Matthew Schrier

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Freelance Photographer, Al Qaeda Syrian Prison Survivor

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2 Video(s) By This Presenter

TEDx: First Impressions Meeting Al Qaeda in Syria Matthew Schrier
Matthew Schrier on CNN

2 Programs By This Presenter

This presentation is specific to survival tactics and leadership on multiple fronts while being held by Islamic Extremists from abduction to escape. Matthew combines the strategies he employed using humor to win over his captors, intelligence gathering methods, and how he managed to keep his mind razor sharp to the point where he was able to keep track of the dates even when kept in almost complete darkness for over a month. His methods were so effective that it lead the FBI to think he had a photographic memory. He explains what it’s like to be kept in a dark cell while being practically starved and constantly having to stand up to threats of execution for a forced confession in regards to his association with the CIA, his captors even going so far as to flog his bare back with a hose in order to get it, but failing over and over again. Towards the end he delves deep into the complexity of planning the escape from the timing, collecting of materials, and how he figured out how to take apart the steel wires over the window so he could crawl out into the night only minutes before sunrise. By the end of the presentation the audience will walk away with key lessons that will not only be helpful in their professional lives, but personal as well.

This presentation is meant to open the eyes and inspire the possibilities when it comes to different ethnic groups, races, genders, ages, and religions working together to form cohesive bonds that will lead to a thriving organization, college campus, congregation, or any other institution. Matthew shares his experiences in not only winning the affection of many high ranking Al Qaeda members based solely on his personality and out of the box thinking without ever compromising his dignity or patriotism, but also many of his Muslim cellmates who would go from an admitted hatred of all Americans to developing an understanding of them based on an individual basis and not politics and history. He explains the friendship that was born between them and their willingness to help deceive the terrorists by teaching him the most important prayers in Arabic and how the few that survived reacted without prejudice when finding out he was really Jewish after they made it home. The audience will leave with an understanding that when 30 men are thrown into a room together and can be murdered at any moment nothing matters except for what is in their hearts and know that they too can build amazingly beneficial bonds with the people that surround them on a daily basis.


“Matt’s story is pure ‘Americana’, the average guy who when caught up in extraordinary circumstances rises to the challenge and exceeds all expectations. Matt is an unsung hero who has a compelling story of resilience in the face of adversity, delivered by a humble man.”

— US Army Special Operations Command

“Matthew Schrier’s personal story of survival and escape was riveting as he recounted the experience in detail … His emotional yet controlled delivery moved everyone of us in attendance and his survival and harrowing escape lifted our spirits.”

— Temple of the Arts Beverly Hills
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