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Hostage: The Jill Carroll Story – Part 4: A mother as suicide bomber

(Page 3 of 3)



Neither Mary Beth nor Jim were afraid of the camera. But they were afraid of saying the wrong thing.

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In her first appearance, Mary Beth took a few questions, and in answering one said that Jill was a good "ambassador" for Iraq, since she'd reported the struggles of Iraqis' daily lives. But later someone told her that the word "ambassador," in Arabic, translates as "government official," not "general emissary." And the last thing the family wanted to imply was that Jill worked for any government.

So the family limited media appearances to scripted statements. They asked friends not to speak to the press. Almost without exception, their friends complied, with some even slamming the door on reporters.

But for all their attention to the subject, there was one important thing about their appearances that Jim and Mary Beth didn't know: Would Jill's captors be watching?

P.G.

***

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 US. 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 US 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.

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