Kidnapping Terror: Time to Crack Down! [Archives:2001/50/Law & Diplomacy]

December 10 2001

Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi
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Another German engineer is being held against his will. It is awful nonsense. The government should show its muscle with tribesmen kidnappers this time and stop this ungodly practice. Stiff measures should now be taken to put these people under control.
Kidnapping is a terrorist act that threatens peoples lives and affects the economy very seriously. President Saleh once said it was terrorism and its perpetrators should be brought to justice. They have made a business out of this infamy of blackmailing the government, whose leniency has been encouraging them to continue.
These people claim to practice kidnapping in order to press the government to provide them with development projects. It is a nonsensical argument. There are, of course, many areas in the country that lack such basic projects. However, their people do not practice kidnapping to attract the government’s attention to their deprived areas. Well, these tribesmen have found it a prosperous business for them and for their fellow men. Some of them kidnap foreigners, while others blackmail not only the government, but also the press, to get some money for providing them with news about the incident. Sometimes they are paid in dollars. This is very clear in the sense that over seven of the 13 cases of kidnapping this year have been conducted by tribesmen from Jahm in Marib. How do you spell this out?
Of course, they make use of the government’s inefficiency and incompetence to put things under control even in the capital. Another point is that these tribesmen are protected by their tribes, which still cling to a fossilized thinking that their tribal norms entail their protection to their fellow tribesmen. The law has nothing to do with them. The Parliament passed a law banning this act, but it has never seen the light of day, except for only one time when the kidnappers were not tribesmen and did not have any tribal stronghold to back them up. Otherwise, tribal kidnappers have never been tried at all.
The association of the political regime with tribal background has provided some sort of protection to kidnappers, some of who are military guys. Once the kidnapping is over and the hostage is released, kidnappers are not brought to court. Rather, their demands are fulfilled; they are either paid or given high ranking posts in the military or civil service. The government never tries to deal with these people directly. Tribal sheikhs work as mediators between the government and its citizens. This is sheer irresponsibility and chaos. Of course, all these factors have boosted the sense of lawlessness among tribesmen, and hence the business of kidnapping. In fact, the power of authority is completely absent in such tribal areas.
The official media sometimes try to belittle these incidents, showing that hostages are impressed by the hospitality of tribesmen and that kidnapping is a happy experience. It is nonsense!
What is rather incongruous is that government officials never stop calling for investment, claiming that security is OK. What about kidnappings?! Are they a good experience so that investors, too, should try to discover the Arabian Felix? How can investors flow into a country embroiled in such a security mess?!
Of course, such organized crime does not only halt the flow of foreign investment. It has rather encouraged local investors to go abroad in their search for a more secure place to invest their money.
To drive the point home, I wonder if the President will put his speech of considering kidnapping a terrorist act into practice and start a wide scale campaign against this act to show his regime’s ability to crack down on this and on other sorts of terrorism.
The government must invent a new policy by which it can deal with tribesmen. But, the political regime should first relinquish its tribal way of thinking and initiate an institutionalized administration that is able to enforce law in the society and, accordingly, deal with the international community. It is no longer acceptable to tell the world that kidnapping in Yemen is a nice experience. Kidnapping is kidnapping; it is a terrorist act that should be faced with no leniency. Criminals and outlaws, mainly kidnappers, should be punished harshly regardless of their tribal backgrounds. The government should wake up and think seriously of the devastating impact of this infamy on the country.
In short, the latest kidnapping incident of the German engineer, Lenhnerd Carl, put our regime’s ability to fight terrorism to a test. Once it is able to tame tribesmen kidnappers, it will be able, of course, to put other perpetrators of terrorism under control. This is the current challenge our political regime should face now. Do you think so? I do.