Nicolas Hénin spent 10 months as a hostage in Syria before he was freed, along with three other French journalists, last week. On Monday, he talked about his ordeal with FRANCE 24.
Hénin was kidnapped on June 22, 2013 in Raqqa, in the north of Syria. He was freed on the night of April 19 along with Pierre Torres, Didier François and Edouard Elias.
Hénin started his captivity in Aleppo but was moved frequently. By his calculation, he was held in 12 different places.
“I’ve been isolated from the rest of the world for 10 months, most of them underground with very little light,” he told FRANCE 24.
“The conditions were not always hard. The physical violence is not the worst,” he said. “The uncertainty of not knowing what is going to happen the next day or the next minute is traumatising.”
“That is the conditioning of the hostages. That is itself already a sort of violence."
The German magazine Focus reported that the French government paid an 18 million dollar ransom for the hostages; a report the French government denies.
“The amount itself is so high I don’t find it serious,” Hénin told FRANCE 24.
“I’m quite sorry to hear that such an amount was propagated because it gives to bad guys, or potential bad guys, a price tag over the head of future journalists or humanitarian aid workers.”
Hénin said he was now torn over whether journalists should continue to cover the conflict in Syria.
“It’s stupid to risk so much for just a report. No report is worth a human life,” he said. “On the other hand it’s not possible to leave such a black spot on the world map with no information whatsoever going out and this is exactly what our captors have achieved.”
Hénin is now readjusting to "normal life" after 10 months in a series of dungeons.
“When you learn to pilot, the landing is always the most difficult part,” he said of his return. "It really takes time to reacclimatise."
“It was extremely emotional to see my relatives again, my parents, my kids,” he said, adding that psychologists had warned that his children, aged four and a year-and-a-half might be suspicious.
“It didn’t take more than a second for them to just jump on me and to realise that I am not a stranger, I am their dad and they didn’t want to release me - I was kidnapped again.”