Sunday, March 22, 2009

Beverly Giesbrecht, aka Khadija Abdul Qahaarand, aka Paul Morris-Read, Unspun

One would certainly not want any harm to come to this pathetic and obviously unwell individual, but it does not help her case, or the public's understanding of what is really going on here, to persist in the fiction that she is a "Vancouver journalist" who has been kidnapped in Pakistan. It is even more ridiculous to keep on regurgitating this business about how the sorry tale begins with Giesbrecht having "converted to Islam." And if there is any truth at all to the widely-reported explanation that she was in Pakistan on some sort of assignment from Al Jazeera's English-language service, then heads really should roll, starting with the head of the boss.

To begin with, Beverly Giesbrecht - also known as Bev Kennedy, Zafir Jamaal, Ubaidah Al-Saif, Paul Morris-Read, and so on, is a West Vancouver businesswoman and recovering alcoholic with some entrepreneurial background in digital-media development and publishing, but not real journalism. In the course of her struggle with the bottle she became an avid Jesus enthusiast of the Southern Baptist variety, then suffered what appears to have been a psychotic episode after gazing for some long while, by her own account, at a picture of Osama bin Laden.

Giesbrecht ended up formally changing her name to Khadija Abdul Qahaarand, and she appears to have then devoted her life to the dissemination of jihadist propaganda, primarily through a website she set up under the name "Jihad Unspun." There may well have been even more to this enterprise than meets the eye: Her activity was so outlandish, so far removed from anything resembling journalism, and so outwardly partisan to the point of attempting to assemble a network of jihad-minded Arabic-speakers, that she was widely and not unreasonably suspected of being a part of some poorly-executed American counter-terrorism intelligence-gathering operation.

In any case, to explain this poor woman's sordid behaviour as being somehow a consequence of her having "converted to Islam" after September 11, 2001 is precisely the kind of casual insult to Muslim people, ubiquitous these days, that displays a willful ignorance of the very real Islamist fascism that is tormenting and terrorizing millions of Muslims around the world, commonly employing the mentally ill to do its dirtiest work. It's the same as saying that some emotionally unstable real-estate agent who marries into the Phelps family in order to join the Westboro Baptist Church is merely a person who has "converted to Christianity." It should stop, not only because it is inaccurate and vulgar, but because it conceals rather than reveals anything about Giesbrecht's predicament. She didn't simply stop being a Baptist and start being a Muslim. She became a nutter, or more precisely, she became even more of a nutter than she already was.

The misreporting and commonplace inaccuracies one encounters in most accounts of Giesbrecht's calamity are a disgrace to conventional journalistic standards. It is no small irony that in a story the purports to be about a "Vancouver journalist," Giesbrecht's only connection with any journalistic enterprise that one can draw from what is known about her misadventure in Taliban country is her own dubious claim that she was there doing work for Al Jazeera. If there is even a scintilla of truth to this - which Al Jazeera has refused to discuss and has declined to acknowledge either way - then everyone at Al Jazeera who encouraged this poor deluded crackpot in her misbegotten mission should be fired, and the entire network should be held morally, legally and financially accountable.

That is what the otherwise-sensible Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) should be looking into, rather than passing this off as a case of an Al Jazeera journalist from Canada who has found herself in a bag of snakes. CJFE supporters, of which I am one, should take care to protect journalists and journalism, not least from the irresponsibility of management. One doesn't do the cause of free journalism anything but harm by engaging in lousy journalism, and then drawing frauds and lunatics within the embrace of journalism's empathy and solidarity. It makes matters worse and more dangerous for real journalism, and real journalists.

UPDATE: If you can stop yourself from choking on such obfuscations as the description of Jihad Unspun as merely "an aggregation Web site for news and opinions related to the Middle East and the United States 'war on terror'," you'll get a more complete picture of just how deeply disturbed this poor woman was, here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

To begin with, I strongly doubt she and her site, Jihad Unspun, are a front for CIA. There is no way in the world the CIA would either take such a big risk with someone like her, or remain so indifferent to her current situation. If CIA were ever behind her, they'd have paid by now whatever ransom Taliban demanded in order to get her out of there with as little damage to her and to Agency as possible. So forget the conspiracy theory, I'd say.

Assuming for a moment that she survives the ordeal, I'd be extremely surprised if she blamed Taliban for her ordeal. She's past the point of no return not just mentally and physically but ideologically as well.

Here is a tiny quote from the last entry on her web page, titled "An Urgent Request From Khadija Abdul Qahaar":

"As a woman, I have already had a few close calls in the tribal areas as kidnappers and thieves are running loose even in Peshawar but alhamdulilah Allah has helped us."

Well, it looks like Allah had a change of mind. Incidentally, this last entry was posted on October 22. This is nearly one month after a Polish engineer was kidnapped in the same region. Maybe Allah was sent a warning to her but it went unheeded.

Al-Jazeera, it seems, is in neither confirm nor deny mode as to whether she's a journalist with them perhaps because a denial would put her life in jeopardy while a confirmation would put al-Jazeera's journalistic credibility into question.

What I wonder is whether, over the last seven or eight years, Al-Jazeera has ever interviewed her, or made a story about her or ever allowed any input from her into their broadcasts.

Meanwhile the silence from the 'anti-islamophobe' mob is deafening. If it weren't Terry Glavin's post I would not have even heard about her.

Ah, here is a number of comments that I found on a page that Terry linked in his post:

"Let us send her as a human shield to Baghdad."
"When they go after her genitals with the broken Coke bottle, she'll really understand the "true path."
"As long as she's useful, she'll be treated just fine. The sad tale of a useful idiot snared by her own curiosity."
"How sad for her.... she gave it all up to fit in with a bunch of murdering thugs."
"Since she'll be dead soon, we should nominate her for a top position in this year's Darwin Awards."

The comments above are all from the readers of Free Republic. They are dated December 2002.

Well, my final comments is that this Jihad Unspun woman was really asking for it, and she got it. Is there justice anywhere in this? Well, there is. Since islamic extremists are offended with expressions like "infinite justice" because it besmirches Allah's prerogatives, I'll be obliged to settle down with saying, "here, this is poetic justice."

10:38 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Rozhbash, Alakurda.

I more than strongly doubt that her Jihad Unspin project was in any way an intelligence operation; the point is it was so weirdly pro-jihad and so energetic in its efforts at recruitment that onen would be ore sensible to be suspicious of it for that than to consider its purpose to be mere "journalism," of any kind.

I would certainly prefer to think Al Jazeera is keeping shtum for the poor woman's sake than for the sake of its corporate integrity, but you never know.

Dang, those were horrible comments at the Free Republic site. I linked to it only because it is the only thing approaching an autobiographical version of her descent into derangement that I'm aware of.

I don't want "poetic justice" administered to this woman. But I would certainly prefer some reporting on her case that wasn't so transparently lousy. Better no reporting, as in the case of Melissa Fung (a real journalist), than the kind of drivel we've been getting about Giesbrecht.

11:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rojbash, keko can, Terry.

I'm afraid poetic justice will be inflicted on her whether we like it or not. Not that I'm not curious what her take will be on her ordeal if she manages to come out alive. But I predict she'll say it wasn't Taliban but some criminals who forced her to say they were Taliban.

I also suspect she's got some connection with Al-Jazeera. After all Al-Jazeera happily broadcast so many beheadings of 'infidels' in the name of... what? journalism?

I mean the last jihadist execution Al-Jazeera broadcast was the one before the Margeret Hassan's. They broadcast people's throat's being cut as if they're sheep slaughtered for a religious duty but they refused to put on air Margeret Hassan's execution by pistol. They just could not bring themselves to give publicity to the execution of a woman that spent her whole life for muslim Arabs, among muslim Arabs.

I believe it is not just the re-capture of cities like Fallujah and Ramadi that put an end to the stream of snuff videos coming from Iraq, but the decision of Al-Jazeera not to air such propaganda videos anymore contributed to it as well. Any news agency that puts on air such jihadist snuff videos on the basis of -presumably- 'news-worthyness' is bound to have some kind of connection to a 'journalist' of Jihad Unspun fame.

Let's forget about al-Qaeda for a sec, or the quality of her work on Jihad Unspun. Does this woman even have any accreditation as a journalist? That would be very interesting to know but since some journalists' organisation has called on her release one can only assume that she holds some yellow card in her purse.

Anyway, I quoted some people from free republic because of the irony of the situation. I'm quite aware that it's a premiere, of sorts, of a right-wing website. I know it from the day I found one of my articles that was published in copy-posted there about five years ago, I think it was.

Oh, btw, my nom de guerre is sHx (short for Shexmus) whereas 'alakurda' is the name of the blog, we'd like to set up and run. Alakurda both means the Kurdish way (a la Kurda) and the Kurdish flag (ala Kurda). This time I'll try another way to use my name. Hopefully, it'll work.

See you again, Terry.


2:02 AM  
Blogger L said...

Friends, Ms Giesbrecht is not a journalist, reporter, newsie or anything of the kind; indeed she was barely a blogger when she first came to the attention of certain anti-jihadi friends of mine, a couple years back. Her site "Jihad Unspun" we judged as being not much more than a conversion narrative, and a poorly written one at that -- Islamism by way of Oprah.

She does not deserve this fate. The illness and terror she displays in the video should touch any human being watching it. If the dagger on the wall represents the sharia law Khadija Bev plumped for before going so disastrously abroad, so be it. It may be our countrywoman will un-convert if she survives this ordeal; should she ever see Lonsdale Quay again, she might not thank the Prophet for its existence.

2:40 AM  
Blogger IceClass said...

Irony is a cold bitch sometimes.

6:29 AM  
Blogger Sean said...

Why on earth can't our media reveal the obvious truths that you have laid out in your post?

What a scam our media is these days.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Claude Adams said...

" . . . she was widely and not unreasonably suspected of being a part of some poorly-executed American counter-terrorism intelligence-gathering operation."

Why on earth would anybody with any sense of journalistic integrity or compassion publish such inflammatory nonsense about a person who is still a hostage, still susceptible to irrational violence of her captives? In fact, people who are very close to her, and who were in contact with her while in captivity, say that she was indeed tortured because she was suspected of being a CIA resource--an allegation voiced online which any Taliban insurgent with a laptop could have seen.

It's not important if you believe she was a journalist or not? (In fact she WAS, and people who worked with her in the field will testify to that.) What is important is that ill-informed bloggers do NOT make her situation any more hazardous than it already is. Isn't it one of our beliefs as journalists that we should "do no harm?"

Claude Adams

2:46 PM  
Blogger Claude Adams said...

that gmail address should read (not .ca)

2:49 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Claude: It's not clear by your remarks but you appear to be unaware of the fact that the mentally ill Beverly Giesbrecht was reported dead two months ago. You also should be aware that she was never a "journalist," certainly not in the sense that any competent journalist would recognize, whatever these strangely occluded "people who worked with her in the field" may be trying to claim.

As someone who followed this story long before Giesbrecht notoriously absconded to Pakistan, I am a prisoner of the knowledge that this poor deluded woman was not helped by her "friends," least of all those who went along with her batshit crazy play-acting as a journalist. Al Jazeera certainly didn't help, either. She was encouraged in her delusions. That is why she is dead.

Her Islamist recruiting efforts and laughable al-Qaida propaganda activities were indeed so over the top that "she was widely and not unreasonably suspected of being a part of some poorly-executed American counter-terrorism intelligence-gathering operation." That is merely a fact. It was "in the public domain" long before I mentioned it in passing. It was a matter of wide speculation, especially in pseudo-Islamist circles, and it was one of the only reasons anyone outside of West Vancouver had ever heard about her in the first place. To suggest that the proper course in reporting on her predicament would have been to pretend not to notice any of this, based on some eccentric theory that the Taliban would also not have noticed any of it, is, I am sorry to inform you, a recipe for grossly dishonest journalism, and batshit craziness besides.

4:29 PM  

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