Q & A

After Jill was released, the Monitor invited readers to send in questions about her experience. Hundreds of people responded, and Jill sat down with Monitor correspondent Peter Grier, to share her thoughts on camera.

Each part of the series features a new video selection from Jill, and a full transcript of that day's question-and-answer.


Q. Peter Grier:"After so long with your captors, how normalized did relations become? What were the times that most approached some kind of normal human interaction?"

– Matthew Vaughan, Chengdu, China

A. Jill Carroll: "There were a lot of times when that happened. There had to be. That was the whole goal of me trying to survive was to make them see me as a human, and to interact with them as humans. If I could make them see me as a person, and not just as a tool or not just as a symbol of something that they hate, then that was the only way I was actually going to survive. So absolutely, making them see me as a human, and interacting with them as normal people was really important to getting through it. Just sort of talking to them about their families, or telling them about my family. I would say, "oh, I have a family; my sister, mother, and my father." Talking about my life, and talking about my dreams with them to make them feel like I was a person who had a future that wants to live to see that future was really important. So, there were a lot of times when we would talk like normal people, well, normal as it could be, I suppose. All part of a broader sort of strategy I sort of had, I guess, of making them not want to kill me."

Q. "Dear Jill, what did you know, while you were held, what was happening in the world? Were you allowed any information?"

– Bobbie McGarey, Duncan, Oklahoma

A. "I didn't know a whole lot. I was allowed ... newspapers. I watched TV several times. I couldn't always watch the news. Not every place we were at had television. So there would be long times I didn't know what was going on at all. And I would get bits information from the captors. If they would say, "oh, this happened," "there was this bombing here," or something, they would kind of mention those sort of things. But it was pretty few and far between. I knew my parents had been on TV. They told me that. The captors would tell me once and a while when someone had asked for my release. They would say, someone in Jordan called for your release. Or, someone, ... the American Muslims called for your release. I knew little things like that. But sort of, it was like a few pieces in a bigger puzzle that I didn't know much more about what was happening outside."

Q. Peter Grier:"From your experiences abroad, what insight can you give to other young journalists who want to make the jump freelancing overseas and other conflict ridden regions?"

– Sabrina, Columbus, Ohio

A. "As I told another freelancer once, who was going into the business about a year ago. I was like, freelancing is not for the faint of heart, and not just because it's dangerous. Financially it is really difficult to do. There are a lot of people out there trying to do it, and I've learned here actually, from working at the Monitor on this end, on the editing end, there's a lot of freelancing, so, it's really competitive. So, if you want to do it, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. If you are trying to do it for money or adventure, those are for the wrong reasons. If you are trying to do it because it is exciting to be in a war, then that's a wrong reason. You should be going there because you feel journalism is a duty and a noble cause, and that the only way to fulfill that noble cause, and to perform that duty to the utmost, is by going to a place that needs understanding. A place, like we were saying, that people don't understand people there.

People think they are all the same. They see people as one big block with one big label on them. And so, we can go in there, and by living there and being among people and talking to people everyday, and understand them more as individuals, not as a group. If you are going there with that kind of motivation, that kind of motivation will get you through the times when you are making no money, when you are in danger, when you are afraid. All of that will be okay with you if you have this much broader, overarching desire to be there for a sort of broader good. So, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Not for adventure, travel, not because you think wars are exciting to cover. Those are all the wrong reasons to do it. Do it because you really love what you are doing, and you feel you have a broader purpose."

Q. "For most of us who lived through 9/11, and are now observing Islamic cultures from afar, we are having a very difficult time establishing a bridge between who they are, and who we are. We witness a seemingly endless number of suicide attacks, and are sickened by their appetite for killing the innocent and the defenseless. What can you say that will help us to understand and value who these people are? Why should we see them as anything other than monsters? I think America is well on its way to objectifying Muslims, particularly Muslim fundamentalists, and that could have terrible consequences both for them and for us."

– George Pence, Whispering Pines, North Carolina

A. "Well I think painting any group of people with a broad brush, saying, everyone is all evil or all good, is never accurate and is never helpful. That is the biggest thing, actually, with why I think reporting in the Middle East is an important thing to do, actually, because there are as many kinds of Islam as there are Muslims, which is 1 billion. I have had many friends who were Muslims who are angry, embarrassed, frightened, and disgusted by the things they see other people doing in the name of their religion. I think what really needs to happen, is to understand the people who are doing that, why are they using this religion as a vehicle? I think you have to look at these groups on a far more nuance level. It isn't a matter of good and evil or black and white or gray, why do they do these things, they are just a bad person. It's a lot deeper than that. There are a lot more factors coming into play. Factors like, frustration, lack of jobs, lack of represent of government. All kinds of ... who knows, maybe there's just an x-factor in some people. I know people that are really angry about things, but they don't pick up a gun and then go kill somebody because of it.

So, I think we can no more say that Muslims are monsters because some people are murderers, than you could say that all Americans are like Al Capone because Al Capone killed people. So, like America is diverse and complicated, and a lot of people do a lot of different things that I don't like, I don't like people who do murders on the streets of America, but people in the Middle East don't necessarily want people to be killing other people in the name of their religion. So, it's a complicated issue. It's a complicated place. Everyone has a different take on the religion and a different way of interpreting it. I think we need to understand those levels of differences and see why some people don't have a problem, are peaceful, or have concerns or anger, but use peaceful means to express that and why some people go towards violence. The only way to really address this, to understand better, is to be better informed citizens. Read the newspaper every day. I read about the Middle East. You can find foundations and groups that do different reports about the Middle East to help you understand the nuances and how it isn't just a black or white issue, or just a broad brush to paint everyone that way. It's complicated. It's hard to understand nuance from 3000 miles away, or however far away we are from the Middle East."

Q. "Many people all over the world were deeply troubled by your kidnapping and thought of you daily, prayed for you, and took you into their hearts. It must be a bit dizzying to emerge from captivity and realize that you are now a member of so many diverse and unknown families, unknown to you. How do you handle this?"

– Sandy Simon, Ann Arbor, Michigan

A. "It was definitely a shock. It was definitely very overwhelming and sort of scary. I didn't know that it was this big of a deal. I remember coming out and saying to this one colonel who greeted me, I said, "I guess this is kind of a big deal, huh?" He was like, "Yeah, it's a big deal." I have been overwhelmed. There have been a lot of cards and packages and things sent to me from all over the place that are really thoughtful. I have a quilt that this group put together and each patch of the quilt was signed by a former POW. Or a former member of the armed forces from WWII and Vietnam. Amazing, just amazing, so, it's absolutely overwhelming, and a complete shock. And actually, I feel pretty guilty in a way, because I feel like I don't deserve that. I didn't do anything great, and being kidnapped is not worthy of praise. I just hope that if that was a way that made people feel better, made them feel happy for a little while, or found something of value in the whole learning process. You know, learned something of value about journalism, then that makes it worth while. But, me as a person, I don't think I actually deserve all that adulation at all. But if that makes you feel better, then, you know. But I think more people are responding to the ideals that The Christian Science Monitor puts out there and less to me personally. I think that they are responding more to those ideals of truth and honesty, and the pursuit of information and pursuit of intellectual research and all that sort of thing."

Q. "My husband reminds me often that some things are just not important in the ultimate scheme of things. From what I know of your captivity and release, it appears that you must have had to evaluate frequently what was and was not important, in terms of survival and relating to your captors. What did you find were the most and least important things during captivity? Has your perspective changed at all about these things since your release?"

– Christine Williams, Houston, Texas

A. "Yeah, definitely, it almost feels like a cliché in saying it, but you hear this a lot coming from people at the end of their lives saying, gosh, I wish I had spent less time working and more time with my family. Or, I wish I had spent more time with my kids. But it becomes incredibly clear, there was never one moment in there when I thought, "gosh, I wish I had written one more story, or I wish I had been to one more country." It was, "gosh, I wish I had been with my family more often. Or, I wish I had focused more on ... maybe getting married and having kids was more important than I thought it was." You know, those sorts of things become really, really clear."

Q. "Were there any clear cut religious overtones from your captors indicating that religion was a motivating factor in your capture and ongoing captivity? If so, did it come across as genuine, or more using religion as a means to get ransom for you? And how did you respond personally to this in terms of your own beliefs?"

– Barbara Baker, Istanbul, Turkey

A. "Well, definitely religion was the absolute motivation and guiding force and set of rules - everything revolved around fundamentalist Islam. Definitely, these guys were extremist Muslims. Every action they took, or didn't take, or decision they made absolutely was grounded in their understanding, their brand of Islam. Absolutely it was the core of their being in who they were and how they did everything. Everything revolved around that."

Peter Grier: "How did you respond to that?"

"I had to respond to it by being sympathetic, and by being open to learning about their type of Islam that they believed in, and trying not to defend them in any way. And being aware of what kind of beliefs they had was very important for me in staying alive, as far as not offending them in ways that if I wasn't careful I could have. Like, if I had shown them the bottoms of my feet, incredibly offensive; if I didn't cover my hair, incredibly offensive, and worth killing me over. So it was important to learn those things and to know what those religious beliefs were to not do anything that would get me in trouble."

Q. "What is it that those of us who have never been through such a thing [as a kidnapping] need to understand, or can never understand?"

– Kate, Rockville, Maryland

A."It seemed to me that people didn't seem to understand how it really affects you, mentally. How you have to be so complicit and be so ... you just have to be able to do whatever it is they want you to do to survive. People seem to think you should stand up for your ... if they want you to do something that you find to denounce your country, for example, you should just say, "oh, no, I can't do that." That's suicide. People need to understand that, ... I think they sort of forget that, literally, these are people that will kill you at any moment. So, especially after a few months or a few weeks, you are not thinking normally. Even after a few days you are not thinking normally at all, and you are just in sort of a massive survival mode. So, on the one hand, you are thinking hard all the time, and trying to find ways to survive, and try to relate to these people and make them see you as a human, and at the same time you have to be so complicit and you have absolutely no control over anything. When you sleep, when you eat, when you go to the bathroom, what you say, whether you stand up, whether you sit down, nothing. So, over time, you lose yourself. You don't have any self-will, or self-determination, or decision making ability, or ability to say no. All those boundaries we have in a normal life are gone. And you are just whatever anyone else around you wants you to be. Because you know that's how you have to be to survive. People seem to forget, when I came out, why I was so ... why I was what I would describe as mushy, or complacent. You do whatever you have to do to survive. And they do whatever they want to you. And you have to let them do whatever they want to you, if you ever want to get out. Aside, of course, from killing you."

Q. "Have you been able to meet with Alan Enwiya's family, and how are they?"

– Alys Monod, Oyama, British Columbia

A. "I haven't been able to see them, but I've talked on the phone with them several times. I think they are doing the best they can. They are getting through, it's obviously not an easy time for them, at all, and it will continue to be a difficult time for them. The biggest thing is we are just trying to help them move to the US where they can be safe. Because the whole thing was so high-profile, and because everyone knew Alan was working with me, an American, that put his family in grave, grave danger. So, the insurgents want to kill anybody who works with any American or any foreigner at all. So, we had to get the family out of the country, we need to move them to the US We are working on that right now. Part of that, actually, we are trying to help raise money for them, because Alan was the only bread winner of the family, which includes his mother, father, sister, his wife and his two small children. So that's a big family he was supporting. When they move to the US, of course, they are going to need a lot of support and help. So we actually helped set up a fund for him called the Alan Enwiya fund, and we have been collecting money for them around the world. Generous, really kind people around the world are donating money. So people can find out how to donate money to the paper, actually. That's how we are doing it. It's on the website. There's an address they can go to and send donations if they want to help the family."

Q. "Jill, welcome home. Although my wife and I don't know you personally, we feel a certain bond with you. This bond was the result of learning about you through the news of your captivity in Iraq. What was the most important thing about Iraq and its people that you learned, and that the American people should know?"

– John Scott, Cave Creek, Arizona

A. "The most important thing people should really keep in mind is how complex Iraq is, and that Iraq is not the whole Middle East. The Middle East is a region, not just one area. Every country is very different and has a different dialect of Arabic, different religious beliefs, different culture completely, and so Iraqis themselves are just really diverse. Within Iraq you have many groups, you have the three groups we all know of; Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd. But it's important to understand how each Iraqi views themselves, their ethnic identity and their religious identity. Once we understand that, we can assess a lot better why things aren't working, why violence is happening or not happening. The key to understanding how people there feel about themselves and how they feel about other people in other groups, and the best way to do that, really, is ... I can't really explain that all right now, but people should read a newspaper, every day. Read one story a day about Iraq, and that will help you to understand."

Q. "Jill, with respect and appreciation of what you went through, I'm curious to know what do you think is the most important thing you took away, or learned, or was an insight from this event. And how will that, or is that, shaping or affecting your life?"

– Sean Smith, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

A. "I think in a broader sense, the biggest understanding or insight was just how these kinds of insurgents work, and who they really are. Before, to a lot of us, they were just sort of, like, shadows behind a curtain. We had a general sense of their outline and their general movement. We didn't really know who they were, or why they were doing what they were doing, how they think about things, how they feel about things. Because understanding that means understanding why they are doing it. Once we understand that we can probably address the issues as to why they are doing it. That, I think is actually really valuable. For me, that was one, in a broader context, the biggest insight into who they really are."

Q. "When released from Iraq, you had stated that you had been well-treated by your captors. After your trip to Germany and return to the US you then indicated that you were not treated well. For a seasoned correspondent, which answer was truthful?"

– Cecil E. Perfoy, Maui, Hawaii

A. "Well, obviously, the latter. I wasn't well treated. But keep in mind, I wasn't doing this as a reporter. I was a hostage which is different. I wasn't working, I had been attacked, essentially. So, the reason why I said in the beginning that I was well treated, those words I said, in that video that came out that said I was in one room and went to a bathroom once, and that was all; those were the exact words I was told to say by the insurgents who captured me. They said if I ever said anything more, or anything different from that, essentially they would come kill me, essentially. So, I was never to tell anyone anything else aside from those exact words that I said. So, when I got out, I was still absolutely terrified.

People seem to think that when you're free suddenly you're just back to who you were and that you're feeling safe and everything's great again. Not at all. This kind of thing just shakes your sense of security to the absolute core for a long, long time. And so, I had just gotten out. I wasn't about to say anything wrong. I wasn't about to violate what they wanted me to say. They want me to tell the world that I was well-treated, and that's what it took for me to get home and get away and never have this happen again, then so be it. I didn't care. After a few days, in your mind, you start to get a little better sense of yourself, and also being away and out of Iraq, and being in Germany and being back in the US you begin to feel sort of ... I began to feel a little safer about saying things, and not sticking to the script that I had been given by the captors to say. But, when I said that, the captors had told me maybe two hours before that they were going to kill me. So, it's a little hard to come from that, and two hours, then switch, and be like, oh yeah, well, now I'm back. Let me be myself again and tell you the truth about how awful it was. I was afraid they would come get me again. I did whatever I had to do to keep that from happening."

Q."Because of your well-known support of everything Muslim, many of your fellow Americans, including myself, believe your capture was not real, but was in fact conducted and staged with your cooperation, and, that you are a traitor to your country as well as to your family and friends. What is your response to those allegations?"

– I. Macias Jr., San Antonio, Texas

A."Well, of course, it's absurd that I would arrange for this to happen. Alan was my friend, and like a brother to me. I don't know how anyone could ever think that anyone would ever wish to torture their family and their friends like this. It's not possible. I don't see what that has to do with my living in the Middle East, I don't see what that has to do with my work or with Islam or anything like that. But how could anyone ever put their family and their friends and their newspaper and everyone else through all this, and watch their friend get killed. I mean, no way. I can't imagine the kind of person that would ever want that to happen.

So, just because I live in the Middle East and care about understanding the Middle East and helping Americans understand the Middle East in the fairest most objective way possible, I don't see how that makes me a traitor. In fact, I do it because as citizens of a democracy it is our duty to be well-informed. And we can only express our wishes through our representatives of government properly and effectively in our best interests if we are properly informed. So, the reason I'm there, actually, is because I believe so much in our country's need to have good, fair, truthful information so they can make their own decisions about what we want our policies to be and who we are as a country.

It's really easy to say you're patriotic by doing what's easy. By hearing what everyone else wants to hear, saying what they want you to say, being what everyone wants you to be. But, like raising a child, you don't give them candy, and spoil them. You have to make them go to school every day, make them do their math homework every day. That's what's good for them. Not allow them to play on the playground all day long. So, that's kind of how I see it."