Silver LiningKidnapping and absence of law [Archives:2006/908/Opinion]

January 2 2006

Mohammed Hatem al-Qadhi
[email protected]

The world has welcomed New Year 2006 with a lot of SMART thinking and strategic plans to avoid the mistakes and shortcomings of the past year. This happens everywhere at state and individual levels. Unfortunately in Yemen, we welcome the New Year with a heavy burden of challenges and problems we cannot overcome or avoid, even if small and easily challenged.

Last week, five Germans were kidnapped in Shabwa for the same stupid reason as previous kidnappings of Swiss and Austrian citizens – the demand to release prisoners.

Tribesmen began this practice in 1993 and after stopping for some years, the problem now is back. The most important question, which might be silly to some, is why do tribesmen kidnap foreigners?

There is no doubt that security and justice officials' indifference to tribal problems is a very important reason behind the problem. Some of these officials act in an irresponsible way towards citizens and their concerns. Take, for instance, the latest kidnapping of a German family. The kidnappers, from Al-Abdullah tribe, have a big tribal vengeance problem with the Al-Raid tribe. Security officials, including the interior minister, are fully aware of this issue, but have done nothing to sort it out and stop the bloodshed.

Previously, the political regime stooped to blackmailing tribesmen and paying them to free tourists. This encouraged some tribesmen to consider it a profitable business. Later, when the problem accelerated, a law was issued criminalizing the practice. Some kidnappers were tried and convicted; however, the political regime, which cherishes tribal norms and does not believe itself under the rule of law, challenged the court verdict and ordered the convicts' release. This is complete lawlessness and lack of respect for the judiciary. What will be the reaction of the convicts and their tribe? Will they respect the state and its laws? Of course not, as this shows them the judiciary and its decisions are just puppets at the hands of those in charge.

I laughed when I heard the Minister of Culture say that some foreign country might be behind the kidnapping of the Germans and that the kidnappers' demand to release their jailed relatives is nonsense and unjustified. Yes, the demands are not justifiable, but claiming a conspiracy is a completely stupid excuse we are fed up hearing.

On the contrary, it is the political regime and the government which must be held accountable for this kidnapping problem's acceleration and the state of chaos and lawlessness. This regime respects and enforces laws in some regions, while putting them aside in other tribal areas. Law should be respected by all, despite their social position.

Do not believe the lie that kidnapping is a nice experience that foreigners go through and like and thus, it encourages other tourists to flow into the country. This also is stupid, as kidnapping has hit tourism and caused great loss in this sector. Yemen is full of historical sites and beautiful landscapes and therefore, can be a good tourist attraction if those in charge do something to boost it, starting with security. Don't you think so? Happy New Year to all.