The following is an edited transcript of Panorama's interview with Italian former hostage Giuliana Sgrena.
Why did you go to Iraq. What were you hoping to do and why were you there?
I used to go Iraq to inform the situation, I was there during the war, during the bombing and I wanted to follow the situation after the war and during the occupation so this time was the seventh time that I went into Baghdad.
This time it was more risky, we thought that it was more risky but we thought and I wrote in my newspaper that we had to take the risk to go to Baghdad to inform the people to inform the world public opinion about the situation in Baghdad and so we had to take the risk to go there to make information and I used to work on the ground, you can say and to go there to listen people about life condition, about the situation. For example, I went every day but I was kidnapped I went to make some interviews and meet the people the refugees of Falluja, it was the town that was destroyed near Baghdad. So this was my work in Iraq.
But you were taking a risk in going to the mosque on a Friday to speak to people from Falluja, did you not understand how dangerous it could be?
Yes I knew it was dangerous but now it's dangerous everywhere in Baghdad, journalist working in so different situations and different places that this of course was maybe, more risky than others places but all Baghdad is risky now. But I was very interested to hear stories of refugees of Falluja so I went to this mosque where they, there was like a refugee camp around the mosque and the university.
So what happened at the mosque, tell us how long you spent there and what you did and then what happened at the moment of kidnap?
I went there, it was Friday as you said, it was Friday and, I first I ask the permission to speak to the people, to the man Sheikh Hussein because I was, you know we have to ask permission before, and the Sheikh was preparing the pray, the prayer for, because it was Friday, so I started to speak to the people.
Some people were very, very angry, they were hostile to me because foreign people, a journalist coming from Western countries and so they were very, they were saying maybe you are a spy, I tried to get the trust of these people and then the people they started to speak to me, they wanted to speak to me to tell their stories how they left Falluja, how they were living there and how now the bad condition now in the refugee camps and of their own women I was surrounded by women who wanted to, to tell me their stories, normal stories of, normal people, good people, of lot of things... things lost in Falluja.
As normal you know refugees the stories are always very sad, their stories. And so I spend there a lot of time because then there was the prayer and after their prayer I want to speak just a little bit with the Sheikh because I want to thanks him for letting me speaking to the people, so I spent about four hours there.
That's a long time.
It's a long time yes.
Yes maybe too long but you know it's not easy to speak to the refugees because and the refugees now in Iraq they are very angry, they don't want to, they want nothing to do with foreign people, so to, to get in trust and to, to speak in Italian it's not like if you go to interview a politician it not easy you can spend half an hour that's enough because just question answer is finished.
But to speak to the people it was, it was difficult and you have to go in deep in the situation and then, and then they wanted to speak to me so I couldn't let them just now I finished I go now it's too late I go. And there was also photographers there a friend of mine also, so this maybe it was the misunderstanding that let me spend more time there I normally be, it was too much time but even in other situation I could be kidnapped, I took into account I could be kidnapped in Iraq.
So what happened?
So when we left the mosque and we were leaving the university compound, you know now in Baghdad there are blocks everywhere to stop the check but it's easy to stop, car bombs maybe but it's easy also to stop cars and kidnap people. So our car was stopped in one of these block and um, and the driver left, he was running away, the translator was sitting front of me and was trying to keep the door of the car locked but it was impossible so the kidnappers take me out and, they took me to another car.
And describe the kidnappers, what did they say? Did they threaten you, what happened at the car or did it happen very quickly?
In the car they told me be quiet we will don't want to do anything to you, just you have to make a message, we will make a appeal, you have to ask Berlusconi to withdraw the troops from Iraq and you will be free. So this made me very, I was very, worried about that because I knew that it was not so easy as they wanted to, to make, an appeal to Berlusconi to withdraw the troops..
But, they were just the, the guard, guard the guards they were just my guards they were not the chief of the organisation that kidnapped me.
At the kidnap moment, was there shooting, was there threats, what happened?
Yes there was a shooting but I saw them just shooting in the air and then they put me in the car and they couldn't follow what was happening there because, I was between two people in the car and they couldn't, I couldn't, watch around or see what the, what was going on.
We spoke to Barbara your friend from the radio who was sharing the room and she talked about receiving a phone-call from your phone, do you remember making that or what happened, do you understand what happened there?
So, when I, I left the mosque, as I had an appointment for lunch with other colleagues I called Barbara to tell her that I was a bit late but I was coming. When I just made the number and I was, away, waiting for the answer, when they came the kidnapper. So the mobile telephone fell down in the street, they took the, the mobile and they keep it for a while.
So when Barbara answer to the, to the telephone she can, she could follow for a few minutes what was going on, so then...
She heard was shooting in the street around you?
I don't know what she, she heard.
So then they took you in a car to the place - you explained you were stuck between them you couldn't see, you couldn't turn, what was going through your mind at that time, what were you thinking?
I was thinking so many times I thought that, that could happen to me also to be kidnapped and this, this is the time so I was, I was very upset about that because I thought why did they have to kidnap me, I was always against war, against occupation but anyway I think that they didn't know who I was at the beginning when they kidnapped me.
Maybe just know that I of course they knew that I was a journalist and that I don't remember if they knew that I was Italian or just they ask me which nationality but anyway they didn't know my background, I mean.
So they took you somewhere, where did they take you, describe the place for me?
It was just a normal house, it was a normal, very normal house.
They put you in a room, with furniture or?
Yes, in a room yes, it was in a room and there were two beds, one for me and the other was, empty, they closed the window with furniture and that's all.
And the guards, how many guards and what were they like?
Normally two guards. And they were living in another room.
And when you reached the place what happened then? Did you have conversations with them, how did things happen there?
Yes they, they put me some questions for example I was, they was, if I was married, some, some questions, general questions. And then starting to - before going to the room where I spent we watch on television and they tried to get the satellite and satellite was not working so they just put on Iraqi television and after a while I think I don't know if half an hour or even less, they gave the news that I was kidnapped.
So you watched the news about your own kidnap surrounded by your kidnappers?
That must've been very strange?
What did you think?
But I was so confused in this moment it was very difficult to realise that I was really kidnapped and, will follow - other people told me before that people that were, was kidnapped before me so and then I tried to follow the, what they told me for example an Iraqi.
I was kidnapped so they told me first we have to, to try to understand which groups, which group are because there it depends how will go on your kidnapping if they are terrorists or they are not terrorist, if they are Iraqis or not Iraqis, if they are just, people of the street that want some money and so I tried to concentrate myself in this, in these goals to understand and I realised that I thought I could realise that at least they were Iraqis and they were not and after a few days I realised also that they were not terrorists of for example but they were of a group who were, a group against the occupation
Yes and, using me as that I can't support, I can't understand and also other groups are condemning this kind if action against civilians but we can, say that they were between these groups that are insurgents in Iraq now.
When you first reached the place that they took you and you realised you were kidnapped, did you say anything to them, were you angry? Tell me about your conversations and what you felt.
Yes I was very angry and I told them, why you kidnap me? I have been always against the war, against the occupation, why me? And you think that really you will, reach something if I ask Berlusconi to withdraw the troops and no I am, what I am working for the small newspaper of the opposition and did you not take in account anything I will ask and they usual lie is I lied with Bush and they will not withdraw the troops and did we not withdraw the troops on this conditions so it's a big mistake and it's not useful to the people if you kidnap me I was there just to get stories of people of Falluja.
And what did they say when you argued with them?
And so they told me that, in this moment they told me that the every foreign people for them now can be a spy. So first of all they told me that I could be a spy. and so I asked them, so it's better for you the journalist that they stay in the hotel and they don't go out? and they told me yes because you are more dangerous because you speak to the people you talk to the people and the people can tell you something that therefore they don't have to tell you because they can give you information about the mujahideen, Falluja or something like that.
So I, me I was more dangerous for them. So then they started to verify I think because they don't, anyway you are not a spy don't worry because we will realise you are not a spy, we have the means to check if you are a spy or not.
And what did you think when you heard that?
So I told, so I am sure that I'm not a spy so check and then you will see. But I was very angry because of course if it's very difficult to explain but it was as I was hostage of my convictions you know? I was always against occupation and now I was and I was in favour of resistance, not of this kind of resistance of course but of people that is resisting every day in the normal life against occupation because they wanted to free their country and I think that they have the right to free their county bit not kidnapping people. And so it was very difficult for me to accept that they were, I have been kidnapped so...
And you were very angry obviously?
Yes, yes, yes - I was angry.
Were you also filled with despair because you knew that your government, Berlusconi's government, would not withdraw the troops and therefore what would be your position as a hostage?
Yes, I thought the problem is that I wanted to check if they wanted really, when I, I told you that I wanted to check if they were terrorists or other kind of insurgents, I tried to, when they came, other people came for, to make the vigil so when these people came they told me they started to tell me we have the right to free our country and so and so
And I told them, I know, you are right, I always said that the Iraqi people has the right to free their country but what do, why you tell me? I know that is not, I don't need you to tell me that. So why you kidnap me?
And you will not obtain anything and so, so I told to them also that if they really they wanted to free their country at least they wanted to withdraw all the Italian troops they have to get the support of the Italian people.
Because Italian people is very sensitive to the problem of Iraq and also, now is not the majority but is quite the fifty percent of the Italian people so they are for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq so I, I told them, you have to get the support of people, you have to convince people not Berlusconi because Berlusconi will not withdraw like that, so you have to get the support of people, people has to ask Berlusconi to, to withdraw troops and because if you ask Berlusconi, it's finished, you can kill me and you will not obtain anything and so if you want to kill me, kill me now.
It sounds as if you gave them a hard time these kidnappers?
Yes, so but I tried, I had to, to check, I had to see the reactions I thought if reaction is negative so it's finished but if is not negative maybe we can have some kind of, it was not a dialogue because they have a logical, a different logic from mine but at least the communication let them know that maybe the reaction in Italy could be more successful in a way than in another way. So, it was a long process but so when we started to, to make the video and they, they told me so you have to, before they told me you can do it in English it or in French.
So I chose French because for me more easy and so they told me you have to ask Berlusconi to withdraw the troops but you have to ask also to the Italian people to press Berlusconi to withdraw all the troops.
So then I realise that something was going on because they said at least it was not or Berlusconi withdraw the troops, it's not they will kill me, it was different, in this case no, there was some space of negotiation or something like that.
So and then they ask me to address myself to my family and to my husband and because I told them before that I used to go there in Iraq to um, to testify to, to write about the suffering of the Iraqi people and also I took some pictures and so and so they told me so you have to ask your other family you have to ask your husband to let know to the people your work, not your, not only your writing but also your other photos. So I was trying to communicate and tell him what to do, let's see what to show
There was a message from you to Pierre your husband.
Yes there was a message and in this moment when I address myself, before I was very angry and not so emotional but when I address myself to my husband then the emotion came out. Also I was crying because, because the emotion to speak to him after this time and also I was very worried because it was a very big responsibility for him. If I tell him you can save me.
Then if they kill me what will happen? For him it will be very, very bad so he will think that was his responsibility and I was thinking all these things because I was really emotional and I was crying and I was angry the same time you know.
This video, did they know what they were doing, were they professional?
No they were not so professional, I thought they were not used to do the video because I started with a piece and then, then when I spoke to Pierre I started to speak in Italian but I didn't realise it so they started to shout, why you speak Italian, why you speak Italian? I speak Italian because for me it was normal I, if I address myself to my husband I speak Italian.
And so then they told me don't worry we will make it again in French so it was a piece in Italian a piece in French a piece so it was clear that they were not so professional in doing this work. Then the electricity stopped so they have to find some lights and so the lights wasn't on and that's why they changed the colour of my, of my t-shirt because it was black the first time and in the second video it's the same but in the first video we see my shirt green.
And so there was I know, I knew after when I was released that there was a very big discussion why this green colour it was just a problem of light - because in Baghdad there is no electricity so this was the problem.
After two days I ask to one of my guards, how was the video? Have you seen the video on Al Jazeera or so? And he answered me, satellite is not working so we can't see Al Jazeera but anyway I think that the video was so bad that it was not used.
So I was so happy because I thought my family has not seen me in this situation, this condition so and I didn't, sort of think again to this video.
So they said, you have to put the name of your all of your family, your father, your mother, your brother and then and then you have to write a special letter for your husband they told me but which kind of letter I asked them? Doesn't matter, a personal letter you write what you want in, in French because they didn't know Italian, so I wrote this letter and then they told, they asked me, some, something per, personal and but they took all I had with me so also my watch, everything, so I told them, you can because they told me, we have to send something that can be recognised as your, as yours.
Like a proof that you were alive?
So I told them, you can send my watch, you have my watch and you can send my watch and so I put also in the letter, I am sending you my watch .. so I realised that maybe a negotiation was starting because if they send the proof that I am alive and that I am, with them so I, so I thought that maybe it starting.
Were you hopeful at that point?
Yes, yes because the negotiation of course can be good or not they can end it or not but anyway something is moving so for me of course it was good anyway.
Were you aware form the early says how much public support was being organised here in Rome by your newspaper, by your family, by others - were you conscious of that, did it filter back to you through your kidnappers?
Er, I had the chance it was just, it was on Saturday so the third day of my kidnapping and at the beginning my guards they were more um, flexible you can say than maybe the others of they were not so strict. So one night I was going to the toilet and I realised they were watching the television on satellite. So I asked them, can I see the news on one television? And, they told me yes why not, and so they put, they were chatting and then they got... news.
So on... news they after one news there was the news about me. And so saw the city hall with my photo and all the people there and Simona who they kidnapped before me and so I thought, oh they are, they are already mobilising, they are doing something for me that's good but just after that there was an appeal of indication of Jihad that said, we send an ultimatum to Berlusconi if he doesn't announce the withdrawal of the troops before Monday night we will kill her.
You saw that on television?
Yes. So I was very, worry about that and my kidnappers they told me don't believe that it's not true, not true, not true we are not Jihad, are not Jihad don't believe that but anyway I was very - it was terrible for me. So it was Saturday night I went to, I went to bed and I thought up to Monday night they would not kill me but after - so I was already thinking to death and on Monday night I was really tension, nervous I was very, and so I knocked the door and I called my guards.
I told them: you want to kill me, you want to kill me, I know that you want to kill me and they tried to say no we don't want to kill you. But I was so in bad condition that they told me come and, come to see the television with us and they showed me a little piece of an American film I don't remember which one because I was so...
They were trying to cheer you up were they?
...nervous that I couldn't but and they I, I didn't, I couldn't understand if it was to show that it was not true that they wanted to kill me or if it was just the last - to satisfy my last wish. So but I couldn't sleep all the night and in the morning when they used to get up at five, five thirty for the prayer in the morning and sometimes they used to come to see if I was wake up or not.
And morning both came because normally one came and the other not they came both so when they opened the door suddenly I thought that's my end, they kill me now, they will kill me now. And they, and they just asked me, you are sleeping? No I'm not sleeping. Oh OK and they closed the door and went.
On the day of the next video I was very emotional but no I didn't cry, so they asked me, why you don't cry? So will speak about your family so maybe you will cry then they told me - we help you if you cry then you will sleep they told me. But I never cried.
As a woman how was that being with these men, were they curious about you, did things happen that reflected your status as a woman, not many women were kidnapped, what sort of conversations did you have about being a woman and what arrangements were made for you as a woman?
One example was when they asked me how old you are? I am fifty-six, and you are married? Yes I'm married. And your husband how old? Um, fifty-three. Oh it's not possible your husband is younger than you? Yes but not so much, it's only - and how many children? No children, no children? So, but your husband is still with you? Yes, he didn't get another woman, another wife? No.
So they were very, very curious about our way of life and so I though it was sometimes in the night, in the night the evening late they came in my in my room and they started to discuss with me about, about problems or only way of life here and there and so I think that they, they were curious about, about me.
We're your kidnappers well informed, were they aware of everything that was going on in Italy and with the responses, were they well informed.
Yes they were informed at least I realised that because sometimes I wanted to know what was going on in Italy and so I asked them, there are news from Italy. And one of them it was were they aware about this situation and so sometimes he told me yes, there are your photo's around on the street. I've seen on street your photos, I've seen people in the street asking for your liberation and people Italian people are supporting you and it's against Berlusconi, maybe it was their point of view but they told me that.
But they was very happy when the player the football players went on the ground with my T-shirt with the liberate Giuliana and they told me that I couldn't believe. And one of my guards was supporter of Roma and so he told me, you imagine Totti with T-shirt Giuliana, Totti, Totti you can't believe Totti.
And so I thought I don't mind Totti because I am for Juventus and they told me now Del Pierre is very is bad, is very bad Totti is a nice man Totti is very nice. So I be he used to watch the television football so.
So this really impressed your guards the fact that Italian footballers were calling for you release?
Yes they used to watch Italian football at the television and to see that also the football, the best one they were asking for my liberation for them it was so defected. So now you will go to Rome they told me now you will go to Rome because of Totti.
Well that was a lighthearted moment but you must have been very worried throughout even though these bizarre things were happening to you.
But sometimes they were so, so they tried to let me know that in some way they were, they understand that what I used to do in Italy that people was supporting me. Some other times they were, they didn't want to speak to me then just they didn't want me to. For example if I wanted I needed to go many times to the toilet they, they told me stop going to the toilet or something like that, it was very, very hard and I didn't understand why. Sometimes they were nervous, sometimes they very, they were more kind and more flexible and I didn't know if it was because of orders of their chief or it was because of the situation. Because of course also for them it was not so easy, so many times spent in the same house without going out and they were nervous maybe because they thought they could be found there.
And so, or sometimes I thought that maybe they know, they knew that the negotiation is going well, is not going well so when they were nervous I thought so maybe something is going wrong and if something is going wrong it will be wrong also for me.
So it was always up and down you know and I couldn't sleep at the end I never sleep so it was twenty-four hours a day always thinking, thinking, thinking the bad and good things. I tried to everyday I tried to, to make just a plain or want to think during the day not to let my mind going around because I will become mad if I leave my mind like that. So everyday it was to myself today I will think to that and I will try to remember for example, sometimes I tried to remember my life when I was young or when I was in Milan at University when there was the student movements.
And so with some, I thought I had to tell my story to so I will go through all my life and I will reach the end. And so I tried to do some kind of exercise like that not to because sometimes I have the obsession to loose my memory, my mind it's very difficult when you are only with, only with yourself. So you try to examine all what you did in your life and to what good, what there's a always a balance on this, sometimes different sometimes but it's very bad, it's very difficult to, to go on like that.
And then it was always my dignity to save my dignity, so I thought for example, look how Mandela after twenty-seven years of jail came out and it was a perfect man and it was as it was jail just the day before with dignity with. So, of course it wasn't not comparable the situation I knew, but for me Mandela was my, as in front of my bed it was Mandela there and so I was always thinking to Mandela.
And so I started also to do some exercise in the afternoon just to keep some movements because after one month I was always in bed because it was a cold and there no heating so the only way to keep warm it was to be in bed under blankets.
What did you eat did they give you enough food and drink?
Yes, yes they wanted me to eat and I didn't want to eat, so the first day I couldn't eat at all but then I started to eat but they wanted me to eat, you have to eat you can't do that. And so they tried to give me some other food, no for that it was they tried to do their best but the problem is that I was I was in prison. And so even they gave me to eat and to, but I was in prison and it was not really, I had no books, no, no pen and no paper.
And all the day only a few hours we had electricity during the day so I spent all the day in dark because if there was no electricity as the window was covered with furniture I couldn't see light and I couldn't realise if it was day or night. Only when I went to the toilet, it was there, there was a small window so I couldn't see, I could see there was sun or it was dark and I had no watch, no hour.
So I couldn't realise so it was so long and I tried to realise what time it was through the prayers through the Mosque.
You could hear a Mosque nearby?
Yes there was a Mosque, I think that it was not so close because sometimes I could hear better sometimes no.
Did you know how many days had passed, could you keep track of the time?
Yes, yes I had a shawl like that and everyday I put one knot.
You made a knot in your shawl.
For everyday that passed.
Every day yes.
Is it this shawl, a different shawl?
It, no it was a black one it was the one that I had when I was kidnapped, so I used to keep the day with the shawl and the hours with the prayer. So I knew that the first prayer was at five-thirty, the second one at twelve-thirty, the third one at three o'clock and then at five-thirty and the seven-thirty.
So at least at this time I could a little bit control and after the evening was so long, so long, so long and in the evening there was light normally because the generator or the because in the night they used a generator. But not during the day because the fuel it was very expensive now, it was impossible to find fuel so they used generator on in the night.
And then suddenly during the night came electricity the normal one, so when I was there just to try to sleep - the light was on and so I was wake up, really wake up. So it was always like that because I couldn't switch off or switch on the light because my kidnappers they controlled it.
So what did you understand from your kidnapers the more time you spent with them, you began by saying you didn't really know what they wanted, they obviously asked about the Italian troops withdrawing. But did you understand who they were what their aims were whether they were religious or whether they had political aims or just criminals, what did you decide.
I decided that they were not terrorists, they were not just criminals because they were I could discuss all politics with them, also the guards they were very politicised and also educated.
Were you aware that hundreds of thousands of people came out in the streets of Rome to call for your release but also to protest against the presence of Italian troops in the war and Italy's part in it, did you know that.
No, no, no I realised only when I was I came back to Rome and I was very surprised, not of the mobilisation but so many people I couldn't imagine so many people. And you know, I have at home hundreds, hundreds, hundreds of letters that I got from people from everywhere and I'm trying to read it but it's impossible to see all this.
And children, I got so many drawings of children that it's really something that I couldn't believe and letters and at school they did they work on my kidnapping and the teachers they send me a lot of papers a lot of writings of young of children about my story. It's incredible how they were affected on my story I couldn't imagine really it's very surprising for me this, on this and also to live, now to be recognised when I go around is.
Yes difficult I don't like, I always did my work in one newspaper I used to go around for conferences, I used to go from the south to the north of Italy every week. But it was work of underground without any and my kidnappers they told me you know, now you are famous in all the world they know you. I didn't want to be famous I told them I don't want, I don't like, I didn't want to be famous now you are famous now, this is not easy to deal with this of course.
But they told me also when they at the end of my kidnapping they told me but we realise that you are very appreciated in your country and, and so.
I'm going to ask you now about the release. So Giuliana you were there for three and then your forth week came and what happened because obviously things changed and they made preparations to release you, now when did you first realise that things were changing what were the signs and what happened. So what happened then after the third week in captivity?
Yes, it was Sunday on Sunday they told me for us the problems is solved, your, your question is solved and we will make a deal for your release and tomorrow after tomorrow you will go back to Rome.
Of course I couldn't say anything different because we, I was between two mujahideen with Kalashnikovs and so even if it's true that they gave me to eat and so, but this was not the problem. Anyway they wanted this deal to recognise that I was well, well treated from them and, but before my speech one of them one mujahideen did a speech in a Arabic with a lot of Quranic references and so.
So they told me to be happy because it was the, the video of my release but I was a little bit tense because I didn't understand what was said the mujahideen before me anyway, I had no chance than wait. So I wait the day after to, to see if it was a good day and one day more and no, no news so I asked them but what happened, when I will go back.
And they told me don't, don't worry you will go back but we have some problems so, but don't worry don't worry, tomorrow you shall, tomorrow you shall. And on Friday I was very nervous because they told me on Sunday that it was the day after or the day after but now what is happened maybe the negotiation stop, maybe something is going wrong.
So I saw, came one guard to bring me food and I ask him, so what is happening and he was a little bit more happy than usual this one, because this one he was always quiet.
So I asked him but you are happy because I stay or because I leave, and he answered me I know that you will leave but I don't know when maybe the other one knows. So he came back with the other one and the other one told me, well you know we are waiting for a person that has to come and, but we have sort, we have to solve some problems transferring you and so because.
You saw the first guard and you saw he was looking more happy than usual.
It was Friday at lunchtime when came one guard to bring me food it shows him more happy than usual so I asked him but you are happy because I am staying here or because I am leaving. And he answered I don't know when you will leave, you will leave I'm sure but I don't know when, maybe my other, the other guard know. And so he came back with the other guard and the other one told me that there were still some problems to solve and there were problems now of transfer. And he told me you know, there are the American's around and so, but it will take not much time and you will be free to go to Rome.
So I was sure that for that day it was finished, there was no chance because I thought because I thought that I was waiting it was dark and so. And when suddenly the two guards they came in my room and they were dressed in western way with western dresses and they told me compliments you are going to Rome. And I couldn't believe yes, yes, you are going to Rome so quickly get your dresses and prepare yourself we are to go, so I got my dresses and I dressed myself.
Then they told me but you have to sure before leaving because now it's a very difficult moment you have to be quiet. Because if somebody stop us on the way Iraqi, Iraqi patrol or the Americans and you show, you give some signal there will be a shooting and we will blow up all. So of course I was aware that it was a very, very difficult moment because when a hostage is given back it's a more difficult moment.
They told me also that they promised my family that I will go back safe to Rome, but they told me that he Americans they didn't want me to go back alive to Rome, but I thought this just to give me a slogan before leaving. So, and so I tried to keep very cool and so they told me, they asked me to you are ready so we'll go, we are ready okay.
So they gave me back the things that I had at the moment of the kidnappings, money, documents, but not the satellite telephone and the mobile telephone and my digital camera and also my book notes. And then they covered my eyes and I tried to get a dress, a woman dress you know a woman dress you know.
Yes but the one that cover all the face because I thought that it would be better to, to hidden myself because if they saw me with western dresses they will, also the Americans they will understand only Iraqi's if I'm in an Arabic dress there is no problem. But they didn't want at all, so no you go with your dresses and so, and so they put me in a car I couldn't see the car because I was covered and they put me in a car and we left the house.
I don't know how long it, because for me this moment I was very in a very tense and I was very nervous. So I couldn't realise really that how long it took to go to the place of the meeting of the where people have to come to rescue me.
But I think it was not so far from the house at least fifteen minutes or something like that or twenty minutes I don't know. And when we got there they told me the kidnappers they told me now you wait here somebody will come for you and I, even in the car I don't know how long I have been waiting but so much time.
For me it was so much time I was terrified because I could hear some voices around some sirens. Some cars going and coming, some sirens, Iraqi police on the, on the street, an helicopter, an American helicopter just up overhead going around, going around, going around it was really I don't know but for me it was an eternity to wait there and after.
And you couldn't see anything could you, you were blindfolded.
No because I was covered yes and then came my, one of my kidnappers and he told me you have to wait ten minutes more, ten minutes more. So what can I do so I started to count because I said I thought that I count one two and when I arrive to six hundreds it will be ten minutes. And so I counted slowly so that somebody will come before I finish to count, but I finished to count and nobody there.
And so I was thinking but if somebody comes how can recognise if it's really somebody that is coming to free me or is not just one of another group that will keep, will transfer me to another group. Because you know sometimes it happens in Iraq that you are transferred to another group. So always I was very worried, when suddenly the door was opened and I, I heard a voice that was Giuliana, Giuliana I am Nicola I am a friend of Gabrielle, of Pierre now you are free, you are free I am here for you.
So really this voice it was very, very I don't know very warm very so, I have no doubt that it was really somebody coming to free me and so he came and he took me and bring me to the other car and it was Nicola Calipari.
That's the Italian intelligence?
Italian intelligence yes, so he put me on the other car and he told me I will sit beside you so you will be more, more comfortable more trustful and we left. And after a few minutes he told me that I could keep away my glasses, my cover all the cover of the eyes and that's also my scarf and he told me now you are free, really you are free and so on and so on. We were on the way to the airport.
So it was late at night it was dark and you were driving, were you driving fast what were the conditions like?
No, at the beginning we were going because there was like a you know, these big roads that are around Baghdad and I think that we were going at seventy kilometres per hours. Then we came to an underway that was full of water because the day was raining in Baghdad, as the day that I was kidnapped.
So the car, the driver, slowed down because it was dangerous to go too fast with this weather with this rain, so we were going very slow not more than forty or fifty kilometres per hours when we start, we went through this road that brings to the airport.
And the, it's already on the US controlled area, it was just before the, the checkpoint to go through the airport, to go in the airport when we were shot.
Before we get to the details of the shooting just let me take you back a little bit, you were driving on the way to the airport. Were there phone conversations what happened in the car, how was the news got out that you were there with them, what happened?
Nicola tried to make me more comfortable, and so he called Italy, and he called the chief of the intelligence in Italy, and I could speak to him also. And, and then the driver that was an agent or some Italian intelligence was talking with the agents in Baghdad to get them informed that we were coming to the airport and we were three people so to let them know that I was with them.
They did some telephone calls and Nicola was telling me some stories about people that we knew and because it was the first time that I met him. But we had some colleagues that he knew and so he was telling me some, to let me know that even if we were also different ambience but we had some friends in common.
We were just talking like that when the driver told us a few, he told us seven hundred meters and we will be in the airport and we'll be sure there and in this moment it started the shoot, they started to shoot us. And so we said we are attacking, they are attacking us, they are attacking us and I couldn't realise who were attacking us, I was thinking because we are under a zone, a very controlled zone by the Americans, what happened and that the Americans were shooting us.
Suddenly Nicola pushed me down and with the body he covered me because the shooting was coming from right and from behind, so from right and it was on my right and so I was down just down on the between the two.
The two seats of the car and he was under me covering me with the body and, and the driver was shouting we are of the Italian Embassy we are Italian we're of the Italian Embassy. And Nicola he was not speaking, so I thought why, what happened, why he doesn't say anything and so I realised that he was very heavy on my shoulder and so I started to move it.
I realised that he was dead without saying anything. So it was terrible and I had one bullet that went through my shoulder but I didn't realise I just saw all the blood. But I didn't I didn't know if I was alive and I thought to be dead or I was dead that I thought to be alive it was a very strange situation.
And very, and just, just a few minutes before I thought to be free and now I could be dead and the person that did all was possible to free me now he was dead to protect me. So for me it was just terrible, terrible, terrible.
What about the others in the car?
The other in the car the driver so, he went out and he was on the telephone because he was speaking with the Italian Government. And he was telling them that we are being shot and, and there he was speaking with there was Mr. Berlusconi there was the Chief of the intelligence, there were Pierre, Gabrielle there also the director of my newspaper.
He was telling what was going wrong and then when the Americans came they stopped the call and they, they kept him under control of weapons and me I was on the car and when they came first they opened the door of Nicola and they realised that he was dead.
But at the same moment I started, I couldn't breathe because some, some pieces of the bullet was near the lung and so that's why the lung was collapsed. And, and then after a while and for me it was a very long while came they called the military they call to bring me to the hospital.
Now when you came back you let it me known that you believed the Americans had shot you deliberately, that they didn't want you to live, do you still believe that?
No I don't, I don't think that I don't think that I was their target of their shooting. But of course I want to know why the Americans they, they shot because it was not, we can't understand why, why they shot because we were on a road where no, there is no chance for an Iraqi car to get there. So no problem for Iraqi cars, our car was an Iraqi car but he couldn't believe it was an Iraqi, with Iraqi's inside.
They knew that the American command knew that we, knew that we were on the, on this way to go to the airport. If they were afraid of something they could show us a signal to stop but they didn't, they, no signal, no shot nothing they just shot, shoot to us, why. And not to stop the car because it was, they were afraid they wanted to stop the car they could shot to the wheels to the motor but no, they shot ten, ten bullets.
They were shot at least the ten bullets because there are the signs inside the car; they were shot at the level of the windows so to, just to strike us inside. So we need an explanation we need an explanation because we can't die in this way, Nicola Calipari we have, we need an answer for Nicola Calipari is dead.
To find the truth through the inquiry I don't know how, but I think that we have to work for that because we can't loose a person's life, Nicola without doing anything or without doing our best to find the truth of how it happened this shooting. So because I can't forget he was a very generous man, you can imagine he, before he do the work to free me and then he saved me another time.
And it's down to the life for my safety, for let me alive so for me it's really I can't forget it it's it is a new life I have this new life because of the generosity of Nicola Calipari.
END OF INTERVIEW.