Peter Moore: IT consultant, Iraq hostage - Part Two
Xboxes, the Simpsons, freedom, and dealing with HR
Reg So when did you get an idea that you were going to be freed?
PM Well, they'd been telling me for months and months that I was going to be released, and I did a release interview back in 2007. They ask you your name and a lot of personal information for it. They told me I was going to be released – but I never was.
Roll forward around a month – December 27, 2009, it would have been. I'm watching the Iraqi local news in Arabic. It was me and the guards in a room watching the set. And I see this film on the news, it was a Handicam shot, really shaky, and this vehicle pulls up. It's like a blacked-out 4X4, and this guy gets out of it with a couple of people in uniform and suits and stuff.
I thought it was a diplomatic vehicle but the guys in the room were getting excited. One of them pointed to the TVF and said "That's Blackwater." I told him no, Blackwater's just an armed security firm – that's a diplomatic car. Anyway, I didn't think that much about it.
Two days later they wake me up at 5 in the morning and tell me to get up as I'm being released, and there's a guy stood there with a camera filming me. I told him to go away as I was tired, turned over, pulled the blanket over my head and went back to sleep.
Then another guy came in who spoke much better English and said I really had to get up as I was being released. So I asked him why I was being released in a somewhat sarcastic tone. He said the militia's leader had been handed over to the Iraqi army. That's what was going on in the report on the TV.
I got up, got dressed and cut my hair, and they gave me new clothes. I did another release interview. They asked me my name, my parents' names, my wife's name, my job, my parents' jobs, where I lived, a ton of stuff. Then they blindfolded my and led me out to a car.
Reg One second - a wife? I thought you weren't married?
PM From working overseas I'd learned that in most of the world's conversation it's family first. When you're aboard the very first question most people will ask is "Are you married, do you have children?" whereas in America the first question is "What do you do?"
So when we were taken, even though I didn't have a girlfriend, I said I had a wife. What I wasn't expecting was to have to carry on this façade for another two-and-a-half years. So when they asked what her name was I ran through names of ex-girlfriends and women that I knew, but in Guyana most of the population is Indian, so the names are very long and complex.
I was trying to think of a Christian name and pulled out the name Emma, who was a woman I knew in Guyana. Then I remembered a film I'd seen called Formula 51 (also known as the 51st State in the UK) where there's a character called DeSouza, so that was her name.
I said she was a visiting nurse from Brazil working on a malaria programme. It got to the point in 2009 that I was getting a bit concerned that someone at the British embassy would be trawling around Brazil looking for someone called Emma DeSouza so I figured out a way around it.
In Brazil the indigenous people are discriminated against, so they tend to use Catholic names rather than their given names, so I told them I couldn’t pronounce her actual name. It was made up off-the-cuff.
When I got out of Iraq and back to Guyana I met up with Emma and explained the situation to her. She was fine about it, but a bit concerned that we'd have to get married for real.
Reg Anyway, back to the release.
PM Well, I was led out to the car and I still didn't believe they were going to release me. After all, I'd been with some of these guards now for over a year and they weren't very excited. I would have thought they would be a bit more enthusiastic if I really was going to be freed.
They made me lie down in the footwell of the back of the car and we drive off. Five minutes later they told me to sit up in the back seat and in the passenger front seat was the very guy who took me hostage, who'd first held a gun to my head back in 2007.
We came up to an Iraqi army checkpoint and a soldier stops the car. I was thinking: "Oh fuck, this isn't going to be good." The soldier leans into the car, chats with the driver and asks for his ID, walks off, comes back a few minutes later, and then after a bit of a discussion just waved the car on.
I thought "Well right, so much for the Iraqi Army looking out for me." We drove down the road for another five minutes and drew up into the driveway of a private house and I was told to get out of the car. I could see in the driveway was a guy with a camera on a tripod, which I thought was weird.
I went into the house, turned left, and was in this big, long living room and it's full of people. There's folks in keffiyehs, many more in full army camouflage gear with machine guns, guys in jeans and t-shirts, and at the end of the room is a settee with a guy in a suit sat on it. The guy in the suit gets up, tells me he's an Iraqi member of parliament. He told me he would take me back to the British embassy and that I am a free man. I'm thinking that I didn't feel very free at that point in time.
Reg That's understandable.
PM With that we sit on the sofa and I have to make a statement about how great the militia has been, how bad America is, and all that sort of stuff. The MP made a statement as well, waffling on in Arabic, and with that the guy in the suit gets up and walks out.
So I'm left in a room full of heavily armed men thinking: "What do I do?" I got up and stared to walk towards the back door and I was stopped by these guys in camouflage gear with big machine guns and I thought, "This is it, they're going to kill me." Then they grabbed me, turned me around, put their arms around me, and then their friend took a photo of us all together. I went outside and was told to get into a car with some armed Iraqis.
I could see the armed guys in front with earpieces in, chattering away on the radio, and the Iraqi MP next to me speaking on the phone in English, saying that he had me and we'd be at our destination in five minutes. After the call had finished he told me he'd been speaking to the British Embassy and I thought no way – if that had been the embassy they'd have wanted to speak to me.
So we're driving down the road and we got stuck in traffic. I could see that the doors were unlocked and I'm thinking I could do a runner and escape. But I thought better to hold back – I didn't want to get out of the car and get shot by the militia. Even if I was just going to be exchanged with Al Qaeda that's OK because they can cash me in for the insurance.
After another 10 minutes we pulled into a driveway I didn't recognise. I got out of the car and this guy walks up to me and says, in British English, "Hi, I'm with the British embassy, we've come to take you home."