Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story mistakenly quoted Francois as saying his ISIS captors did not have a Quran. In fact, he said he and his fellow captives did not have a Quran.
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He was held captive by ISIS for 10 months in Syria
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A French journalist’s ISIS captors cared little about religion, Didier Francois – who spent over 10 months as the group’s prisoner in Syria – told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.
“There was never really discussion about texts or – it was not a religious discussion. It was a political discussion.”
“It was more hammering what they were believing than teaching us about the Quran. Because it has nothing to do with the Quran.”
“We didn’t even have the Quran; they didn’t want even to give us a Quran.”
Francois was released in April last year, but has only rarely spoken about his ordeal. He is one of the rare ISIS hostages who was freed.
Among those still held by ISIS is an American woman, U.S. President Barack Obama acknowledged this weekend in an interview with NBC News.
Francois told Amanpour that he had met her twice. He was reluctant to get into details, lest anything jeopardize her safety.
In general, he said, women “had a bit more freedom of movement,” but being an ISIS hostage is “frightening enough,” and “being a woman doesn’t make it easier.”
‘You don’t have to overplay these things’
Francois saw unimaginable horrors while detained.
When ISIS held him in an Aleppo hospital, he routinely heard and saw the aftermath of his captors’ torture of local Syrians and Iraqis who fell afoul of their hardline rules.
“We could see some of them in the corridors when we were taken to the toilets,” he said, “and we could see some people lying in their blood.”
“You could see the chains hanging, or the ropes hanging, or the iron bars.”
Francois is matter of fact when describing his own treatment.
“Of course we were beaten up. But it was not every day. I mean, it’s hard enough – you don’t have to overplay it.”
“It’s hard enough to lose your freedom. It’s hard enough to be in the hands of people who you know are killing hundreds and thousands of local Syrians, Iraqis, Libyans, Tunisians, can put bombs in our countries.”
“It’s terrifying enough. The beating is strong, but it’s not every day. It happens sometimes.”
“If they wanted to wreck you, they could. None of us would have been able to go through if it was beating every day, and torture every day.”