In the interminable hours, days and months of his Syrian torture and captivity, journalist Theo Padnos hoped and prayed that he would one day report again. For readers of the New York Times Magazine, that miraculous moment has arrived, punctuated by this deceptively straightforward footnote:
Theo Padnos has written for The London Review of Books, The New Republic and other publications. This is his first article for the magazine.
In the piece, titled “My Captivity,” Padnos details his odd relationship with Abu Mariya al-Qahtani, a.k.a. an individual known as the Al Qaeda fighter group’s “Man of Learning.” When Padnos was finally, without much warning, allowed to go free, he was asked improbably for a favor from his captor:
The Man of Learning asked me to approach the truck he was driving. “Hey Bitar,” he said. “Don’t say bad things about us in the press.”
“I’ll just say what’s true,” I said.