The same day that the kidnappers freed American freelancer Jill Carroll, the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) named her the recipient of its prestigious Courage in Journalism Award.
Shortly after the news broke of Carroll’s release, the IWMF announced that she would receive the Courage in Journalism Award. The award honors women who show an exceptional commitment to journalistic integrity despite imminent danger. The foundation gives the award to three journalists each year, and Carroll is the first recipient of 2006. It includes a cash prize of US$5,000. The foundation will honor the recipients at two awards dinners: one in New York on October 24 and the second in Los Angeles on November 2. The honorees typically spend the time between the dinners traveling across the country, participating in receptions and panel discussions
Such a nice gesture and so well deserved. In other development, the Monitor has put up a video of Jill addressing the staff at CSM headquarters in Boston. The video is very touching. I was thrilled to see that Jill is still her old self — a very animated and speedy talker. We love you Jill and can’t wait to see you.
I could not control my tears when I saw the pictures of Jill reuniting with her family. What a happy ending! We love you Jill. Welcome back! There’s a wonderful story about her return here and much more here. But make sure to check all the wonderful pictures on The Christian Science Monitor.
Upon returning and reuniting with her family Jill said:
I finally feel like I am alive again. I feel so good … To be able to step outside anytime, to feel the sun directly on your face — to see the whole sky. These are luxuries that we just don’t appreciate every day.
I was glad that Jill made a statement yesterday saying that the video that circulated on the internet after her release was made under threat. I was appalled, shocked and disgusted by those rushing in to attack Jill after her release. How insensitive, short-sighted and just plain dumb! When you have a gun pointed to your head, when you are under threat in some fashion, you say anything to secure your release. For those attacking my dear, wonderful friend … please leave her alone and give her some time to recuperate from the trauma she has undergone. Celebrate her freedom instead of attacking her fragility. How insensitive!
Here are some excerpts from her statement published in full on CSM:
I’m so happy to be free and am looking forward to spending a lot of time with my family. I want to express my deep appreciation to all the people who worked so long and hard for my release. I am humbled by the sympathy and support expressed by so many people during my kidnapping.
… During my last night of captivity, my captors forced me to participate in a propaganda video. They told me I would be released if I cooperated. I was living in a threatening environment, under their control, and I wanted to go home alive. So I agreed.
Things that I was forced to say while captive are now being taken by some as an accurate reflection of my personal views. They are not. The people who kidnapped me and murdered Alan Enwiya are criminals, at best. They robbed Alan of his life and devastated his family. They put me, my family and my friends — all those around the world — who have prayed so fervently for my release — through a horrific experience. I was, and remain, deeply angry with the people who did this.
I also gave a TV interview to the Iraqi Islamic Party shortly after my release. The party had promised me the interview would never be broadcast or aired on television, and they broke their word. At any rate, fearing retribution from my captors, I did not speak freely. Out of fear I said I wasn’t threatened. In fact, I was threatened many times.
Also, at least two false statements about me have been widely aired: One, that I refused to travel and cooperate with the U.S. military and two, that I refused to discuss my captivity with U.S. officials. Again, neither statement is true.
I want to be judged as a journalist, not as a hostage. I remain as committed as ever to fairness and accuracy — to discovering the truth — and so I will not engage in polemics. But let me be clear: I abhor all who kidnap and murder civilians, and my captors are clearly guilty of both crimes.
The Washington Post talked with Jill soon after her release, quoting her as saying that her orderal felt “like falling off a cliff for three months." They also ran a picture [from Getty Images] of Jill right after she was freed. She looks healthy and certainly happy to be free. Here are some excerpts from the Washington Post feature that ran today.
BAGHDAD, March 30 — Jill Carroll wondered from day to day whether she would grow old or die a hostage. "It was like falling off a cliff for three months, waiting to hit the ground," the 28-year-old American reporter said Thursday after being released by her kidnappers. A shuffle from car to street to the branch office of a Sunni Arab political party and then to its headquarters brought Carroll to freedom on a beautiful spring day in Baghdad.
I’m really ecstatic and grateful that our prayers have been answered. I can’t wait to see Jill, hug her and never let her go. Meanwhile, I’m off to Seattle in a few hours to attend a family wedding. I guess today I have two reasons to celebrate: A blessed matrimony, and a friend’s long-awaited freedom realized. Life can’t get any better. Thank you God.
We have received word that Jill has been released. The Italian News Agency, ANSA (in Italian), which Jill used to work for, is reporting that Jill was released about one hour ago (here "roughly" translated from the Italian), that’s around 5:00 am EST. The news is now percolating down into the news agencies. We are making contacts and verifying this information. More updates will come as we know them.
UPDATE: We now have confirmation of this release from the Christian Science Monitor team. We are both still stunned by this tremendous news. All the prayers and good wishes have been answered. We are simply overwhelmed by this amazing, fantastic, tremendously wonderful news!!
UPDATE 2: The US Embassy in Baghdad has been unable to confirm her release but the CSM is reporting that she has talked to her family, confirming her release: "She was released this morning, she’s talked to her father and she’s fine," said David Cook, Washington bureau chief of The Christian Science Monitor.
UPDATE 3: The US military cannot confirm that Jill is inside Baghdad’s noted "Green zone," the protected inner sanctum, or at least they are hesitant to say anything until they can confirm she is safe and protected. It is notable that she is reported to have been "released" but not "rescued," meaning a group — the group — decided to release her. Was it Katie’s statement? Who knows, but the timing seems to suggest as much. Meanwhile, the phone is ringing off the hook with interview requests. Everyone is just overwhelmed as we do our best to get our head around all of this. To all of you calling us, we’d really like for the family to be given a chance to digest this and to make an official statement. As for us, we are absolutely overwhelmed, ecstatic … over the moon with joy!
UPDATE 4: Word is now that Jill is inside the Green Zone and is being given a health checkup. Jill has apparently made a statement saying she was unsure why she was abducted but that she was treated well by her captors. The State Department is now weighing in, confirming her release, with a spokesperson saying: "I can confirm her release. This is great news…we are very pleased." Jill was handed over to the Iraqi Islamic Party office in Amiriya, western Baghdad, by an unknown group, "She is healthy and we handed her over to the Americans," Nasir al-Ani, a party member, told The Associated Press. Shout it from the rooftops: Jill is FREE!!
UPDATE 5: Jill’s father appeared on NBC News and made a statement: "We are thrilled and relieved at the safe return of my daughter," he said on the "Today" show. "We want to thank the thousands of people that prayed and especially the people at The Christian Science Monitor who did so much to keep her alive." You’ll have to excuse us, but we’re going to take a breather now, our hearts are about to explode!
UPDATE 6: Jill spoke briefly to Baghdad television, apparently operated by the Iraqi Islamic Party, after her health checkup. During the interview, she said: "I’m just happy to be free. I want to be with my family … I felt I was not free. It was difficult because I didn’t know what would happen to me." She said she had been kept in a furnished room with a window and a shower, but she had no idea where she was. She also said she was allowed to watch TV and read a newspaper, once each.
She appeared very strong and pointed out that she was not harmed, telling the Associated Press that her captors "never hit me and never even threatened to hit me." Jill had no idea why they let her go though, saying: "They just came to me and said we’re going. They didn’t tell me what was going on." Dr. Tariq Al-hashmi, leader of the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party, said he had helped get Jill released, according to an Iraqi Interior Ministry official.
UPDATE 7: Jill’s family has released a wonderful statement following Jill’s release:
Our hearts are full. We are elated by Jill’s safe release. We would like to thank all of the generous people around the world who worked officially or unofficially, especially those who took personal risks, to gain Jill’s release. We are also very grateful for the support of the Iraqi people, who have shown the world a deep compassion for Jill’s situation, and members of the press in Baghdad.
Finally, we cannot say enough about the outstanding staff at The Christian Science Monitor, who provided us information and emotional support from the very start of this harrowing experience.
Our priority now, of course, is helping Jill to recover from her ordeal. We ask that the media respect our privacy and desire to focus on Jill’s well-being. When we feel the time is appropriate, we will release more details about her experience. Finally, our thoughts are with the families of others still being held hostage in Iraq, and we hope that their loved ones will soon return safely to them.
~ Katie, Jim, Mary Beth — and Jill — Carroll
UPDATE 8: The CSM has also issued a statement, saying: "Uncountable have been the cumulative prayers and pleas, the messages of support and tears of concern shed for Jill Carroll over the past three months. Today, we cry tears of joy for her release." They also make the very important point that Jill’s release should not be an end, but rather a means towards the release of all the others held against their will. "Anyone who is being held captive, out of any willful passion or purpose, should be freed. Those who kidnapped before and after Jill must have their freedom, too. In fact, even kidnappers themselves deserve freedom from a kind of imprisonment their lives represent." See here for more.
UPDATE 9: Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice made a statement while in Germany regarding Jill’s release, telling reporters that it was with "great delight and great relief of the United States, the people of the United States and, I’m sure, the people of the world at the release today of Jill Carroll … This is something that people have across the world worked for and prayed for and I think we are all very pleased and happy to hear of her release." And the Italian News Agency ANSA, who were the first we heard of to break the good news in print, has invited Jill to stop by. Jill worked for ANSA as a freelancer for a good while when she was in Iraq. It’s nice to see them give her such a warm reception. "You deserve to see Rome now, stupendous with the colours of spring. We look forward to seeing you here," said ANSA editor-in-chief Pierluigi Magnaschi.
UPDATE 10: It looks like a world of folks are weighing in on her release. Even President Bush got in on things saying: "I’m really grateful she was released and thank those who worked hard for her release, and we’re glad she’s alive." There’s a full accounting of all the reactions on CNN.
UPDATE 11: A little bit more about Jill’s release has trickled in and more is sure to be known in due time. In her taped interview she said: "They just came to me this morning and told me they will release me." Apparently she was dropped off, perhaps by her abductors, near the Iraqi Islamic Party offices in Baghdad, where she walked in and identified herself as "Jill Carroll." She then gave them a note written in Arabic that apparently asked the group to help. It then appears that she was moved into the party’s main compound where she made a few phone calls to the embassy and to her family before she was interviewed by the group for Baghdad TV and a strange "ceremony" took place. What is not clear is whether Jill felt that she was free at this point, being put yet again in front of a camera by strangers rather than given a doctor or taken to her friends.
Jill’s twin sister Katie appeared on Alarabiya today, appealing for Jill’s release, as she highlighted Jill’s importance to her, her family and really, to all of us who know and love Jill. She reached out and thanked the Iraqi people and everyone that has shown her and her family such wonderful support throughout this terrible crisis. It’s been so quiet and Iraq seems scarier by the day. We all are praying for her safe return. God, please bring our Jill back home, and soon. [Pictures via CSM]
My name is Katie Carroll. My twin sister is Jill Carroll, the innocent journalist who was kidnapped in Baghdad 82 days ago. I am speaking to you today because it has been nearly two months since the last video of my sister was broadcast. We have had no contact with her nor received any information about her condition. Since that time, I’ve been living a nightmare, worrying if she is hurt or ill.
There is no one I hold closer to my heart than my sister and I am deeply worried wondering how she is being treated. No family should have to endure having their loved one taken away from them in this way. My family and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Iraqi people for the support and friendship you’ve shown us during this difficult time.
We would especially like to thank Mrs. Siham Faraj, the Iraqi mother who — after her own daughter was released from detention — was thoughtful enough to think of our family. As Mrs. Faraj said, Jill loves Iraq and Iraqis. She continued on to say, and I quote, that "Jill is a very good person. Don’t worry, she’s coming back home. God never forgets good people."
Mrs. Faraj is right about Jill being a friend to the people of Iraq. She has lived in Iraq for almost three years, has many Iraqi friends, and respects their culture. My sister has always had special praise for the strength and resilience of Iraqi women and mothers.
I hope that someone listening to me now has information that could help my sister. There are people willing to listen to you and we would be forever grateful for any new sign that Jill is well. I also hope that those with Jill have come to know her — that they recognize what a wonderful person she is and realize that they can show the world that they are merciful to an innocent woman by returning her safely home to us.