Journalist Held Hostage by ISIS Talks About His Captors

November 18, 2015 Updated: January 23, 2016

French journalist Nicolas Hénin, who was held for ten months by Islamic State militants in Syria, recalled what his captors were like in the wake of Paris attacks that left at least 129 people dead.

He wrote for the Guardian newspaper an editorial: “All of those beheaded last year were my cellmates, and my jailers would play childish games with us – mental torture – saying one day that we would be released and then two weeks later observing blithely, ‘Tomorrow we will kill one of you.’

He added: “The first couple of times we believed them but after that we came to realize that for the most part they were bull-[expletive] having fun with us.”

While held captive, Hénin said he met around a dozen militants, including “Jihadi John,” who gave him a nickname: “Baldy.”

ISIS fears ‘tolerance,’ ‘cohesion’

Hénin recounted their conversations while he was imprisoned, and he wrote for the Guardian on what seemed to scare ISIS the most:

“They follow the news obsessively, but everything they see goes through their own filter. They are totally indoctrinated, clinging to all manner of conspiracy theories, never acknowledging the contradictions.

With their news and social media interest, they will be noting everything that follows their murderous assault on Paris, and my guess is that right now the chant among them will be ‘We are winning’.

They will be heartened by every sign of overreaction, of division, of fear, of racism, of xenophobia; they will be drawn to any examples of ugliness on social media.

Central to their world view is the belief that communities cannot live together with Muslims, and every day their antennae will be tuned towards finding supporting evidence…Cohesion, tolerance – it is not what they want to see.”

He argued that bombing ISIS-held areas is not the answer.

“Everything I know tells me this is a mistake. The bombardment will be huge, a symbol of righteous anger,” he wrote. “Revenge was perhaps inevitable, but what’s needed is deliberation. My fear is that this reaction will make a bad situation worse,” he added.