Jewish-American photographer narrowly escapes Syrian Islamist torturers

Escaped from Syrian Islamists who seized him in December; Mathew Schrier says "no one ever asked if I was Jewish."

By REUTERS, JPOST.COM STAFF
August 23, 2013 12:14
2 minute read.
Destruction in Syria.

Destruction in Syria 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

BEIRUT, Aug 23 (Reuters) - An American photographer has escaped from Syrian Islamists who seized him in December, tortured him and were still holding an American cellmate near Aleppo, the freelancer told the New York Times.

Matthew Schrier, 35, told the paper on Friday that he was accused by captors from Jabhat al-Nusra, a militant group aligned with al-Qaida, of being a CIA spy. On his first trip to a war zone and travelling without a commission from a media organisation, he was taken as he left Aleppo by car on Dec. 31.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


He slipped from a gap in a basement window early on July 29, he said, leaving behind his bulkier compatriot, whom he met in captivity. The paper did not identify the other man. Both had occasionally been beaten and given electric shocks.

Once, clad in Guantanamo-style orange jumpsuits, they were filmed confessing to espionage. Schrier was also whipped with cable on the soles of his feet, his knees wedged in a car tyre.

Previously unreported, his abduction was one of several Westerners in rebel-held territory since the civil war began. It highlights suspicions of foreigners among some of those fighting President Bashar Assad. The presence of Islamist militants in their ranks has dampened Western support for the rebels.

Schrier's captors masked his plight by sending emails from his account. They also raided an online bank account and bought computers and car parts with his eBay account. He was questioned by men speaking fluent English. He thought they were Canadian.

Moved several times and often held alongside Syrians accused of fighting for the government, Schrier said he was also taken for a time by another group, Ahrar al-Sham. Treatment improved when he converted to Islam and was given a Koran in English.



In his account of his escape, Schrier said he was able to stand on his cellmate's back and unravel a wire mesh covering a window. Just before dawn, he wriggled out but the other American got stuck. "All right, go," he told Schrier, who walked until he found other rebels. They drove him to the nearby Turkish border.

His experience also highlighted risks facing those reporting from Syria, notably freelance journalists traveling alone.

Interviewed in November by the Times Union, a newspaper in Albany, New York, which published some of his work from a Syrian refugee camps, Schrier, until recently a healthcare worker, said he funded his own trip and hoped for career as a photographer.

Schrier, who is Jewish, never felt uncomfortable, according to American daily newspaper Times Union.

"Nobody ever asked if I was Jewish and I never heard any 'Death to America' stuff," he reportedly said. "The people I met were not jihadists or extremists. But there is absolutely no way they're ever going to give in or stop fighting."

Related Content

August 21, 2018
Iran unveils fourth-generation fighter jet

By ANNA AHRONHEIM