Held Hostage By Al Qaeda Theo Who Lived

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Because he spoke fluent Arabic, Theo Padnos’ captors suspected he worked for the CIA, and so for months he was brutally tortured during interrogation sessions. His fluency, coupled with his remarkable personal expansiveness, led to an extraordinary engagement with his captors. By the time of his release, twenty-two months later, he had become a confidante of al-Qaeda’s top commander in Syria.

In the documentary, Theo Who Lived, Padnos talks about his return to the Middle East and abduction in September 2012, during which was held primarily in Syria by Jabhat al-Nusra, the local al-Qaeda branch. In it he retraces the physical and emotional steps of his harrowing journey, performing his memories, and enacting the fantasy world he created as means of mental escape. A gripping narrative that includes betrayal among the imprisoned, unlikely friendships, and thwarted escapes, Theo Who Lives is an intimate portrait of personal resilience, and grace in the face of hate.

Theo Padnos was born in Atlanta, Georgia. He received his bachelor's degree from Middlebury College in Vermont and his doctorate from in comparative literature from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He is fluent in French, Arabic, German, and Russian.

Padnos moved to Vermont and taught poetry to prisoners of a local jail. His first book, My Life Has Stood a Loaded Gun, was written about this experience. He then relocated to Yemen, where he continued writing under the pen name Theo Padnos. He began his study of Islam in Yemen at Dar al-Hadith, before moving to Damascus, Syria to enroll in an Islamic religious school.He published a second book, Undercover Muslim, about Islamic extremism. After its publication, Padnos changed his name to Peter Theo Curtis to make travel in the Middle East easier.In 2012, he became a freelance journalist before he went on his life changing journey.
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By: World Affairs Council of Greater Houston

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