By NY Staff
Five weeks passed between the release of Finnish couple Leila and Atte Kaleva and Austrian national Dominik Neubauer and the recent kidnapping of a Dutch man and women from Sana’a. Information states that they were kidnapped early of June. While
Kidnapping in Yemen has become an effective money-making tool for kidnappers who benefit from the fragile security situation in Yemen. Agreements between tribes and mediators of certain Arab countries, like Oman and Qatar, have secured ransom to unknown sources for the releases. The same may be the case for the Dutch kidnapping victims, news of whom remains unknown to either the Yemeni or Dutch government. National Yemen has contacted a number of students at the Lebanese university where the couple spent the past three years teaching there.
Student talking, when I met her at early time I asked Judith how she is able to protect herself in Sana’a, especially after the increased incidence of kidnappings in the city and the country in general. She informed me that she came to Yemen willingly and with full awareness of the dangers she might encounter. “Although I am very careful, I have nothing that can protect me completely.” She also stated that she feels afraid for Yemenis more than she is afraid for herself, given the ongoing threat of war and political and economic crisis. She has a country to go back to if necessary, she told me; Yemenis have nowhere else to go to.
Official sources confirm the kidnapping of the Dutch couple, the news was published in all local and international newspapers, websites and TV Channels. It is widely known that the kidnapping of foreigners has spread in Yemen since the last decade. Approximately 160 incidents of kidnapping have taken place to date in Yemen, involving the abduction of 400 foreigners, most of whom are Europeans. Originally, these kidnappings took place solely in tribal areas. Recent abductions, however, have taken place inside the capital and other major cities before the victims are taken to tribal-controlled areas.
This last Dutch kidnapping in Yemen occurred in April 2009, targeting Dutch expert Jan Hindrex and his wife. Abductors and their supporters generally demand the Yemeni government to provide them with certain privileges and service projects in exchange for freeing abductees. Some kidnappers demand the release of relatives from government jails, or in some cases the appointment of their relatives in civil or military sectors.
Historically, Islamist involvement in kidnapping operations was limited to a single incidence in 1998, but lately religious groups have increased their involvement in kidnapping activity, primarily through the participation of Al-Qaeda and its branches Ansar Allah and Ansar al-Shar’a’a. However, thus far all abductions carried out by tribesmen resulted in the peaceful release of hostages after negotiations with authorities. Recently, two successful negotiations led to the release of the Finnish couple and Austrian man as well as a Swiss woman who had been held by an Al-Qaeda organization for a full year.
All students of Mrs. Judith were very disappointed to hear of the abduction, describing it as an unfair treatment for someone who loves Yemen and its people. “She knows all the troubles Yemen is facing but nevertheless she always tell us, her students, to stop being so pessimistic and have a brighter view” said Asil Al-Monaifi. “I remember one day in class, she was telling us how everyone asking her ‘when are you going back home?’ Her common answer to them was that she doesn’t know, she has her life here now, she likes Yemen, and she doesn’t think she’ll be leaving soon.”
Sarah Al-Ameri says Mrs. Judith is one of the best instructors she has ever had. “I pray that she is unharmed and she will return that way” said Ameri. “Judith loves Yemen and she only wished the best upon the youth and locals. For that reason, I wish to spread awareness about her disappearance because I believe she’s a wonderful person helping youth.”
Hiyam Al-Arami described Mrs. Judith’s bubbly personality, her intellectualism and her willingness to speak her mind. “I’ve always asked her ‘why are you still in Yemen? Why do you keep staying here?’said Abdo Al-Aghbri. “Her answer was always simple: ‘I love Yemen and its people.” I just want to tell those people, ‘you have taken the only person who loves you and your country, and if you set her free, believe me: she will never leave Yemen.”
The act of kidnapping has been condemned by both the Yemeni community and the Islamic faith, but some Muslims and Yemenis still engage in abduction for its monetary benefits. Most kidnapping victims in Yemen remain safe during the period of kidnapping; they enjoy the best hospitality and they stay safe in unknown places. Most negotiations for hostages begin with messages sent to governments and embassies sent by head Sheikhs to assess their readiness for paying ransoms through a reliable party. Many hostages have been released peacefully, but the payment methods remain secret and no case or tribe has been mentioned in the government reports, which could potentially encourage other groups to engage in kidnapping. Al-Qeada is the first group that has been found guilty of kidnapping. “I am really disappointed in the government, shame on us,” said Ghamdan Mohammed. “We always felt that she was one of us and she wanted the best for this country,” said Shatha Banajah.
“Taking two classes with Miss Judith made me love Yemen more just because of the way she talks about Yemen and the passion she has for this country. I once told her that she is more Yemeni than most Yemenis because of how many things she has done for this country. She is truly one of the most amazing people I have met and all I hope is that she is safe and sound.” – Sala Al-Wazeer.
“The day before Miss Judith disappeared; she was walking in the reception and smiling for no reason. I saw that smile and wondered what was on her mind. She seemed happy with her life! She had a good heart although I’ve never talked to her or taken her class. I knew from her articles and her smile.” – Samar Suwaid
“I have never seen foreigners that love our country and respect it like Mrs. Judith & Mr. Bau. Those two are good people and don’t deserve anything bad to happen to them. They are very friendly, funny, honest, supportive, and respectful, and I find myself lucky that both of them are teaching me. They are the type of instructors that will always support the students to speak their minds and respect their ideas. To be honest, I have never seen anyone who wants to know more about their students like the two of them; they can just stand in hallway and talk to one of their students about anything in life. Not knowing what is happening for them is really frustrating and sad; I pray that they come back soon safe and sound.” – Heba Banajah