Emad Matti

Harper's produces a masterful longread on Iraqi rescuer of Christian hostages

Harper's produces a masterful longread on Iraqi rescuer of Christian hostages

There’s no lack of reporters running about Iraq these days getting some very gripping stories. Most are tracking the purported last gasps of revived Islamic caliphate in the country’s northwest quadrant as the battle for Mosul grinds on.

The story that your GetReligionistas passed around this week was something a bit different: A story in Harper's magazine of a Christian Iraqi who wheels and deals in Christian hostages held by those within ISIS who are willing to sell them back for the right price.

The man’s name is Matti, he is based in the mixed Arab-Kurdish city of Kirkuk and he’s part fixer, part Mafioso-style godfather and star of a lengthy article titled “Escape from the Caliphate.”

Emad Matti had not received a photograph of the hostages. Two months had passed, and several Iraqi Christian families that had been detained by the Islamic State in an old folks’ home in Mosul were still imprisoned. From Kirkuk, Matti had been transferring $500 each month to a bank to feed the families, and he was afraid that they were dead, or that his informant in Mosul, one of their captors, was planning to prolong their imprisonment and collect even more money before demanding an impossible sum to drop them at the Kurdish border. For now, though, Matti just wanted photographic proof that they were still alive.
He checked his watch, a gold Breitling made from the weapons of martyrs in the Iran–Iraq War. The phone rang. He put a finger to his lips.

What follows is a fascinating read about the ordinary world of Iraqis who deal with ISIS (or what they call ‘Daesh’) like the next-door neighbors they are.

Everyone knows each other in this tribal society of Sunnis, Shi’a, various groups of Christians, Yezedis and Kurds whose lives have been linked for centuries.  Everyone has their informants, friends and family members, just in the same way as long-time residents in any American state have reams of contacts, old school buddies and family members scattered about.

Matti is like a 21st –century Oskar Schindler, trying to save as many Christians as possible before the deluge.

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