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Rukmini Callimachi
Rukmini Callimachi
ISIS Expert & Correspondent, New York Times
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Rukmini Callimachi
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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 and earned her master’s in linguistics from Exeter College, Oxford.

Full Bio >
  • ISIS called for attacks on Halloween
  • The Digital Caliphate: From Twitter to Telegram
  • ICFJ Integrity in Journalism Award (2016)
  • Five Questions With Rukmini Callimachi
  • How ISIS Built the Machinery of Terror
  • The rise of Islamic terror groups in Europe
  • Social Media: The Engine Of Terrorism
  • Distinguished Lecture Series - Rukmini Callimachi
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Speaking Topics
A Manual for Terror: How ISIS Built the Machinery to Attack the West

Long before the United States launched the first hellfire missile over Syria, the Islamic State began infiltrating fighters back to Europe with the aim of carrying out bloodshed. They arrived with manuals showing in detailed diagrams how to make bombs and with encrypted apps on their phone that allowed them to communicate with their handlers in Syria. This lecture explores this phenomenon and the changing tactics of the terror group, which refined and honed its techniques with every foiled plot.

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Behind the Front lines: Inside The Digital Caliphate

How ISIS uses the Internet to Recruit and Mount Attacks in the West. 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.

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From Refugee to Front Page Journalist: The Journey of Rukmini Callimachi

Born in communist Romania, Rukmini Callimachi was five years old when her family fled to Switzerland where they were awarded refugee status. Fast-forward to 2013, as a foreign correspondent in Africa, Rukmini reached the city of Timbuktu in Mali just after French forces had flushed out an army of al-Qaeda. In the buildings they had occupied she recovered thousands of their internal papers, opening a window into a secretive world that she has covered ever since in her front-page articles and award-winning series.

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A Note About Programs with Rukmini Callimachi

Rukmini Callimachi will show photographs by her award-winning New York Times colleagues of the war against ISIS in Mosul and beyond. 

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“In fall 2016, we hosted prize-winning investigator reporter Rukmini Callimachi as a speaker in the College’s signature Athenaeum speaker series. The topic of Ms. Callimachi’s remarks, “Notes from the Field: How ISIS Built the Machinery of Terror,” was drawn from her years of methodical and dangerous research in the field. 

An imminently approachable person, Ms. Callimachi captivated the audience with her consequential and factual narrative steeped in history, intrigue, cruelty, and human tragedy. Her presentation highlighted not only her dedication to investigative journalism but to history, politics, and human rights and she added tremendous depth and perspective to a critical, complex, and fraught matter. ”
Claremont McKenna College
“Few reporters speak with such clarity and insight about the inner workings of the Islamic state. Her
coverage and analysis of ISIS and other extremists is nuanced, measured and a cut above the rest.”
World Affairs Council of Northern California
“Rukmini told captivating stories about her time as a reporter that captured both her own life story and the complex and often very surprising world on which she has reported. The students were entranced, and she very generously stayed and talked for quite a while afterward, asking as many questions as she answered. I wish only that we had had more time for her to interact with students and faculty.”
San Francisco University High School
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