Polish Ambassador to YT:  Never in my wildest dreams have I ever thought of being kidnapped from the center of the capital city [Archives:2000/10/Law & Diplomacy]

March 6 2000

Continued from front
Q: How long have you been in Yemen?
A: I have been here for three years and a half.
Q: Please describe your family status.
A: I am married with two daughters. I will be 47 in October this year.
Q: Will you please tell us about the circumstances leading to the incident?
A: Everything happened very quickly. First of all I believed that these are the normal conditions for any kidnapping operation: the use of force and unexpected attack. These two factors do contribute to an eventually successful operation.
It so happened that roughly around 7.30 in the evening in the Haddah region on the way to Shahran Hotel, I was waiting with my wife inside the car for our daughter who was attending a dentist and we had in front of us maybe half an hour’s wait.
Suddenly a Toyota Land cruiser stopped next to the doors of my car and six men armed with Kalashnikov left the Toyota and opened the door on my side. I think that two of them went from the other side at the same time. One of them opened the rear door and tried to take my wife by force out of the car. The second one opened the front right door of the car trying to grab the switch. Later I remembered that the switch was in my pocket. They dragged me out of the car and two of them reloaded the guns threatening me of the usage of their weapons. They did not listen to me trying to tell them: “I am an ambassador. Don’t do it. Its against the law.” They forced me into their car. I wouldn’t…….. maybe let myself be pushed into the car had not I had seen that my wife was in a way of being harmed. But when I saw that she was released and she was screaming at that time, I decided that the best I can do for my wife and my daughter is to enter myself into the car and to leave this place as soon as possible. I can add that immediately when we started with high speed they asked me whether I wanted them to go back for my wife because I told them that my wife is there and my child is there. Then I asked them to release me immediately. So they told me, “Look, if you want, we’ll go back and take your wife and your child.” Of course, they did not.
The driver was driving the car with high speed. We were speeding towards the way as I could imagine, sitting behind the front seat on the floor of the car and being surrounded by five armed men who were sitting also in that part of the car. I could not see the street but I could feel the turns when they were turning or whether they were going straight. I realized that most probably we were leaving on the road to Dhamar. I also noticed my wrist watch to check the time. I also tried to guess the speed of the car by listening to the sound of the engine. The car was being driven very fast all the time.
Just before the first check point, they put Mashaddah (kaffieh) on my head and told me that was to protect me from the wind because both windows of the front doors were open. I can imagine that this was for the purpose of simplifying the eventual usage of arms. Just before the check point they pushed me inward to the floor. They didn’t tell me anything specific at that time. I believe that they were worried and anxious themselves of what may happen. But the car never stopped at the check point. At the second check point as I do not remember very well, anyhow we did not stop.
A few kilometers after that the car suddenly stopped and turned left and from then the graveled road started. From the time that I could see in my wrist watch and from the speed of the car I imagined we might have passed or covered some twenty to thirty kilometers. Then for the next roughly 50 kilometers we were driving on a dirt road. Later I found out this was the only road to their village.
The car was speeding in spite of the bad conditions because it was night and visibility was very poor . But the driver was very skillful, so thank God we avoided any accident. We arrived at the village, to the house of the Sheikh. They showed me in to the Mafrash and many people gathered there. Immediately they offered me food. I refused for the first time and this was the beginning of my hunger strike. They started talking among themselves and then tried to explain to me the whole situation. Of course, in very harsh words I told them whatever the reasons were behind the kidnapping, there is no explanation for the fact they are kidnappers. It is against the law. It is against any sort of behavior in any country. They were apologetic and were trying to tell me that they are sorry and that it was by chance; by the will of God. Then I told them for the first time, yes if the kidnapping was by chance but what you are doing now is on your will and not on the will of God. So you can reverse the whole situation now. It is your choice. You may send me back or you keep me. It is your choice, not the choice of the God. Then after, may by half an hour, they took me to another house which was to be the place of my captivity for the next two days.
I have to emphasize strongly that from the very first moment the kidnapping operation was very brutal. I have no doubt about it. But it is part of the operation. One has to be brutal, I understand it, in order to enforce upon other person his own will. Later on I asked several of them on different occasions. what would they do if I tried to resist. They told that they agree among themselves they will never use weapon against any person. What they could do is to try to scare this person by shooting in the air and then grabbing him by force into the car but they would never harm the person that they were kidnapping. I am not trying relieve even the smallest portion of their guilt. They are guilty. This is a criminal act. This is a terrorist act and there is no explanation for it. But I can tell you that the moment we arrived at the village they always behaved for the next three days in a very descent and honorable way. They never abused my personal dignity as an ambassador or the dignity of my country. On the contrary, they were expressing themselves in very friendly terms about Poland and Yemeni-Polish relations. They were also expressing their sorrow and grief that for some reasons they thought it was the only solution to their problem. They told me also from the very beginning that whatever I wish to have, they would fulfill immediately. I requested them for medicine and water. They even asked which water I preferred, Haddah or Shamlan. I also requested them for possibility to connect the embassy and my wife. I asked them for a Mobil. They promised me that next day they would supply it to me and they did. They Were astonished with my stubbornness and decisiveness since I decided from the very first evening that I would be on A hunger strike. I will not be taking any food. They were astonished with it and believe me they were worried about it because I told them it was to show them even though they believe that they have mastered my body, but in reality I am the only master of myself. First of all and secondly that pronouncing a hunger strike they should realized that my time as a captive is limited. It is limited to the physical abilities of my body only and that I could not resist for one month definitely. On the second day when they again saw that I reconfirmed my position that I refused to take any food they realized that the matter is going to be very serious because they realized that my general heath condition from day to day will be worsening. THEY Told me that they would be doing whatever is possible to reach an agreement. I have to emphasize again that never and ever they behaved in a hostile way towards me or towards Poland or Polish people with the exception of the kidnapping operation itself. This is, of course, again not an explanation for the fact that such things can happen and do happen in the center of city. In the center of the Capital of the country
Q: What about food ?
A: No I didn’t. For the three days I never took anything into my mouth except water.
– But I think that food was sent to you?
Yes and I told them that if they respect me they should distribute it among children and they did it several times because I received three parcels. They were always insisting on me to take some food and each and every hour they were coming with some new proposals whether I wanted apples they brought me a box of apples, bananas, oranges but I told them please do distribute them among the children in the village, I also told them look you can not change the situation, it is my decision. If you have any feelings for me and if you do not want to harm me by force please accept my decision; I will not be eating.
Q: Have you found any difficulty in talking to them?
A: No never.
Q: Have you ever though that you could be kidnapped from the centre of the Capital city?
A: Never in my wildest dreams! I have always considered Sanaa as a safe place. I am trying to avoid with my family any trips outside the city. Very rarely we go to Aden and otherwise I was surprised as I have said before seeing near to my car a Toyota land cruiser with the registration plate which was proving that it belonged to the government and seeing later the armed crew of that car I felt that they might be security police. But since they were armed, since the car they were using was belonging to the government and knowing the law which forbids Yemenis to use and to enter the city with arms, I could not imagine possibly that these were kidnappers
Q: Do you think that such incidents will affect Yemen’s relations with other countries? What about Poland?
A: The subject is too fresh to give any first opinions about the possibility of influencing the relations of my country and Yemen at this moment. It is very immature and I would like to keep myself the right not give any comments on that.
Wherever they happen in the world whether in South America, whether they happen in Europe or in Yemen, I have no doubt that this sort of activity should be strongly condemned and that it is an obligation of governments in those countries to do whatever possible to try to avoid such situation.
Q: Have you thought of having some days off?
A: No way. Business as usual.
Q: What are your present feelings?
A: I wish to confirm and emphasize one fact only that whatever has happened will have no implication and will not burden my appreciation of the possibilities of fulfilling my mission to the successful, let’s hope end. I do not feel myself as influenced by the memories of the past three days and half and I am very sure that I will keep on being as objective as possible taking into consideration the positions that I do occupy and I want to add that I Hope that I will be given a chance to continue my mission as I was doing it for the past three and half years whether it will be a few months, two years or more, I will gladly and as much as possible professionally fulfill my mission without any subjectivity.
Q: Any final remark?
A: I would like to add that from the point of view of the Polish government what has happened shall not and should not influence upon the bilateral relations and cooperation. This embassy upon decision from the Polish government will continue its mission with same tenacity and devotion as it used to be working during the past years. There is no change there is business as usual.