The New York Times correspondent and four-time Pulitzer finalist Rukmini Callimachi has become the go-to reporter on the Islamic State. As host of the Peabody Award-winning podcast, “Caliphate,” she shares her hours of interviews with a Canadian member of ISIS whom she met in a hotel room in an undisclosed location as he confessed to the murders he carried out on behalf of the group. Esquire magazine has called it, “the best podcast of the year,” and hails it as “gripping, disturbing, and ferociously addictive.” In 2018, it ranked on Apple's top ten list.
Called “arguably the best reporter on the most important beat in the world” by WIRED, Rukmini has tracked the rise of ISIS from their encrypted, online chat rooms to their spread across four continents. She regularly speaks to terrorists, both in their chat rooms and in jailhouse interviews around the world. Slate has said, “From the time ISIS rose to become the most infamous terrorist organization on Earth, no reporter has done more to explain and expose the group than The New York Time's Rukmini Callimachi.”
Rukmini takes audiences into the secretive world of ISIS, revealing how the bureaucracy of the Caliphate came to be and how they utilize social media to spread their influence. In her presentation, she uses photographs to show both the devastation of ISIS and the ways governments and local communities have begun to rebuild.
Rukmini began covering terrorism in 2013, when residents of Timbuktu, Mali led her to buildings that had served as the headquarters of al-Qaeda's local cell. On the floor and in overturned cabinets, she found thousands of pages of internal documents, providing insight into the terror group. Scouring the nearly 15,000 pages, Rukmini eventually published The ISIS Files, revealing how through brutality and bureaucracy, the Islamic State had stayed in power for so long. She was also the first to show the extent to which ISIS was using religion to justify the systematic rape of women from the Yazidi minority, resulting in the International Center for Journalists awarding her the Integrity in Journalism Award.
Rukmini began her journalism career covering local events at a small newspaper in Illinois. She eventually joined The Associated Press and was posted to Senegal. She became the news agency's West Africa bureau chief and was hired by The Times, covering first al-Qaeda and later ISIS.
Rukmini has won the George Polk Award, the Michael Kelly Award for the Fearless Pursuit and Express of Truth and the Sigma Delta Chi Award. She is also the only journalist in the 75-year-history of the Overseas Press Club to win both of the club's top two reporting awards the same year.
Keywords: ISIS, Al Qaeda, journalism, Mideast, terrorism, foreign affairs, Caliphate, Jihad, Arab issues, columnist, faith and religion, Israel, Iran, Iraq, media, military, national security, refugee, podcasts, Pulitzer Prize, Syria, women, war, religion, Yazidis