and members of the Iraqi security force are bringing ISIS members who were captured during the battle for western Mosul. So we‚Äôre hoping to interview some of the detainees.
AM: Chapter 9: Prisoners, part 1.
AM: So this is the police station.
AM: Let‚Äôs start at the jail.
Ruk: OK. So we drive up to a building; they appear to have taken over a stately building in western Mosul.
Ruk: Most likely a municipal building belonging to the Iraqi government; perhaps it was a stately home of a wealthy person.
Ruk: There are coils of barbed wire on the outside.
Ruk: It was heavily guarded.
Ruk: And sandbags all around the building on the balcony.
Haw: OK, so it‚Äôs going to be me, you and Andy are going in. No security with us, no nothing
Ruk: You, me, and Hawk walk in.
Haw: We‚Äôre currently in a Iraqi prison, where rooms are full of different ISIS members.
Ruk: And can I just say I‚Äôm basically breathing through my mouth right now?
Ruk: The first thing that hit me was the smell: the smell of sweat, the smell of dirt. And we began passing these metal doors with big latches on them.
AM: There is like a grate and a window in some of the doors. I remember when we passed one, you could see these faces peering out at you.
Ruk: We‚Äôre taken upstairs and the security officials who run this prison took us into one of their commander‚Äôs offices.
Ruk: And this is the main facility where ISIS prisoners are transferred?
Ruk: There‚Äôs a desk, there‚Äôs a couple of chairs, the Iraqi flag.
Ruk: How many prisoners do they have here who are confirmed ISIS members?
Ruk: I explain our goal to the commander who is sitting before us.
Haw: [Translating for Rukmini] So we have 700 detainees.
Ruk: I never know who they‚Äôre actually going to bring out to see me.
Haw: Some of them were reported by the families or by sources, some of them had their names matches, like the same name as in the database saying that this is an ISIS member.
Ruk: But I make clear that I only want to see confirmed members of ISIS.
Haw: 200 of them willingly confess that they‚Äôve joined ISIS already.
Ruk: And I do that because, according to Iraq‚Äôs counterterrorism law from 2005, there are only two outcomes for confirmed members of terrorist groups like ISIS: life sentence or capital punishment, unless a judge sees fit to intervene. The reality is that once you‚Äôre taken into a prison like the one that we were in, your chances of coming out are close to nil.
Ruk: Now, I want to recognize right away. There are definitely people out there that would say that we have no business being here, that the very action of us coming into a prison and speaking to a prisoner could compromise that person‚Äôs fate.
Ruk: Obviously, this is very far from the ideal situation; I get that. But if an ISIS member, even in this complex and convoluted situation, agrees to speak to me, I want to hear what they have to say. I think that there is value in listening to them.
Ruk: After some time, they brought in a young man.
Ruk: Why are they tying his wrist?
Haw: They don‚Äôt feel comfortable with him.
Ruk: His hands were bound.
Ruk: Do you think that‚Äôs necessary, Hawk?
Ruk: He looked to be, I would say, in his 30s, probably his early 30s. He had dark curly hair.
Haw: They can‚Äôt let him sit in the cushion, because he‚Äôs got dirty clothes and everything.
Ruk: He had rashes on his arms, and they did not want to let him sit down because they thought he might have scabies. I basically took my Hijab, which I had brought on this trip, to cover myself and to try to blend in. And I asked the commander, ‚ÄúCould we put my Hijab down on the couch and he can then sit on that?‚Äù
Ruk: And eventually they agreed to that.
Ruk: Just tell him I‚Äôm a journalist. I have‚Ä¶ Please, can we close the door? Please explain to him, Hawk, I‚Äôm a journalist. We are independent of our government and I would like his permission to interview him and let him know that he is free not to speak to me.
Haw: He says you‚Äôre mostly welcome and God may‚Ää‚Äî‚ÄäAllah may salute you.