Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Some Background Information on Kidnappers in Iraq

Here is an illuminating, but sobering, article:

Identity of many kidnappers in Iraq remains vague (, by Tom Regan (Christian Science Online, January 30, 2006).

Here are some quotes from the article:

"Slightly more than 300 foreign civilians have been kidnapped in Iraq since the US-led war began in March 2003. ... Of those 300-plus kidnapped, 39 have been killed by their abductors."

"According to a senior member of the Islamic Army, kidnapping aid workers often generates more media attention than when journalists or contractors are taken."

"Ordinary Iraqis are being kidnapped too, though many of these cases often go unreported." "The Saban Center at the Brookings Institution in Washington estimates, in its Iraq Index, that in December kidnappings of Iraqis were taking place at the rate of up to 30 per day."

"Potential victims, both Iraqis and non-Iraqis, are 'well researched' before any action is taken."

The article has a link to another article that gives further information. This article is entitled "How to Deal with Kidnappings in Iraq" (by Michael Rubin and Suzanne Gershowitz, originally from Rivista di Intelligence, December 2005; posted on the Middle East Forum web page; accessed 1/30/06). The article explores motivations for hostage taking, an assessment of hostage taking as a strategy, and recommendations for how to combat hostage takers.

The authors of this article claim that kidnappers regard their kidnapping as successful when they get a lot of attention and when people occasionally do bow to their demands. The best strategy to combat hostage taking would be if governments ignored kidnappers' demands and if hostages were defiant. Hostages who cry and plead for their lives make videos that kidnappers regard as useful and effective. But hostages do have the power to ruin these videos and undermine the kidnappers' hopes, as in the case of Fabrizio Quattrocchi, who defiantly stood up instead of bowing down before his own grave just before he was killed. Defiance requires considerable courage, however -- and can lead to death.

So, what do those of us who wish to learn effective nonviolent strategies for peacemaking do with this? The article represents one analysis of how to respond to kidnappers: a response that does not serve the best interests of those currently held captive, but might diminish kidnapping in the long run, if the authors of this article are right. But I don't want to believe that their recommendations represent the only possible way to stop kidnapping.

What would be effective nonviolent responses to kidnapping -- responses that could both save those currently being held hostage and discourage (or, ideally, prevent) future kidnappings?

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