theo who lived (doc)


Peter Theo Curtis (also known as Theo Padnos; born 1968) is an American journalist who was released by the al-Nusra Front in August 2014, after being held hostage for almost two years. He was the cellmate of American war photographer Matt Schrier, who escaped after seven months of captivity

A documentary about Curtis’ time in captivity was released in 2016 titled Theo Who Lived.

by zeitgeist films

notes/quotes from trailer:

i was like a homeless journalist traveling around.. i was going to follow some refugees back into syria.. and i was going to write about the adverse conditions in the camps..

syria.. refugee camps.. et al

i thought i’d write a lovely piece and my journalism career would prosper.. and then w/o even thinking about it i stood up and walked down to meet the people who kidnapped me at the hotel

this place was clearly under attack.. and people down the hall being tortured..i was in the cell 200 days.. the guards.. i was dependent on them for the air that i breathe.. they were just young men.. there were tons of food and guns and people to torture.. and most of them were having fun.. there was a lot of fun in the jihad.. it’s very underrated in the west

jihad (doc)

some of the guards stopped coming to my jail cell.. i would ask.. and they’d say.. he’s been martyred.. who killed them.. oh islamics did

i was interested in the grievances.. it was balm for hurt minds.. it soothed the poison out of them.. it calmed them down

and you try to remind yourself.. i’m still alive.. i’m still alive

i rescued something from the disastered two years.. and it was this story


notes/quotes from doc (85 min):

2 min – i’m thinking.. i committed suicide but i’m still alive

3 min – this is where i threw my life away.. i’m just getting over that.. it’s like the precipice i walked up to and actually jumped.. and now i’m back in a safe place.. and i’m thinking.. why did i ever jump.. that’s so crazy.. so stupid

syrians use this city antakya (turkey).. it’s like a rear camp for their revolution.. all the al qaeda guards would say.. oh.. i gotta go up to turkey today.. what are you going to do.. oh i’m just buying supplies.. because the border is so porous and i’m sure it still is so porous.. so i’m anticipating seeing some my old () buddies.. walking around buying.. shampoo.. they gotta take care of their hair

siddiqi border law


4 min – in this house (that i lived).. all the diff factions of the war in syria.. two people from free syrian army.. next door to them lived people who supported the regime.. and next to door one guy from ().. that shows you the frivolity of the war that’s happening down there.. because they can all live in the same house and get along and respect one another.. provided you bring them into turkey.. but if you have them down there they’ll cut off each others heads and kill each other..t

hari rat park law

25 diff sim cards.. i was like a homeless journalist traveling around

5 min – in syria.. you’re living in this whole field of secret symbols.. people wearing little lockets.. people wearing their hair a certain way.. their veil a certain way.. and they’re broadcasting messages about their religious id

at the time there were a huge community of journalists here in antakya.. and i thought.. they don’t really understand these religious codes.. and furthermore they can’t speak the language.. they’re just at sea.. me.. i can swim in the ocean

i would walk up here everyday.. and i would think.. am i really going to go south into those killing fields for $500.. and i thought.. i’d love to do a piece for the new yorker.. i mean for the new republic .. i could have never gotten into the new yorker.. and my journalism career will prosper

i have been a risk taker.. when i was younger.. in my 20’s i was rock climber.. and this alarmed my mom because her brother was killed in a rock climbing accident in the 50s

when i left for syria.. mom was like.. you’re still in this place where you gotta do stuff that hurts me.. and do stuff that might get yourself killed.. why do you need to do this

6 min – i was sitting on this rock right here.. i was having self esteem issues.. because i was having so little career success.. i was looking at the ants and i’m going.. that ant has a more interesting life than me

it’s just 2 days.. and i’m not that much of a chicken.. i’m a tough guy.. i can handle it.. w/o really thinking about it.. i stood up and walked down to meet the people .. who kidnapped me at the hotel (laughs)

7 min – they told me they were uni students.. they spoke proper well educated arabic.. i trusted them.. and they turned up right on time.. so did i .. and off we went.. very reliable kidnappers

i understood that i was going to follow some refugees back into syria and i was going to write about the adverse conditions in the camps

8 min – (standing outside kidnappers house).. no one else seems to want to reconcile except us.. fbi said defer to turkey.. there’s clearly some kind of hornet’s nest they don’t want to put their hands in .. now they all know we’re here.. buys living there now are both working with the resistance in syria

10 min – (walking away from house).. they were nice young men just like my kidnappers those two.. and i felt like friends w them here.. if i’d gotten in the car w them it could continue

(back to story of kidnapping and getting to syria border.. and them saying.. run.. so sprinted.. and remember the exhilaration .. stupidity .. of sprinting to my torture – para)

12 min – the first thing they talked to me about.. was the aggression and all the horrible things that america has done in the past.. the brought up the slaughter of the american indians right away.. they brought up hiroshima in those first 5 min.. ‘what did you do to the japanese’.. i was ‘i wasn’t alive’.. and so..

they’re pouring water over me ‘this is guantanamo’ .. then had these steal cables (wacking me) against my hands/head.. i’m bleeding all down my head.. i was screaming at the top of my lungs but we were out in an olive grove somewhere

they had cut my face.. leader told them to get a wash cloth.. and they very gently washed my face.. stopped the bleeding a bit.. then they ordered take away chicken .. and brought it in and had lunch

13 min – incredible thunderstorm and artillery fire that night.. i kept asking the guy if he could undo my handcuffs so i could go pee.. did that 4-5 times.. last time he put them on very lose.. so i waited for guy to sleep.. once they were sleeping i ran out the door.. never so frightened in my life.. stopped a car and asked guy to take me to the police.. he said ok.. and i kissed his hand in submission to him.. he took me to a black door.. i ran up to the door.. knocking.. let me in i’m a journalist.. i thought the kidnappers were chasing me..

14 min – they (police) were all asleep.. i hid under their beds.. and they were like.. what are you doing .. you’re w us now .. it’s safe.. so sat on their bed.. we had a nice time.. had tea.. everything came back to normal

the kidnapper turned up to the police station.. they were arguing for a little while.. then my kidnappers were standing in front of me.. all had guns.. took me and threw me in back of large truck.. stopped at a checkpoint.. started singing.. ‘so happy to get the american’.. and i was into al qaeda land at that point

15 min – mom talking

18 min – this place was clearly under attack.. middle of war zone.. and people down the hall being tortured.. i thought.. this is going to be ugly when they kill me

19 min – i felt that .. only people form al qaeda go to this place.. and nobody comes back.. every time i had a chance to relax.. i felt like.. this isn’t happening.. when i was sleeping it wasn’t happening .. i was fine.. at home in vermont.. then i’d wake up to this nightmare.. i’d wake into a nightmare every morning.. so i tried to sleep as much as possible

mom and cousin talking – trying to get help.. people saying ‘i didn’t ask him to go.. what do you expect me to do’

20 min – the three women contacting everyone they could.. that waiting/watching/hoping.. was such a difficult time

they were so cruel to me esp at first.. i was terrified that my guards.. they wanted me to be in terror.. their specialty is just keeping you in a constant state of terror

21 min – the guy that i was afraid of.. he hadn’t hit me much .. but he had been very abrupt and cruel in speech to me.. he said.. as soon as you hear my key in the door.. face to the wall.. i’d say.. ‘my face is to the wall’ and he kept hitting me.. and i’d say ‘what are you doing to me’.. and he said ‘i’m training your soul’

from tweet below: @TheoPadnos: .. The thing they put you through in Syrian prisons is meant to transform the psyche. Ok, mine was transformed. But in a good way! I became more me. I suspect the top al Qaeda people know that torture had a positive effect on me in the end.

one day he came in and said.. prepare yourself to be executed in the islamic manner in 5 min.. he came back 5 min later w 2 kids and they handcuffed me and put me in blindfold and they brought me down to the room of death.. the torture room.. i don’t know if they were killing people in there or not.. i know they were torturing people in there..

22 min – on the way he brought me into the bathroom and there was a window.. he said.. out there is the sun.. this is the last time you’ll see the sun.. do you understand?.. i said .. yes

when you walked in you saw the chains they used to whip people with.. the handcuffs.. the cables.. and the electricities.. the batteries.. and ropes.. (in space.. looking up.. it was something like this).. they had me stand on a step ladder.. i felt this noose come down over my head .. (hard time talking – as he tightens the noose and says.. like this) .. i was trying not to fall over.. because if you’d die if you fall over.. i could die right now

23 min – kids beside me whispering in english ‘we kill you.. we kill you now’

the guy goes.. do you want to save your life.. i’m like yes.. yes.. he says.. then admit you’re cia.. i said.. but i’m not cia.. he says.. cia’s just don’t confess do they.. i said.. but i’m not cia

he says.. tell me how you got to syria.. i said airplane.. he said.. where’d you fly out of .. i said montreal.. he said.. are the girls prettier there… i go.. this is insane.. (questions went on) – flew into istanbul.. did you know any women there.. i said one.. he said.. did you sleep with her.. i said now.. he said .. liar.. do you know any women in syrian.. yes.. did you sleep w them.. no.. went on like this for about 40 min about my sex life

then heard call to prayer in hallway.. so they took me down and back in my cell again.. then next day is when real torture began

24 min – unofficial torture – lock you into a tire.. roll you over on stomach and start hitting you.. lead guy just walking around asking questions.. w 5-6 kids just hitting you.. like some of them are 10 yrs old

27 min – just getting worse and worse.. and i was in this nother world that was only cruelty.. and one day.. during torture session said.. if you don’t confess to being cia we’re going to kill you under torture.. and i confessed.. cia cia.. they said.. going to get worse torture

tried to kill myself .. then stopped myself

28 min – cousin on throwing bottles into ocean just hoping someone would find them and help

mother talking again – about dead zone – and getting on w daily life.. a month after theo taken james foley was taken.. we talked (mothers).. that made a bid diff.. having someone in common to talk to..talked about what good friends they will be when this is over

31 min – was too afraid to knock on door.. but beat me for peeing inside.. 3 months by myself

matthew schrier imprisoned w theo.. goes on news talking about how crazy theo was.. theo saying how crazy matthew.. was in same jail cell for 7 mos.. he was hostile/aggressive.. in my face screaming at me for hours on end.. what a loser i was.. over and over.. and then he would cry and then he would say you’re driving me crazy..

32 min – after 4 months.. brought us to basement of dept of motor vehicles.. they worked together to undo the window.. after 10 days removed spokes so could try to escape

33 min – m saying: plan was to wait till sunrise

theo – when time to go out.. we both wrote notes to our mom’s in case they killed us.. he climbed out first off my back.. he was panicking.. couldn’t get out window.. then slid out and was free..

i handed his belongings to him.. then i put my hands thru..

m: saying i was pulling him out

t: he’s lying..lying.. if he was truly helping .. he would have worked it till it got done like i did for him

m: it wasn’t working.. i said i just have to go

t: i put myself in danger to help him.. but when in danger didn’t help me.. just ran away..

t: you know.. you can’t blame him really

36 min – i was so close..

m in interview: interviewer: things could not have gone well for him once they found out you were gone.. m: no.. i think about it everyday

t: i thought they were going to come along and kill me

at the end of the day.. they came in .. said.. what about the other one.. and i said.. oh.. he left (they started hitting me).. i got up off the ground.. and they said reenact it.. i told them i wasn’t at window helping i was at door pounding and nobody came

38 min – i couldn’t walk for several days after beating.. but 2-3 days later.. i could.. and i was like.. well.. he’s out there trying to get me released.. and this is good.. i’m happy he’s gone.. i hated him.. i got a nice palestinian in my cell.. he killed his uncle.. you know.. he was a nice murderer .. and everything was good

38 min – mom: fbi agent called and said – we have proof of life.. all i knew was al qaeda was holding him.. then matt called me and kept apologizing for leaving theo.. and i (mom) was – i don’t want to hear this.. don’t tell me this.. your guilt is not my problem.. i didn’t tell him that.. because i felt bad for the guy

40 min – i was in same cell after schreier left.. for 3 wks.. and i was under the impression matt was home showing everybody on google maps where theo is.. i thought the cia was on a rescue mission.. which evidently they weren’t .. for which i don’t really blame them by the way.. i mean the cia can’t run around rescuing every dumb american who gets themself in trouble in the arab world.. it’s up to the dumb americans not to get themselves in trouble

matt interviewed by nyt.. cousins realized this was dangerous for theo.. (because matt talked about theo helping w/escape)

arabic people.. don’t read the nyt.. however they do on arabic tv they do a media review summary.. so it’s conceivable they could have gotten wind of what had happened thru watching arabic tv.. or they could have watched cnn

41 min – clip on cnn saying not naming other american for his safety – t: except .. it’s on the screen.. (showing his name below interview clip)

after 3 wks they came.. they were in a very grim and dower mood.. said ‘you lied to us’.. they just started beating – like rodney king.. and i said.. please.. please.. and commander said -no please

42 min – after (beating) put me in a room w no ventilation and no light.. and it was like 120 degrees in there.. they bound my hands/legs.. so had to just lie on ground.. 45 days like that

43 min – after 45 days brought me out to a heat box.. i was 200 days in this cell.. i counted them.. one by one.. i mean you don’t have much else to do.. i would switch walls i would sit against.. tried to laugh and be fun to myself about it.. i don’t know..

44 min – the guards.. part of their strategy is to reduce you to absolutely nothing.. you’re dependent on them for.. there was time i was dependent on them for the air that i would breathe because there was no ventilation in the room.. in fact they could really shut it down so that you were using up the oxygen in the room and i needed them to crack the door just a tiny little bit.. i needed them to give me water/food/bathroom/everything.. and when they don’t give you anything for a really long time.. they give you a tiny little bit.. like an olive.. you’re grateful for that olive.. and then they come in and give you 5 olives.. and you’re like.. thank you man.. that was really good of you

then they gave me oranges.. and i put the green leaves from them in (holes in wall) and then when guards came by i’d say.. do you want to see my garden.. do you want to sit in my garden..? they would always laugh

45 min – i mean they’re just young men.. it’s as if someone got a club house in the neighborhood.. and there’s tv in the clubhouse.. and tons of food.. whatever they want.. they didn’t have this before.. tons of guns.. important prisoners to take care of .. and secrets.. people they could torture..

the guys were having a great time.. except they’d get killed once in a while .. but most of them were having fun.. there’s a lot of fun in the jihad.. it’s very underrated in the west

46 min – i don’t blame them exclusively.. because they themselves have been the victims of persecution and suffering.. they have been treated like dirt.. for very long.. and their own siblings and parents.. no doubt have perished in the war.. so.. it’s a cycle of hatred.. and i refuse to capitulate to that.. or to participate in it in any way

nice.. love

46 min – there was one guy name abu hamza.. this buy made a special effort for me.. brought me tuna.. he wanted to work at the un afterwards.. i said.. i’ll find you a job at the un just let me go.. he said.. i’m going to work on it.. before i leave (?sounded like venezuela) i will get you out of jail

abu hamza was free lancing.. he was calling up contacts of his in jordan and they were calling up the us embassy.. and us embassy said.. we can put you in touch w nancy (theo’s mom) if you like

47 min – mom: they only wanted to deal w the us govt.. well.. they didn’t have an option.. it’s very clear.. us govt does not negotiate.. does not pay ransom.. so they had to keep talking with us

my mom wanted to know abu hamza actually was in touch w me.. so had to take pics of me and send to my mom.. and then they asked.. proof of life question(s).. brought me to a room to ask questions.. and seemed abu hamza was on skype w someone in us.. and they were laughing..

cousin: first sum was put out there.. starting at 5 million dollars then to 5 million euros because i need a commission is what he said (so like 6 million)

mom: we did make an offer.. a first bid.. i wasn’t going to sell my house or bankrupt my family because i’ve got other people to worry about.. because i thought it was about arriving at a mutually agreeable price

49 min – abu suddenly closed the computer.. and goes.. time to go back to your cell.. it will be 2-3 days.. then off you go.. i went back to my cell.. and then he vanished..

for me it was like i was in the middle of the ocean and i could see a rescue boat.. i could see it.. and it was coming closer and closer.. and then i’d blink and it would disappear

50 min – mom: there was no follow up.. i don’t know what happened.. what were they going to do with him.. what next?.. meal times were hard.. always been a time of celebration.. every time having a good meal.. day.. i would feel.. really sad.. theo can’t enjoy that

51 min – if you had to live in this jail cell for 200 days.. w/o no sense of possibly getting out.. it’s like being buried alive.. and you try to remind yourself.. i’m still alive.. i’m still alive.. i’m not dead yet

one day i fell over and couldn’t get up.. i felt.. i’m a ruined person – no physical/mental strength – and i just started to cry.. i just missed home and freshness and fruit.. and love.. i so much missed affection .. human affection between people.. because i hadn’t had this for so long.. it was strange.. it was something that i wanted to burrow into in my mind.. so i did this by writing

52 min – events and people and places kept coming to me and suddenly i was writing a novel.. i set the whole thing in vermont.. when i think of home this is what i think of.. this house/woods/barn

at first they would give me one of these pieces of paper a week (showed tiny writing) and they would give me like one pen.. so i would run out.. my guard would go in and steal me computer paper from the al qaeda computer.. i’d fold it up into fourths and put in pocket of cargo pants.. carried with me wherever i went.. it was like i rescued something from the disaster of 2 yrs.. and it was this story..t

53 min – the al qaeda guys had never seen anyone writing this much.. they were curious about what was going on in my cell.. they would keep poking their heads thru the food hatch and say.. what are you writing.. and i’d say.. i’m writing a story.. they’d say.. what is it about.. i’d say.. let me read to you

54 min – ‘when i was 16 .. my girlfriend was known as the pretty daughter of the local cult leader that burned down the village church..’ my captures.. they would like stare at me.. ‘my gosh.. in islam they weren’t allowed to attack any churches’.. that was the next thing.. i said.. my girlfriend was a thoughtful arsonist… she’d lay down a little display of lollipops (in snow) because it was valentine’s day

listening to my story was like putting them to sleep.. it was balm for hurt minds.. it soothed the poison out of them.. it calmed them down..t

55 min – it was 50 50 if i was going to live/die.. so i was not creating this book to publish it.. i was creating it to have something to do today.. and hopefully to put me to sleep at night so i could anticipate doing something the next day..t

i was grateful.. that the creator.. god.. had endowed all of us with this ability to tell stories..

they wanted me to cut to the dirty part.. where do you have sex with her.. i included that.. believe me.. it’s in here.. because that is something i/they/world were interested in .. so i put .. the not really dirty.. but romance and love leading to sex.. i put that in my book.. and in islam.. often that leads to punishment.. so i put that in here to .. then describes torture he wrote about in book … ‘she screamed’ et al.. wack.. wack.. please.. please.. please.. no please.. no please..

wow.. great doc director

57 min – one time i had a little plastic zip tie and i could inch my zip tie around to undo latch.. to escape.. but if i would have escaped at that point.. i would have gone straight to isis

after a while.. some of the guards that were nicest to me.. stopped coming to my cell.. i would ask.. and ask.. then finally they would say.. he’s been martyred.. who killed them? islamics did

one day.. very important man came by.. all other guards stopped talking.. ‘i’m the leader of al qaeda in syria.. we’re going across the desert.. wherever i go .. you’ll go.. you’re with me now’.. i said yeah.. praise god

59 min – in the morning.. 60 cars lined up at the edge of the desert.. 200 of us.. everybody’s got tons of ammunition.. grenades.. suicide belts..

as we were leaving.. i noticed people in handcuffs.. which is a sure sign they’re prisoners and they were led into a truck.. that afternoon that truck disappeared into one of these sand dunes.. when it came back it was empty.. and i didn’t ask any questions

we had to leave (that place that sounds like venezuela) because for a couple of months .. the isis commander had been fighting w his best childhood friend.. a little fight over oil revenues.. they had pitched their armies against one another .. and the army holding me has lost this battle.. we fled into the desert.. in middle of night.. w all our belongings and isis at our heals

noor ness

1:00 – most valued – bags of cash went in the car w the shia.. and i went in the car w the shia

everyday when i had an opp to speak to him i would try to keep quiet and adopt the submissive and interested posture.. which i was interested in the grievances of an al qaeda leader.. i wanted to hear them

the first thing he told me was ‘isis makes me very sad.. very sad..’ because they had killed a lot of his friends from the jihad and iraq.. perhaps before that in afghanistan

1:01 – it’s difficult to be an al qaeda leader.. it’s like his wife/kids are in some far away country.. they could be arrested at any moment.. us is trying to kill them.. w arial drones.. he couldn’t really unburden himself w his sorrows when we were with other people.. but when we were alone in the truck.. he could talk openly

so he would tell me about his trouble w isis.. he’d tell me about his troubles w the us govt.. how nobody understood him.. you know .. he was fighting on behalf of the syrian people.. he loved the religion of islam .. he loved (that) more than violence.. he had been in jail for 4 yrs w the american govt.. they had oppressed him.. and i was like.. abu maria.. my shia.. i’m very sorry to hear that you have all these troubles.. please.. explain more.. really.. i had joseph in the bible in mind.. joseph was taken out of the prison and he was allowed to talk to the pharoah.. and the reason the pharoah loved joseph is because joseph could interpret his dreams

1:02 – abu maria told me to intro myself to strangers as a irish suicide bomber.. to help the revolution.. and that way i wouldn’t have to talk to people because i was supposed to be making a state of grace before my death.. he wanted them to ask me questions.. but everybody in our army.. after a few days.. knew that i was a journalist.. but they felt like i was a respectable/decent journalist because i had the favor of the shia

i spoke to them about the things that we have in common .. i respect the religion of islam .. i respect their right to religious freedom.. and conscious of the fact that the syrian govt has persecuted people that they deem to be too religious

1:03 – i am sympathetic to their claims of victimhood at the hands of the americans.. what business did we have in iraq.. i really don’t support anything that we did in iraq.. not an instant


and i could speak to them for hours about this.. so i in fact know the injustices that we committed better than they do.. so i could recite chapter/verse where they couldn’t.. they found me a persuasive.. i think they found me as somebody who advocated from their pov better than they can.. and that’s why this guy abu maria lets me.. and i said.. and by the way i could do this in washington if you’d just let me go.. and he said.. ok.. we’ll let you go.. just give us a few days

1:04 – they kept saying.. it’s coming.. soon.. but.. i didn’t really believe them

the last day in the desert was a really stressful day.. because the planes came very close

1:05 – finally (arrive) .. and w/in 5 min we’re all asleep.. because so exhausted and we knew we were in a safe place

i kept asking.. when am i going.. and they would point to the cash bags and say .. they need the cash.. they needed to buy ().. and god knows what else.. they said french govt paid 20 mill for these people.. what’s obama’s problem.. i go he’s an unbeliever.. what are you going to do

1:06 – and in this time i wasn’t really in jail.. i had like jobs to do .. prepare tea.. clean up dishes.. i was like their house boy.. clean guns/bullets..

i worried that i had crossed over the line into aiding and abetting terrorism.. and that when i got home i was going to have to pay for this

one morning.. after i cleaned everything.. i started running like a mad man.. finally i got to the hospital.. told them i was an irish journalist.. needed to call my people.. at bbc.. they said.. bbc good.. just sit tight

1:07 – 10 min later he opens door and says come here.. i stood up and walked into hallway.. all guards were out there w black faces.. brought me back to villa.. threw me on carpet by abu maria.. ‘you are a traitor.. lying.. zionist.. american.. and i will kill you w my own hand’..

we made a video right then (shows clip from cbs news – theo saying i have 3 days)

1:08 – mom: i tried not to contemplate what would happen.. what’s the point of thinking that your son might die

cousin: what happened next is always really hard to speak about.. because it’s such an incomprehensible tragedy (beheads james foley – with message to obama about bloodshed of your people).. amy calls theo’s mom.. mom: one of first time i cried.. if anybody was going to get out.. the foley’s were so organized.. i just could not believe it.. i was no longer in the dead zone

1:10 – the al qaeda people love to see somebody sticking their finger in the eye of the american govt.. and they were happy that they had me to tell .. listen.. this is what’s going to happen to you if your govt keeps on behaving this way towards the muslims.. and i knew that it was going to be a big deal in america because i knew that americans don’t really like to watch their own sons have their heads cut off for now reason in a desert and syria

(foley brother saying.. us could have done more and hope it makes us take a look at our hostage/terrorist policy)

1:11 – mom: and after that.. things began to move very swiftly.. i got a call from fbi agent.. who’d been holding my hand for 22 months.. what’s theo’s show size.. and that got me up.. because i knew fbi was so cheap.. weren’t ‘going to spend money on shoes.. unless something real was going to happen

1:12 – then two un trucks (when to israel).. chief of al qaeda said to me.. ‘don’t say anything bad about me in the media’ and i said.. i’ll just tell the truth

1:13 – i jumped into the un trucks.. i heard.. ‘he’s with us’ on the radio.. i just started crying..

i felt i didn’t deserve this.. because i did this to myself.. to my family.. and so many people are being nice to me.. emotionally.. i just collapsed.. i just let it all go

1:14 – the reason why they released me is because there are all these mechanical gears ready to be set in motion.. but the us govt was not allowing them to be set in motion because they really don’t believe that you should in any way make any kind of concessions or deals.. or nothing.. with any of these people over here.. but as soon as they cut off james foley’s head.. the us govt said.. maybe we can set one little gear in motion and the .. and had all this infra and communications and deals ready to be made.. they made them.. so w/in a week of james foley’s death i was.. i was here.. (israel).. in the hands of the fbi (choked up)

1:15 – fbi agents brought me to my hotel room in tel aviv.. they said.. it would be good if you just slept in your bed tonight w/o going anywhere.. i turned on the tv and it said: hostage peter theo curtis released.. and i thought.. that’s me.. then i looked at the door and i thought.. that door.. it’s probably not locked.. probably no guard out there.. and as soon as that thought came thru my brain.. i was gone.. (as in walking the streets/beach)

1:16 – i just started running.. down the beach.. it felt like i was in a dream.. so beautiful.. water.. moon.. and i didn’t want to sleep.. i just wanted to talk to people.. i wanted contact w human beings who were normal.. and not part of a terrorist org

our findings.. when free .. crave others

1:17 – meets w people in hostel.. first people to talk to in english.. they said ‘he started talking ot us.. didn’t really stop’.. ‘have happy lives’

i had slept for 2 years.. i didn’t need any more.. so i brought the youth hostel crew back to my hotel room

1:18 – at 8:30 in am fbi guys came and knocked on my door.. they said.. time to get up.. and said.. who’s that guy..i said.. my friend from youth hostel

1:19 – (mom ushered to plane/theo via fbi).. i don’t think either one of us could afford a lot of emotion at that point.. it wasn’t this whole trauma is over.. just.. we got thru today

1:20 – (theo crying w cousin).. it’s just hard for me to believe what i put my mom and everybody thru

holy cow

i was mad at the al qaeda people for what they did to my mom.. i wanted to tell them.. you didn’t do it to me.. you’re doing it to a whole family

they say.. ‘you have done horrible things to our families.. what we did to you is nothing compared to .. american bombs have done to iraqi/syrian families now’.. and how do you respond to that..

(shows him helping unload rescue boats from syria) – i came here to volunteer.. to welcome them and give them tea.. that’s what i’m doing.. it makes me happy

(shows him helping translate medical needs as they arrive)

1:21 – (shows him speaking at boston uni school of journalism) early in my imprisonment..i used to lie on the floor in my cell.. i would draw the blanket up over my head and i would think about the things that had meant the most to me.. what had i really loved.. i thought about some girlfriends i had had.. i thought about my mom.. i wished i had loved other people more and they could have caught me.. i wished i would have allowed myself to be loved.. if only this love had anchored me to life..t

1:22 (still to boston uni) if we want to help syria in general.. we should be sending sweetness and blankets and love.. we should not bomb them.. we should stop bombing them.. listen.. i lived under those bombs for 2 yrs.. all we’re doing is spreading hate.. and it is not what the citizens need.. and it is not what we need for ourselves.. when i walked thru that olive grove.. al qaeda had been transforming schools.. hospitals.. city halls.. dmv’s.. into prisons.. it seemed to me that their prisons and their torture chambers had spread across the country because it had had too little love in it

(still to uni) there was one of these jihadi’s in my cell.. his femur was shattered.. it was bleeding puss and blood.. can you rub my leg he would say.. ok.. i’d say.. i would do it.. i mean the guys in pain .. what are you going to do.. no.. i’m busy..? i wasn’t busy.. i’d do it for 5 min and he’d say .. that’s it.. that’s all you’re going to do.. and i’d do another 5 min.. sometimes he’d say.. can you sing to me.. and i would sing to him.. and at those moments.. he was not a crazy/suicidal jihadist.. he was just a normal guy who loved attention and loved being treated affectionately

there was one song he really loved to hear.. ‘desperado.. pain in your hunger are driving you on.. better let somebody love you.. before it’s too late..t.. that’s the part he loved the most.. let somebody love you.. he was like.. yes

love people et al


theo’s reply to tweet saying he is an amazing human being:

Wait. I am simply a human being. The thing they put you through in Syrian prisons is meant to transform the psyche. Ok, mine was transformed. But in a good way! I became more me. I suspect the top al Qaeda people know that torture had a positive effect on me in the end. #tortue

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