British journalist held by Taliban speaks out

Yvonne Ridley, the Sunday Express journalist held by the Taliban under suspicion of being an SAS spy, now released, tells her story in an exclusive interview with the daily Express.

Shortly after entering Afghanistan, wearing the burqah, the total veil used by Afghan women, and without documents, Yvonne Ridley was stopped by Taliban guards and imprisoned. Her first reaction was to go on hunger strike because she was refused a telephone call.

In the days after her arrest, she spoke of her daughter to establish a human relationship with the Taliban, who responded by asking questions about her. Her cell, in Kabul, had been inhabited by cockroaches, scorpions, spiders and mice but the Taliban had cleaned it before she arrived.

“I was never physically maltreated. They tried to break me mentally by constantly asking me the same questions, day after day, until nine o’clock in the evening at times”.

Not all was rosy for Yvonne, who had to undergo psychological warfare during her enforced stay as the guest of the Taliban. They would constantly tell her that she would be released, only to move her to another prison or claim that the transportation had not arrived. One day she was left alone in her cell all day, except when a Taliban guard delivered her food, which she never ate, and said “You know you will go to Kabul jail”.

However, there were even light-hearted moments, such as when the Taliban continuously asked her why she came to Afghanistan and she, after saying tens of times that she was a journalist, threw up her arms in despair and cried “Because I wanted to join the Taliban!!” At this, everyone in the room laughed.

Yvonne Ridley herself paints an almost fond picture of her captors: “The problem with the Afghans is that they are so kind, hate to bring bad news and for this reason, do not tell the truth”.

Now released and relieved, Yvonne Ridley, an extreme example of a great undercover journalist, muses: “I was probably their most difficult prisoner”.


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