Kidnapping Jeopardizes Dutch [Archives:1998/08/Front Page]

February 23 1998

Assistance to Yemen
“I feel it is time for stiff measures against these kidnappers,” said Dr. Abdull-Karim Al-Iryani, Foreign Minister. The Minister, who was talking to the Yemen Times editor, was reacting to a letter from the Dutch Ambassador in Sanaa following the second kidnapping of a Dutch national over a period of ten days.
The ambassador’s letter carried an ominous threat indicating that such “incidents could affect the bilateral relations between our two countries.”
On Wednesday evening, February 18th, a Dutch national, Mr. Matthieu Brugman, teamleader of a Netherland agricultural project, was snatched in Dhamar by members of al-Hada’ tribe. The kidnappers have an on-going grudge against the Yemeni authorities for not pursuing the full implementation of a court sentence. Ten days earlier, on Monday February 9th, another Dutch national, Mr. Clement Verwey, visiting Yemen, was picked up by tribesmen of the Khowlan tribe from Jahm. This group is using the Dutchman to pressure the government to release from prison some of its own members who had been implicated in smuggling.

As this paper went to press, one of the Dutchmen, Mr. Brugman, was freed. Negotiations are still underway to free the sick and elderly Mr. Verwey.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh who returned from an extended international visit, is now personally taking charge of the efforts aimed at securing the release of the hostage. After all, the Netherlands is among the top aid-partners of Yemen.
Tribesmen have been freely picking up foreigners (both those who work in Yemen as well as tourists) and keep them in captivity until the government responds to their demands. During 1997, there were over 70 cases of kidnappings. Although the hostages have always been freed without harm, the kidnapping itself has severely damaged Yemen’s image. Tourism and travel agencies as well as hotels will readily tell you that their business has suffered enormously.
Meanwhile, the government is looking for new ideas to combat this problem. “We cannot start wars against whole tribes. We need to focus our efforts against the perpetrators and make them pay for breaking the law,” Dr. Iryani added. While that is a good idea, it has yet to be evolved into specific steps and actions by the government. Until that happens, it looks that foreigners really have to be careful regarding their whereabouts.