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Matthew B. Schrier is an American former photographer who escaped from al Qaeda.

Early life and careerEdit

Schrier is from Deer Park, New York, and attended Hofstra University, where he was an English major who also studied film production.[1][2][3] He entered Syria with the help of the Free Syrian Army. Schrier captured images of FSA rebels fighting forces of the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.[4]

Abduction by the al-Nusra FrontEdit

In late December 2012, Schrier was captured by Jabhat al-Nusra, the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, while traveling on the road between Aleppo and the Turkish border.[5] A Jeep Cherokee cut across from the side of the road and three men jumped out. Schrier told 60 Minutes, "One of 'em was cloaked completely in black, you know, like the guys in the movies -- scarf around his face, AK-47 in his hand, and he took me out, put me in the back seat of the Cherokee and he put the barrel of the gun to the side of my head."[4] He was among a collection of kidnapped American journalists held by Syrian jihadis.[6] He was eventually held in a series of rebel-controlled prisons in the Syrian city of Aleppo.[7]

He strategically converted to Islam in March 2013 as a survival tactic to get better treatment, a tactic that ended up working.[1]


In July 2013 Schrier became the first westerner to ever escape from al Qaeda. Before sunrise he squeezed himself through a small window with the help of his cellmate Peter Theo Curtis, who was left behind despite Schrier's efforts to get him out.[7] During the planning of the escape Schrier claims that Curtis knocked on the door to alert the guards about the escape, a claim Curtis admitted in an interview with Die Zeit.[8]

In 2018 Schrier's story was featured on the National Geographic television show Locked Up Abroad in the episode "Escape from Al Qaeda".

His book The Dawn Prayer (Or How to Survive in a Secret Syrian Terrorist Prison): A Memoir (ISBN 1944648887) was published on April 3rd, 2018.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit


  1. ^ a b "The New York Times". Retrieved September 6, 2014.
  2. ^ "Syria strife, through a lens darkly - Times Union". Retrieved September 6, 2014.
  3. ^ "Matthew Schrier, of Syosset, returns to U.S. after being held in Syrian prison - News 12 Long Island". Retrieved September 6, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Pelley, Scott. "210 Days in Captivity". 60 Minutes. Retrieved September 3, 2014.
  5. ^ Baksh, Nazim and Adrienne Arsenault (25 November 2015). "Ex-hostage says there may be Canadian al-Qaeda link". CBC News. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  6. ^ Pelley, Scott (August 21, 2014). "Escaped Hostage: "Oh My God They Are Collecting Us"". CBS News. Retrieved September 3, 2014.
  7. ^ a b Chivers, C.J. "American Tells of Odyssey as Prisoner of Syrian Rebels". The New York Times. Retrieved September 3, 2014.
  8. ^ Berbner, Bastian. "Die Hölle, das ist der andere". Die Zeit. Retrieved January 28, 2017.