Episode for April 22, 2021
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An award-winning journalist’s searing, extraordinary account of being kidnapped and tortured in Syria by al Qaeda for two years – a revelatory memoir about war, human nature, and endurance.
In 2012, American journalist Theo Padnos, fluent in Arabic, Russian, German, and French, traveled to a Turkish border town to write and report on the Syrian civil war. One afternoon in October, while walking through an olive grove, he met three young Syrians – who turned out to be al Qaeda operatives – and they captured him and kept him prisoner for nearly two years. On his first day, in the first of many prisons, Padnos was given a blindfold – a grime-stained scrap of fabric – that was his only possession throughout his horrific ordeal.
Now, in Blindfold, Padnos recounts his time in captivity in Syria, where he was frequently tortured at the hands of the al Qaeda affiliate, Jebhat al Nusra. We learn not only about Padnos’ harrowing experience, but we also get a firsthand account of life in a Syrian village, the nature of Islamic prisons, how captors interrogate someone suspected of being CIA, the ways that Islamic fighters shift identities and drift back and forth through the veil of Western civilization, and much more.
No other journalist has lived among terrorists for as long as Theo has – and survived. As a resident of 13 separate prisons in every part of rebel-occupied Syria, Theo witnessed a society adrift amid a steady stream of bombings, executions, torture, prayer, fasting, and exhibitions, all staged by the terrorists. Living within this tide of violence changed not only his personal identity but also profoundly altered his understanding of how to live.
Offering fascinating, unprecedented insight into the state of Syria today, Blindfold is an astonishing portrait of courage that combines the emotional power of a captive’s memoir with a journalist’s account of a culture and a nation in conflict that is as urgent and important as ever.
Derwyn Bunton is the Chief District Defender for Orleans Parish (New Orleans) Louisiana leading the Orleans Public Defenders Office (OPD). Prior to becoming Chief Defender, Derwyn was the Executive Director of Juvenile Regional Services (JRS). JRS is the first stand-alone juvenile defender office in the nation and the first non-profit law office devoted to juvenile justice reform and front-line juvenile representation. Derwyn is also the former Associate Director of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana (JJPL), a nonprofit juvenile justice reform and advocacy organization. Derwyn graduated from New York University School of Law in 1998. From 2000 to 2005, Derwyn aided in monitoring the settlement agreement between the United States Department of Justice, the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, private plaintiffs and the State of Louisiana regarding Louisiana’s juvenile prisons. Derwyn was part of the litigation team that sued Louisiana over the conditions of its juvenile prisons. During Hurricane Katrina, Derwyn was part of a team of advocates and lawyers assisting the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court, the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice and the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections locate and reunite youth and adults evacuated to multiple DOC facilities across the state after being trapped by floodwaters in the Orleans Parish Prison in the wake of Katrina. In 2007, Derwyn was part of a team of lawyers representing the so-called Jena 6 in Jena, Louisiana. Originally charged with attempted murder, Derwyn’s client pled guilty to a misdemeanor and received 7 days probation. His conviction has since been expunged.
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