ISIS released this morning what it said would be the first in a video “series” featuring another British hostage — not being executed, but delivering a case against the “Western media” portrayal of the Islamic State and the U.S.-British refusal to pay ransom.
Titled Lend Me Your Ears, the first video reveals veteran photojournalist John Cantlie, who has worked for the The Sunday Times, The Sun the Telegraph and more. He was first captured in Syria in July 2012, was shot trying to escape (“every Englishman’s duty,” he later wrote), and was rescued within a week by the Free Syrian Army.
Cantlie extensively talked about his experience after that, detailing between 10 to 15 British captors among the al-Qaeda-linked cell and threats that he would be beheaded, including “mock executions” where captors would torture prisoners and sharpen their knives.
In today’s video, Cantlie sits at a desk in an orange jumpsuit, and says he was abducted in November 2012.
Previous videos of ISIS have include hostages delivering statements criticizing their countries before they were beheaded, but have given indications that the statements were coerced. For example, Miami journalist Steve Sotloff spoke of “what little I know about foreign policy” in his video — but he wrote for Foreign Policy magazine, among others, and deeply covered the Arab Spring countries.
ISIS appears to have heard the skepticism and makes Cantlie address it directly.
Cantlie notes in the video that “many things have changed” since his kidnapping, including the “expansion of the Islamic State… a land mass bigger than Britain and many other nations.”
“Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, he’s only doing this because he’s a prisoner. He’s got a gun at his head, and he’s being forced to do this, right?” Cantlie says, making a gun-firing gesture toward his head with his fingers.
“Well, it’s true. I am a prisoner. That I cannot deny. But seeing as how I’ve been abandoned by my government and my fate now lies in the hands of the Islamic State I have nothing to lose. Maybe I will live, and maybe I will die.”
He says that “over the next few programs” he will lay out facts that can “save lives.”
He then makes a pitch against “another conflict” in Iraq and says he’ll show how the news organizations he used to work for “twist and manipulate the truth.”
Cantlie also said he’d detail what really happened when “many European prisoners” were released by ISIS “and how they British and American governments thought they could do it differently than every other European country” — a clear reference to the hefty ransoms paid by other nations. “They negotiated with the Islamic State and got their people home, while the British and the Americans were left behind.”
“It’s very alarming to see where this is all headed,” Cantlie adds, “and it looks like history repeating itself yet again.”
“There is time to change this seemingly inevitable sequence of events, but only if you, the public, act now.”