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Should We Pay the Ransoms? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The majority of hostages in Iraq were released after their governments, companies or even their families had paid the captors to secure their rescue. Last year, an Arab diplomat left Iraq unharmed after his government had paid his kidnappers the sum of one million dollars. The truth is that there was no other option especially that the mentioned diplomat’s government had already decided to reduce its diplomatic activities in Baghdad and to recall its staff. Although American, French and Italian authorities claimed that they would not comply with the financial demands that are made by hostage-takers and would not pay the ransoms; the truth is that in most cases they have. Many captors form their own gangs with the main aim of raising money and in cases where they fail to bargain with the affiliates of the victims, they would then sell their hostages to politicized terrorist organizations. The case is similar with Iraqi people who fall victim to hostage operations and lose their lives for the same financial intentions. Hostage taking flourished and it is no longer strange to find that some individuals, who are part of the security authorities, security companies or even powerful local figures might be involved in such criminal activity.

The most recent kidnapping of the diplomat from the United Arab Emirates is similar to that of the Egyptian diplomat who was killed last year. We pray that there is a happier outcome in the more recent case and that the representative of the Emirates is able to return to his family safely. The Egyptian diplomat had established good relationships with all Iraqi parties; however, this did not save him from being murdered. Furthermore, the Egyptian embassy in Iraq had no concrete role in the country to be targeted but rather the Egyptian diplomat was an easy prey and his kidnappers were ready to negotiate.

It is unfair to tell any party not to deal with or respond to demands made by hostage takers, as any life is priceless. However, the numerous hostage operations that affect members of the public, association affiliates or even government representatives, have prospered due to the money collected by kidnappers and the ease with which they carry out such operations. This situation is similar to the hijacking of planes for political as well as financial reasons, nevertheless, because governments refused to comply with the demands of these hijackers and resorted to a number of restrictions to deter such operations before they even take place, this phenomenon gradually disappeared.

The crisis of hostage taking had curtailed largely in Iraq, especially that security forces had been able to disperse a number of terrorist groups. However, this phenomenon has not completely disappeared primarily for financial reasons. The new Iraqi government stated that it will control terrorism and track down terrorists, and if it is dedicated to this aim, we will definitely see a safer Iraq. I do not believe that anybody in Iraq or the whole world wishes failure upon the Iraqi government as past events have proven that terrorism is a contagious disease to which no country is immune and that in the best interests of all parties, peaceful coexistence regardless of their differences should be established.

A heavy responsibility rests on the shoulders of the new Iraqi Prime Minister and there is a prolonged opportunity to eliminate terrorism facing him. The other alternative for the elimination of terrorism would be severe for Iraq and this would entail the departure of the representatives of various countries and companies from a state that is plagued with terrorism.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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