Ever since I discovered podcasts, I was hooked. Especially to the BBC comedy ones. However, occasionally, I will scroll through the discover option on my podcast app and look for interesting new ones to subscribe to.
Invariably, I will delete most of them after listening to a few episodes. At one point, there were over a 100 subscriptions, and I couldn’t bear to mark any of the content as played without actually listening to it. It was a ridiculous situation, seeing as there weren’t enough hours in the day to listen to so many. So I unsubscribed, in order to preserve a modicum of sanity. [Rabid completionist. I’ve admitted to this before.]
Not so with Caliphate. I listened to one episode and I got sucked right into it.
Caliphate is about ISIS, and is a New York Times podcast series hosted by Rukmini Callimachi. She is something of an expert on the terror group, having studied them for years. What is amazing about her reporting is that she is so unfailingly patient and stoic about the atrocities that she is reporting. The acts largely speak for themselves, and it is almost divinely fair in the various views she reports on. In this day and age of people talking about news with liberal doses of their opinions thrown in, it was refreshing to listen to this series.
My mother asked me several times why I persisted in listening to Caliphate. I am not an ISIS supporter [HA!], nor am I in any way invested in the situation in Syria and Iraq. Refugees are not lining outside the borders of India, and this is certainly not my political rodeo of choice.
I wondered why myself. I have always been somewhat, morbidly some would say, captivated by Islamic horrors. It started way before ISIS. There was the first time I read about FGM, and then I read the Jean Sasson book Princess. There was the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and the unspeakable acts they committed on people. I devoured Khaled Hosseini’s depressing AF books. I don’t know why though; it is all just interesting.
Caliphate is not just another ISIS podcast. Rukmini locates a former member of the terror group, who is Pakistani-Canadian, and escaped Syria after he killed two people. He was radicalised, and he talks about how it took place. It was eye-opening to see how someone becomes a terrorist. What goes through their mind. How do they justify these acts to themselves. How much is sacrifice built into their mindset.
It was shocking to say the very least, and none of the horror I was feeling reflected in the journalists’ voices. Then they go to Mosul, and meet a couple of captives. The hypocrisy would be laughable if it weren’t so despicable.
Up to that point, I managed to listen with interest, and yes lots of anger and disgust. But what had me shaken was when she interviewed rescued Yazidi girls. Girls – literally, they were children and young teens – that had been captured for sexual slavery, and their abductors treated their almost daily rapes of them as a spiritual cleansing for the girls.
It is my opinion that everyone should listen to this podcast, because it is impeccably made. It lays open ISIS ideology in incredible detail and precision. But more than anything, listen to the effect of sexual slavery on the victims. It is a powerful revelation.