Theo Padnos: A Captivating Story

By Grace Masback

WANT Original Content

Last week, the New York Times published an article about Theo Padnos, the American journalist recently freed by the terrorist organization Al Nusra Front who spent two years in captivity in Syria. The article, written by Theo himself, details his harrowing journey, from the torture and inhumane conditions he endured at the hands of the terrorists to his two failed escape attempts. He discusses helping a fellow American prisoner climb out a window to freedom while he was left behind and tells a more human side of his ordeal, describing conversations with his captors about their girlfriends and how one guard brought him dates and tea one cold winter — sparks of kindness, however minimal, in an endless abyss of hatred and violence.

Before his ordeal, Theo was simply a struggling journalist in the sea of the mainstream media.  A smart, educated man interested in the Middle East, Theo was eager to learn more about a culture that was often received negatively stereotyped in the United States. Yet, when no news source would pick up his story, he moved to Syria, hoping for new perspectives and marketability to his articles.  It is ironic that what finally allowed him to get an article published in a mainstream news source was two brutal years of captivity.

Theo’s article not only paints a strikingly vivid picture of the horrors and atrocities committed by terrorists worldwide, he also sheds light on the greater issue of unfair stereotyping. Though the men holding Theo captive were obviously monsters, as Theo found from his extensive study in the region, there are many brave men and women in these Middle Eastern countries with nothing but good intentions, fighting for the same civil liberties that Americans secured more than two centuries ago.

Theo’s story should serve as a call to action, reasserting the fact that there is more need than ever to hone in on terrorists and discarding negative stereotypes and assisting the soldiers, civilians, and officers fighting bravely for their freedom.

Read Theo’s Article Here:

About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (

Leave a Reply