Leitura para o fim-de-semana: dois anos em cativeiro

Teo Padnos esteve durante quase dois anos preso na Síria. Foi raptado por um grupo de amadores, aprisionado pelo Exército Livre Sírio e depois entregue à Frente al-Nusra. Foi torturado, espancado e, finalmente, libertado. Na revista do The New York Times, contou toda a história.

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My Captivity

Theo Padnos, American Journalist, on Being Kidnapped, Tortured and Released in Syria

By THEO PADNOS

In the early morning hours of July 3, one of the two top commanders of Al Qaeda in Syria summoned me from my jail cell. For nearly two years, he had kept me locked in a series of prisons. That night, I was driven from a converted schoolroom outside the eastern city of Deir al-Zour, where I was being held, to an intersection of desert paths five minutes away. When I arrived, the commander got out of his Land Cruiser. Standing in the darkness amid a circle of men draped in Kalashnikovs, he smiled. “Do you know who I am?” he asked.

“Certainly,” I said. I knew him because he visited me in my cell once, about eight months earlier, and lectured me about the West’s crimes against Islam. Mostly, however, I knew him by reputation. As a high commander of the Nusra Front, the Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda, he controlled the group’s cash and determined which buildings were blown up and which checkpoints attacked. He also decided which prisoners were executed and which were released.

He wanted to make sure I knew his name. I did, and I repeated it for him: Abu Mariya al-Qahtani. “You are our Man of Learning,” I added, using the term —sheikhna — that his soldiers used to refer to him.

“Good,” he said. “You know that ISIS has us surrounded?”

I did not know this.

He shrugged his shoulders. “Not to worry. They won’t get me. They won’t get you. Everywhere I go, you go. Understand?” I nodded.

We drove to a residential compound next to an oil field near the Euphrates. For the rest of the night, I watched as some 200 foot soldiers and 25 or so religious authorities and hangers-on from the Afghan jihad prepared for their journey.

There were bags of Syrian pounds to stuff into the cabs of Toyota Hiluxes, boxes of stolen M.R.E.s to load onto the truck beds and suitcases and water coolers to fit in beside them. And there was the weaponry: mortars, rockets, machine guns, feed bags filled with grenades and bullets, stacks of suicide belts.

By 4 in the morning, the packing was done. At dawn, the commander drove to the head of the column of Hiluxes and fired his handgun into the air. Within seconds we were gone, flying over the sand. There are roads in this part of Syria. We didn’t use them.

I was now 20 months into my life as a prisoner of the Nusra Front: the abrupt departures, the suicide belts, the mercurial behavior of the Man of Learning, the desert convoys, the way I might be shot or spared at any moment — this was my world. I was almost used to it.

In October 2012, however, when I was first kidnapped, I used to sit in my cell — a former consulting room in the Children’s Hospital in Aleppo — in a state of unremitting terror. In those first days, my captors laughed as they beat me. Sometimes they pushed me to the floor, seized hold of a pant leg or the scruff of my jacket and dragged me down the hospital corridor. If someone seemed to take an interest in the scene, I would scream: “Sa’adni!” (“Help me!”) The onlookers would smirk. Sometimes they called out a mocking reply in English: “Ooo, helb me! Ooo, my God, helb me!”

Because there was no bathroom in my cell, I had to knock on the heavy wooden door when I needed the toilet. Often, the guards wouldn’t come for hours. When they did, they would bang on the door themselves. “Shut up, you animal!” they would say.

The cruelty of my captors frightened me, but my bitterest moments in those early weeks came when I thought about who was most responsible for my kidnapping: me.

I believed I knew my way around the Arab world. In 2004, when the United States was mired in the war in Iraq, I decided to embark on a private experiment. I moved from Vermont to Sana, the Yemeni capital, to study Arabic and Islam. I was good with languages — I had a Ph.D. in comparative literature — and I was eager to understand a world where the West often seemed to lose its way. I began my studies in a neighborhood mosque, then enrolled in a religious school popular among those who dream of a “back to the days of the prophet” version of Islam. Later, I moved to Syria to study at a religious academy in Damascus. I began to write a book about my time in Yemen — about the mosques and the reading circles that formed after prayer and the dangerous religious feeling that sometimes grew around them.”

O artigo completo está aqui.

Leitura para o fim-de-semana: pobres mas com casas de milhões

O Upper East Side, em Manhattan, é uma das zonas mais exclusivas de Nova Iorque. Com vista para o Central Park, é habitada por artistas e celebridades endinheiradas. Mas uma investigação do The Telegraph revelou também que é aí que estão instaladas as embaixadas e residências de diplomatas de algumas das nações mais pobres do mundo. Um exemplo: Cabo Verde, que ocupa a 123ª posição no Índice de Desenvolvimento Humano tem um edifício numa zona em que um imóvel vizinho foi vendido recentemente por 48 milhões de Dólares. E há mais.

Embaixada de Cabo Verde em NY

Embaixada de Cabo Verde em NY

“Revealed: New York multi-million dollar mansions belong to poorest nations on earth

Diplomats of poor nations rub shoulders with celebrities and billionaires at their embassies on Manhattan’s illustrious Upper East Side. Click the map for video and details of embassies and their countries’ wealth

New York’s Upper East Side is a neighbourhood of celebrities and millionaires – and home to some of the poorest countries on the planet.

An investigation by The Telegraph has found dozens of embassies, consuls, missions and ambassadorial residences, worth tens of millions of dollars, dotted along the rarefied streets of Manhattan’s wealthiest district.

They include a number owned by some of the most impoverished countries on the planet, including Congo, ranked in 186th place out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI), the annual report produced by the United Nations which assesses the wealth of populations around the world.

Others belong to nations struggling to cope with war and dictatorship, including Iraq and Myanmar.

And some are owned by middle-ranking countries economically, whose citizens may nonetheless question why their governments hold properties in the most sought-after quarter of one of the most expensive cities in the world. Greece, which has struggled with debt and recession since the 2008 financial crisis, falls into this category.

Diplomats from around the world are assigned to New York because Manhattan is home to the United Nations, meaning each nation is entitled to maintain an embassy – known as a mission – in the city.

But while more frugal nations occupy office buildings close to the UN, in Manhattan’s Midtown, others maintain lavish residences a 10-minute car ride away on the Upper East Side.

Many are tucked away on quiet cross streets between the millionaires’ rows of Fifth Avenue, Madison Avenue and Park Avenue, where property prices for a town house run into the tens of millions of dollars.

A large number are close to Central Park and amenities such as the designer boutiques of Madison Avenue and Uptown’s most exclusive bars and restaurants.

Diplomats living on the Upper East Side, which runs between 59th Street and 96th Street, and Central Park and the East River, can expect to rub shoulders with celebrities including Madonna and Woody Allen, and the billionaires Michael Bloomberg and David Koch, the fourth richest person in America.

Amid concern in some countries, including the United Kingdom, about the cost of maintaining expensive overseas properties, a number of nations have sold off their Upper East Side mansions in recent years.

They include France, which this year divested itself of the ambassador’s residence, an apartment at 740 Park Avenue, known as the most expensive apartment building in New York, for $70 million (£43.8 million).

Ivory Coast and Senegal have also recently sold off property on the Upper East Side.

But a number continue to allow their diplomats to live in a style which the vast majority of their citizens could only dream of.

They include Congo, where average income is just over a dollar (62p) a day, and which owns a large town house on East 65th between Fifth and Madison Avenues.

A house across the street from Congo’s recently sold for $40 million (£25 million), which would make a not insignificant dent in its national debt of $6 billion (£3.76 billion).

The tiny nation of Cape Verde, which is ranked 123 in the HDI, owns a town house on East 69th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues; the neighbouring property was on the market in 2012 for $48 million (£30.1 million).

A third African country, Angola, possesses a town house on East 73rd Street, between Park and Lexington Avenues, where the house next door sold for $32.5 million (£20.3 million) in 2008.”

Mãe de Michael dos Santos diz que não é ele no vídeo das decapitações

Afinal, Ana dos Santos, a mãe do jihadista luso-francês Michael dos Santos, não o reconheceu no mais recente vídeo do Estado Islâmico. Pelo menos foi isso que disse à BMFTV. A portuguesa garantiu que foi questionada pelos serviços de segurança durante várias horas, que afirmou sempre que não era o filho que surgia nas imagens televisivas mas que, ao fim do longo interrogatório começou a ter dúvidas.

Conversa de café

Sugestões semanais de leitura (e não só) para diálogos animados à volta de uma bebida.

Bom fim-de-semana.

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As origens do Estado Islâmico em três minutos

Faltam várias coisas, mas isto é o essencial. E em apenas três minutos. De George W. Bush a Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“Antes era cristão e julgava que Jesus era filho de Deus”

Ouvi falar de Abou Uthman pela primeira vez no final do Verão. Os rumores que circulavam na Internet indicavam que tinha um apelido português: Santos. Era conhecido pela brutalidade das imagens que partilhava na rede social Twitter. A sua página já tinha sido bloqueada antes. Mas ele voltava a criar uma nova. Quando ia na terceira, comecei a segui-lo. Por mero acaso, ele retribuiu o favor. Para quem não sabe, no Twitter, só quando duas pessoas se seguem mutuamente é que podem trocar mensagens privadas. Foi assim que no início de Setembro lhe enviei uma mensagem, em português, a apresentar-me como jornalista de Portugal e a perguntar se podíamos conversar. A resposta foi brusca: “o qué que queres?” Expliquei que queria conversar e perceber o que os tinha levado a ir para a Síria. Dessa vez a resposta demorou alguns dias. Só chegou a 26 de Setembro. Assim (literalmente): “fui combatter na syria por que a palavra de deus seija a mas alta. porque os musulmanos tenhao un estadio islamico, y por ajudar os musulmanos”. O diálogo continuou durante semanas. A resposta seguinte só chegou a 5 de Outubro. O ritmo acelerou quando passámos a falar em francês. Houve dias em que trocámos várias mensagens. Outros em que imperou o silêncio. contou-me porque se converteu ao Islão, quando viajou para a Síria, com quantas pessoas, o que faz e até revelou o seu nome árabe verdadeiro – Abou Uthman será apenas um pseudónimo para o Twitter. Continuava a investigar a sua história quando chegou a notícia de que ele tinha participado no mais violento vídeo de execuções do Estado Islâmico. E não só: poucos repararam, mas ele chega a falar no vídeo. A entrevista e o que ele disse no vídeo estão hoje na Sábado.

Mundo

Coisas da Sábado

Amanhã nas bancas: As melhores zonas para viver em Lisboa e no Porto; Vistos Gold: os detalhes da investigação que abalou o governo; a luta entre facções do bloco; entrevista exclusiva a Michael Santos, o português que decapitou um prisioneiro do Estado Islâmico; caso BES: a investigação às cartas de Ricardo Salgado; PSP do Porto vai leiloar armas apreendidas; o ano difícil de José Alberto Carvalho; entrevista a Nuno Espírito Santo; Dead Combo em concerto na redacção; e muito mais.

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