In Podcast Hosted By Pro-Jihadi American Reporter Bilal Abdul Kareem, Former Taliban Prisoner Yvonne Ridley Accuses Western Media Of Deliberately Tarnishing Taliban's Image

September 7, 2021

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On August 29, 2021, Bilal Abdul Kareem, a pro-jihadi U.S.-national based in Syria, shared a video podcast[1] titled "The Media And The Taliban – Is There A Bias?" in which he interviewed former Taliban prisoner British journalist Yvonne Ridley, who accused the media in the West of deliberately tarnishing the image of the Taliban and disrespecting their leaders in their coverage of the situation in Afghanistan.

Ridley, who was captured by the Taliban in 2001 and later converted to Islam, begun by accusing Western media of fabricating news in 2001, when the U.S. forces defeated the Taliban and took over Kabul. She said: "When the Taliban were routed from Kabul, the media wanted to illustrate that this was a good thing and the people were really happy and so, they paid Afghan men to shave their beards in front of the cameras and they paid Afghan women to burn their burqas. They were offering $50 at the time, so, you know, that's like a month's wages. So, you can see why. This was just part of the continuation of the propaganda against the Taliban."

Commenting on the current Western media coverage of the Taliban since they have taken over Afghanistan, Ridley said: "I thought maybe the media might be a little bit more restrained. I don't know why I thought that... And there I was watching an international American satellite network and somebody known to both you and who I had a lot of respect for and so I was tuned in and I was listening and she was standing in front of Taliban soldiers and they were jubilant, quite naturally, because they have entered Kabul as victors after 20 years of war, and so they were shouting Allahu Akbar [Allah is great]... and she is standing there in front of them and there is all this noise in the background... and then she looked straight at the camera and said, 'This is a bit weird, they are shouting "Death to America," and I thought, 'I didn't hear that'... I played it again and run it and I played it again, and they just didn't, and I didn't hear that at all, and I was really sad that someone of that caliber needed to do that. It was so unnecessary."

When asked what she thought the Western media sought to accomplish, she responded by saying that they "wanted to convey that... 'The brutal evil Taliban have come back into Kabul and there they are on the street shouting "Death to America" and I am an American. Look how brave I am standing in front of them telling you what they are saying.'"

Arguing that the Taliban now are different than the Taliban of 20 years ago, Ridley said: "The very fact that a female journalist can walk the streets of Kabul and stand in front of the Taliban and film is a huge leap forward from what was happening 20 years ago. She would have been better off saying, '20 years ago, I would have been carted away for being out in the street broadcasting, and now here I am standing in front of some jubilant Taliban soldiers,' but of course they didn't want to give that narrative."

After Ridley accused the media of being disrespectful to the Taliban leadership and of not giving the Taliban a chance, Abdul Kareem noted that Western media "have never intended to give the Taliban an opportunity to be successful," saying that it has been "portraying all these people at the Kabul airport as forgotten heroes in the news media."

Abdul Kareem then lashed out at the men who wanted to flee from the country after Taliban took over Afghanistan, saying that they "decided to side with an invader that invaded their country... I don't feel that these are forgotten heroes." He added, "I don't condone at all what took place at the Kabul airport," in reference to the August 26, 2021 attack[2] for which ISIS claimed responsibility.

Instead of answering a question from a podcast viewer named Mizan Ahmed, who asked: "How can you have freedom of press in a country that is as oppressive as Afghanistan?" she argued that neither the U.S. nor the U.K. have a free press and referred to Abdul Kareem as an example of the journalists who have been persecuted for telling the truth. She said: "His work with OGN [On the Ground News] has made him a lot of enemies and he is one step away from drone attacks, from a sniper's bullet, and from an ISIS noose."

Defending Abdul Kareem, who was accused by a viewer of "giving ISIS a platform" by interviewing a woman known as Umm Maymouna whose husband "is ISIS and he was caught placing IEDs under Muslims' cars," Ridley asked Abdul Kareem if the woman was the one who was tortured. When he answered "yes," she said: "Well, that was a shocking story and needed to be told. It doesn't matter who she is married to. She could have been married to Donald Trump. She should not be punished... for what her husband has done or is alleged to have done."

After noting that she will be in Kabul before the end of the year, the continued defending the Taliban, saying at the end of any war, there would be individuals who would seek vengeance and that this is human nature and arguing that the Taliban's transition to power "was a lot more smooth than the transition from Trump to Biden, you know with the Capitol Hill riots."

Ridley then described the Taliban leadership's addressing of women's rights in their press conference as "incredible," saying that Taliban have now "matured and they have learned from their mistakes and they are compromising or diluting their principles. They have obviously thought about this and realized that their behavior 20 years ago wasn't Islamically correct."

Addressing the situation in Syria, Ridley argued that the Assad regime would have been defeated had the rebels were united, and she condemned the infighting between groups and the torturing of women, saying "for goodness sake, get your acts together."

Speaking of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman incarcerated in the U.S. for attempting to kill U.S. military personnel, Ridley said that she had "negotiated directly for Afia's release in exchange for the American soldier being held by the Taliban, Bowe Bergdahl, and we were on the point of getting her released. The two members of the Taliban shura [council] that I was dealing with was the former deputy for the foreign minister, Mullah Abdul Jalil Akhund, and the former governor of Kandahar, Mullah Hassan Rahman, and we met on several occasions to try and get her released, and I negotiated directly with the Americans and I can tell you this: America would give her away tomorrow. She is of no importance to them. She is not even on their radar. They would happily hand her over in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl. In the end, that didn't happen, and the five Taliban commanders were released instead, and I think each and every one of those men, had he known about our negotiations, would have refused to have left Guantanamo and would have said let the sister go instead."

Ridley then claimed that the U.S. would exchange Siddiqui for Dr. Shakil Afridi, whom she described as "the man who was accused of helping the CIA capture Bin Laden" saying he is in "prison in Pakistan. He is worthless. He is just serving time. So really it is down to Pakistan to get the sister released."

Concluding the podcast, Ridley spoke about her own struggle, saying that she has been called a "terrorist sympathizer" and "a victim of Stockholm syndrome" for telling the truth about how she was treated by the Taliban. She said: "I have been back to Afghanistan many times and I have bumped into my captors and they said thank you for telling the truth about us. And nobody was more surprised than them that I had told the truth." On her embrace of Islam, she said that the "delivery of justice is not just for your friends and family but for your enemy as well."

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