The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Rukmini Callimachi '95, ISIS Expert & Correspondent, New York Times

Dartmouth Events

Rukmini Callimachi '95, ISIS Expert & Correspondent, New York Times

"Behind the Front Lines: Inside the Digital Caliphate" Rukmini Callimachi discusses how ISIS uses the internet to recruit and mount attacks in the West.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Room 003, Rockefeller Center
Intended Audience(s): Public
Categories: Lectures & Seminars

Through nothing more than an internet cable, ISIS operatives in Syria have been able to reach deep within our communities, where they single out vulnerable and often mentally-unstable men for recruitment to their cause. At first, they used Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr to encourage young men and women to travel to Syria, but as the journey became more perilous, ISIS made a 180-degree turn and issued statements saying that they were more valuable to the terror group if they stayed put at home and carried out violence within their communities. With each passing month, the sophistication of these “remote-controlled attacks” grew. In upstate New York, an ISIS recruit speaking to one of the terror group’s virtual coaches was instructed to go to Wal-Mart to buy zip-ties and knives for the execution he was about to commit. In France, ISIS’ cybercoaches arranged for a bag full of weapons to be left at a drop-off location for another young man who planned to attack a church. And in India, a group of young men were sent a set of GPS coordinates by their ISIS handler in Syria. It led them to a tree hundreds of miles away and swinging from its branches they found a bag containing the pistol they planned to use.

Speaker Bio:

New York Times foreign correspondent and three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Rukmini Callimachi has become the go-to reporter on the Islamic State. A subject in terrorist chatrooms, she has been cited by U.S. lawmakers and foreign governments. WIRED magazine called her “arguably the best reporter on the most important beat in the world.” Rukmini Callimachi began covering terrorism in 2013 when locals in the city of Timbuktu, Mali led her to the building that had served as the headquarters of al-Qaeda's North African branch. On the floor and in overturned cabinets, she found thousands of pages of internal al-Qaeda documents, providing a window into the terror group's operations. 

Besides the Pulitzer nomination, her series “The al-Qaeda Papers” won the Michael Kelly Award as well as two Overseas Press Club awards, making her the first reporter in the club’s over-75-year history to win both the Hal Boyle and the Bob Considine Awards in the same year. Her series, “Underwriting Jihad,” revealing how the ransoms paid by European governments had become one of the main sources of financing for al-Qaida and ISIS, won the George Polk Award. In 2016, she was awarded the inaugural “Integrity in Journalism” prize by the International Center for Journalists for her coverage of how ISIS had systematically enslaved women from the Yazidi minority. Slate magazine wrote that, “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 Times’ Rukmini Callimachi.”

Beginning her journalism career as a freelance reporter for Time magazine, Rukmini reported on the Gujarat earthquake in India in 2001. She then covered city hall at the Daily Herald in Arlington Heights, Illinois, until joining the Portland bureau of the Associated Press (AP) where she reported on New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Callimachi has covered 20 foreign countries and spent seven years in West Africa for the AP before joining the New York Times in 2014.

Born in Communist Romania, Callimachi and her family fled the country when she was 5 years old. She attended elementary school in Switzerland, before immigrating to America at the age of 10. Callimachi graduated from Dartmouth College in 1995 and earned her master’s in linguistics from Exeter College, Oxford.


For more information, contact:
Joanne Needham

Events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences