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Photographer Jonathan Alpeyrie recounts Syrian hostage ordeal

© Michel Puech

On 29 April, Jonathan Alpeyrie, a French-American photographer, was abducted in Syria. Eighty-one days later, he was sold for $450,000 and returned to Paris. He recounts his ordeal to Le Journal de la Photographie and Paris Match

Jonathan Alpeyrie was on his third trip to Syria when, on 29 April, he fell into a trap and was abducted. “I got into a 4×4 with a Katiba officer, my fixer and two soldiers. We came to a checkpoint where masked men pulled me out of the car, forced me to kneel and pretended to execute me,” he tells Michel Puech at Le Journal de la Photographie.

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In his account, Alpeyrie discusses his 81 days of captivity, which he spent, at times, handcuffed to a bed “with five or six soldiers and two Islamists. One day, a young soldier, who looked crazy and made me uneasy, wanted to execute me because I had gone to the bathroom without asking for permission. He put his machine gun against my forehead but the others yelled at him and sent him away,” he explains.

While Alpeyrie cannot say much about his release – “the French and American governments prefer it that way,” he tells Le Journal de la Photographie – he says he was freed, thanks to “a Syrian man close to the regime, a member of parliament and a businessman who was looking for Edouard Elias and Didier François [two French journalists who went missing in Syria on 07 June] who stumbled upon me.”

The businessman paid a $450,000 ransom to free Alpeyrie on 18 July. “My kidnapping was about money,” he says. “As soon as they got what they wanted, they let me go. When we’re released, we’re not heroes. Even before I was taken hostage, I never thought it was a good idea to publicise kidnappings. It adds to the value of hostages. The press thinks that if we don’t talk about it, we’ll forget about it, but they’re wrong, as long as family, friends and the authorities are working to liberate the hostages.”

Read Alpeyrie’s full account on Le Journal de la Photographie.