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Held by IS for 40 days, a Turkish photographer tells his story

A Turkish photojournalist relays his harrowing saga and offers insight into what the Islamic State is planning.
Bunyamin Aygun, a Turkish photographer kidnapped while covering the civil war in neighbouring Syria, poses after he has been freed on January 5, 2014 in Hatay. Aygun, who works for the newspaper Milliyet, was taken hostage by radical Islamists late last year during a reporting mission in the war-torn country. He was freed on January 5 and will soon return to Turkey, the Anatolia news agency said, citing Turkish sources.AFP PHOTO/YURTTAS TUMER        (Photo credit should read YURTTAS TUMER/AFP/Getty Images)

Bunyamin Aygun, an award-winning Turkish photojournalist who was captured by Islamic State (IS) militants last November and held for 40 days, is the first and only journalist held by IS to go public with his ordeal. Aygun’s account, which ran for five days in his newspaper, Milliyet, offers a rare and nuanced glimpse into the murky world of IS. Published in January, the series revealed the heavy presence of Turks in the group and the glaring threat that they pose to their own country. “Turkey is next,” IS fighters repeatedly told the veteran journalist. But the story received scant attention.

In Turkey, a massive corruption scandal implicating Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his close circle held the nation in thrall. The few stories that appeared in Western outlets were short and dry. Aygun had not revealed that his captors were IS at the time. But would it have made much of a difference? Probably not, because Aygun is not a Westerner. He is a Muslim and a Turk. Besides, Mosul had not yet been overrun, nor had all 49 members of the Turkish consulate there been taken hostage by IS. And James Foley’s brutal execution had not yet taken place.

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