Episode 29. Joshua Baker of I'm Not A Monster

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By Wendy Morrill and Kevin May, Wendy Morrill, and Kevin May. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

“How did an American family end up in the heart of the ISIS caliphate?”

Samantha Elhassani (nee Sally) insists, “I’m not a bad person — I’m not a monster”.

Yet she lived in the ISIS caliphate. Her ten-year-old son could make a suicide belt and be featured in ISIS propaganda. She owned slaves. And travelled to Hong Kong to deposit large sums of cash and gold and bought tactical combat gear there. And perhaps most astonishing, she was an FBI informant.

The story sounds unbelievable and Samantha says so herself. However, in 2018 she returned to the US into the custody of law enforcement. At the end of 2020, she was convicted of financing terrorism and sentenced to prison for 78 months.

Investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker Joshua Baker untangles Samantha’s story in the podcast In I’m Not A Monster and the film Return from ISIS. Jointly produced by the BBC and PBS, the podcast and film examine how an American woman and her children could possibly end up with ISIS in Syria. Joshua Baker brings listeners to places both frightening and familiar, from a former torture prison to a children’s swing set in the backyard of a home in Indiana.

In this episode of MetaPod, we talk to Joshua Baker about his mission to chronicle Samantha’s unique story. Josh discusses his journalistic career working in high-risk conflict zones and with vulnerable people. We also discuss the political and cultural understanding between countries of the Middle East and the West.

Please be advised that some of our discussion revolves around violence, coercion and other topics that might be unsettling for some audiences.

35 episodes