Just over 30 years ago, an Englishman – and avid Chelsea fan – working in Kuwait as a catering manager was arrested in Iraq for ‘entering the country illegally’. In fact he had been lured over the border by unscrupulous Iraqis just so that he could be captured and accused. He was eventually sentenced to seven years in prison.
Nowadays, with the advent of social media this event would have received massive coverage and surely have garnered a serious response from the British Government as was the case with the detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
But in 1992 things were different and it was much easier to ‘fall through the cracks’, Thus was the case with Paul Ride whose abduction, after an initial flurry of interest, soon became forgotten as interest quickly moved to other events.
So Paul, whose ‘crime’ was that he got lost while driving to visit a friend working for the United Nations in Kuwait, would go on to spend 18 months in prison under the infamous Saddam Hussein regime before finally gaining his release.
’Ride To Hell’ is the story of those 18 months. A story of injustice and inhumane treatment. It might sound like an arduous read but really it’s anything but that.
As publisher Mark Worrall says in his introduction, the 1990s were a different time. The ‘mobile world’ was in its infancy. There was no massive media campaign to secure Paul’s release and for many his capture quickly became forgotten.
In ‘Ride To Hell’ Paul takes us inside his daily life in an Iraqi prison. It wasn’t a pleasant one and included encounters with hardened prisoners and experiences that would have tested the mental capacity and will to live of us all.
The British Government were impotent and seemingly uncaring of Paul’s situation whilst it quickly became clear to him that the Iraqi’s felt that he was a spy.
After being kept and interrogated in what was described as; ‘The worst police station in Basra’, Paul was charged with ‘illegal entry’, sentenced to seven years and transferred to the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.
’Ride To Hell’ gives the reader an insight into daily life in Abu Ghraib. It is eye-opening in its description of those times spent in a cramped cell, and also in the indifference of his own country to his plight.
That Paul came through the ordeal and went back to visiting Stamford Bridge and supporting his beloved Chelsea is testament to his own mental strength. That he was forced to endure it is a strong indictment of his own government’s apathy.
Ride To Hell is far from the usual fare as far as football books go but it is a fantastic insight into a situation which all but an unlucky handful of us will ever experience.
The book is published by Gate 17 and is available on Amazon for £11.95.