Ridley: "I have no fears about going back"
Yvonne Ridley, captured and imprisoned by the Taliban for 10 days, is quitting her job as chief reporter of the Sunday Express at the end of the year to return to Afghanistan with an international television documentary team. She will be reunited with her two guides who were also arrested.
"Everything is really hectic at the moment. There are three TV companies vying for the story but I will be going back to Afghanistan," said Ridley, who has been "grounded" by her newspaper since she returned to the UK.
She said she would be maintaining friendly links with Express Newspapers.
"They have been incredibly supportive and encouraging," she added. "I have no fears about going back. It will be quite emotional. But it’s a new phase in my life, careerwise. Because of what’s happened to me, various opportunities have come up and they are too good to turn away. I have a second book deal in the pipeline and various commissions.
"I will be very, very sad to leave the Sunday Express. All I wanted for a long time was the staff job which I have got and I really enjoyed it, but suddenly these great opportunities have opened up. I might fall flat on my face, but hopefully, if I do, somebody will pick me up and offer me a job. I am still quite nervous about it all."
Ridley is going into Afghanistan in January and will be filming there for two months. She will be visiting the places she went to in her abortive two-day foray into the country, before she was unmasked when the donkey she was riding made a sudden movement and her camera slipped from beneath her burqa.
Ridley’s mother, Joyce, and her nine-year-old daughter, Daisy, made forceful pleas for her release when she was held prisoner.
She went up to see her mother in Newcastle last week.
"I sat her down and went through it with her. She doesn’t want me to go but she accepts that I’m going," said a determined Ridley.
It was the first time she had seen Joyce and her father since she returned to the UK, except for one very public reunion.
"I have also spoken to Daisy and she said, ‘Are you going before Christmas?’ When I said ‘No’, she said, ‘Well, that’s O.K’. She wants us to have a nice big family Christmas together. As usual Daisy is my greatest supporter."
Ridley offered to have Daisy flown out to Pakistan to visit her at half-term if conditions were safe enough. Daisy, as independent a soul as her mother, firmly refused to go.
Yvonne’s new book has Return to Afghanistan as its working title. Her first book, In the hands of the Taliban – Yvonne Ridley, her extraordinary story, which went on sale from Robson Books on Monday, is already into its second print run as a result of advance sales.
By Jean Morgan