Reporter captured by Taliban visits USF

After spending 10 days in the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan, a British journalist realized her true calling of Islam and the pursuit of freedom.

Yvonne Ridley, a freelance journalist captured by the Taliban in 2001, is coming to USF on Tuesday night to talk about media manipulation and the power of propaganda, with specific references to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“I want to make people aware about what is exactly happening in the Western media and how to recognize fact from fiction,” Ridley said.

In addition to discussing the power of propaganda, Ridley will also talk about her capture by the Taliban and the treatment she received while in captivity.

“I will be making a contrast between my treatment at the hands of the most evil, brutal regime of the world and the treatment of the men in Guantanamo Bay (Cuba) at the hands of America,” Ridley said.

Ridley is a British journalist who has written for newspapers such as The Daily Mirror, The Sunday Express, and The Observer, and a number of online news Web sites, including Globe-Intel and Al-Jazeera’s English Web site. Ridley was fired from Al-Jazeera in November of 2003.

Ridley became the subject of international publicity in 2001 when the Taliban captured her prior to the war in Afghanistan.

Ridley was the chief reporter for the Sunday Express, a national newspaper based in London, when the Taliban arrested her on Sept. 28, 2001. After all foreign journalists were told to leave Afghanistan, Ridley snuck over the border from Pakistan dressed in the traditional Muslim dress of an Afghan burqa. It was on her way back to Pakistan when she was detained by the Taliban forces and arrested. Ridley was held for 10 days and then released on humanitarian grounds by order of Mulla Umar on Oct. 8, 2001, the day after the war in Afghanistan started.

“As a result of being bombed by Britain and America, I became a leading member of the British anti-war movement. It concentrates the mind when you realize that you are going to be blown up by your own country. It was terrifying,” Ridley said.

In the past two years, Ridley has become an international peace campaigner, and an anti-war activist. In addition, she has written two books based on her past experiences and the events of Sept. 11 and has converted to Islam.

“In the Hands of the Taliban” is a factual account of Ridley’s capture and detention in Afghanistan and “Ticket to Paradise,” a fictional thriller, reflects upon current Middle Eastern conflicts.

Ridley will speak at USF on Tuesday in the Communication and Information Sciences Building. The event will take place in room 1048 and begins at 7 p.m.