|The famous burka that led to Ridley's
British journalist Yvonne Ridley
was captured by the Talibans two years ago.
Find out why Ridley has converted to Islam following her ordeal.
Yvonne Ridley is the Sunday Express journalist who hit
the headlines when she was arrested after being sent to cover the build-up
to the Afghan war.
Two years ago Yvonne was detained on suspicion of spying
after going in search of a scoop disguised in a traditional burka
But it ended in disaster when she was thrown into prison
and held for ten days, while the government, Yvonne's family and work
colleagues tried to secure her release.
Against the odds Yvonne was set free, but her time in
the hands of the Taliban proved to be a life-changing experience.
Against The Odds
Yvonne Ridley says she was 'simply doing her job' when
she was seized by the Taliban near the city of Jalalabad.
in the hands of the Taliban changed her life forever
As Yvonne explains, "A camera which I had hidden
in the folds of my burka slipped out right into the full view of a passing
"He went crazy - cameras were banned under the regime
- and pulled me off the donkey and removed the camera."
For the first six days Yvonne was held in the intelligence
headquarters in Jalalabad before being taken to Kabul prison.
Her cell was very basic and the experience was terrifying.
Yvonne lay on her bed inside a dirty, claustrophobic prison cell with
no running water.
"Every morning I woke up, I thought 'is this going
to be my last day?'" she says.
Hostage to Fortune
|ISLAM FACT FILE
There are two billion Muslims
The Qur'an is the Book of Allah that was revealed to the Prophet
Muhammed over a period of 23 years.
The Qur'an consists of 114 surahs
(or chapters) varying in length from 3 to 286 verses.
To properly understand the teachings of Allah, Muslims say that
one should refer to the Arabic text of the Qur'an
The Qur'an is the most widely read book in the world. All Muslims
memorise parts of it to recite in their prayers.
Some Muslims memorise the entire Qur'an.
Although Yvonne was never physically hurt in any way,
the experience was mentally exhausting.
"Although they were very nice, I just thought 'these
are the good guys, the bad cops are going to appear at any time now with
electrodes and torture instruments, or I'm going to be taken outside and
While being held captive she kept a secret diary using
the inside of a box from a toothpaste tube and the inside of a soap wrapper.
Yvonne recorded her thoughts
when she was in her cell.
"They tried to break me mentally by asking the same
questions time and time again, day after day, sometimes until 9 o'clock
at night," she recalls.
Whilst in prison Yvonne tried to secure her release by
offering to read the Koran or Qur'an. It was the start of her conversion
wears a burka, a garment viewed by many as demeaning to women
Yvonne took on the Muslim faith in August 2003. As a
result she's given up drinking, tries to pray five times a day and visits
a mosque every Friday.
So why has a feisty war correspondent
been drawn to a faith which some in the west say oppresses women?
"I started reading the Koran and it was an absolutely
breathtaking. It could have been written yesterday for today."
"It was crystal clear that women are equal in spirituality,
worth and education," says Yvonne.
Yvonne was brought up as a Protestant in Stanley, sang
in the church choir, and was the Sunday school teacher in her village.
Today she's exchanged her Church of England upbringing
for Islam and a very different set of spiritual beliefs.
It's not just her faith that Yvonne has changed - she
also has a new employer, the controversial Arab
broadcaster Al Jazeera.
Yvonne works on their new English website, and she's
hooked on the internet. "It's a really exciting 24/7 operation...
if something breaks, we can put it straight onto the Internet," she
Yvonne believes Al Jazeera has given the Arab world a
previously unheard independent voice.
Yvonne's experiences in the Middle East have made her
a vocal anti-war campaigner.
the isolation and beauty of her new home in Qatar
She started to think about the futility of war because,
in her words, "These missiles can't differentiate between civilians
and military targets, between a woman, a child and a soldier."
"If I can use any of my fifteen minutes of notoriety
and celebrity for good, then I will," says Yvonne.
Yvonne has also changed as a person. "I think I've
become more reflective and tolerant than I used to be," she concludes.
In just two years, Yvonne has been transformed from a
war corespondent to a committed Muslim with a new lifestyle and a change
It's been an amazing spiritual and physical journey for
the North East-born journalist who finally has found her spiritual roots,
thousands of miles from her country of birth.
From Durham to Dohar, it's been an amazing adventure
and a fascinating spiritual rebirth.