Yemen Times Interviews the Released Four Kidnapped Belgians [Archives:1999/30/Last Page]

July 26 1999

Kidnapping is one of the major headaches faced by Yemen today. It is the most expedient method that tribesmen use to press the government to provide them with some services. The last kidnapping incident was that of the 4 Belgian tourists, Plerre Martens, Anna Paulussen, Albert-William Scholliers, and Gerada Levecke. Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi and Mohammed Bin Sallam of Yemen Times interviewed the four Belgians after their release, as well as Mr. Zaghlool Bazara of Bazara Travel & Tourism and filed the following excerpts: 
Q: Please describe how you were kidnapped and did you try to resist? 
A: After we had lunch , we traveled on to Sadaa. However, all of a sudden, we found ourselves overtaken by four armed men sitting on the back of a Toyota land cruiser. I have seen so many people in the different tribal areas carrying heavy weapons with them, therefore, I was not very much surprised. The driver of our car tried many times to speed up and escape but we could not. Soon they blocked the road by their jeep and five armed men jumped out of their jeep and came to our car. Our driver took his gun and pointed it at them but he quickly saw that we were outnumbered and he disarmed his gun. Then somebody opened the car from my side and started to pull at the gun. I was quite scared because I thought that something might happen with all this pushing back and forth with the gun on my stomach. So they took the driver out of the car and he was forced to hand over the keys to them. They put him in the back of the car, turned the car to another direction and drove at a fast speed. Then, they drove from left to right three or four times and I thought that we were going to be killed in a car accident. 
Q: How did the kidnappers treat you? 
A: Actually, not bad but the problem was that we were speaking either English or other languages and they were only speaking Arabic. In the evening somebody who spoke English came and told us not to worry. That did not help much because we still worried. He also promised that we would be able to make a telephone call in the morning. When we asked him how long this might take, he told us that it might take one week or two weeks or a month. 
Q: What are the main problems you faced while being kidnapped? 
A: The main problem is that when you are under forced apprehension, you are not certain about your future, you are almost uncertain about nothing. For then on, we were well treated they did every thing we asked. Actually, it was very interesting to live among these tribesmen. It was an experience I’ve never planned to have. It was interesting but I will never do it again. 
Q: How did you manage your sleep, food and other things while being in captivity? 
A: It depended upon the kidnappers to decide when you have to get up, have breakfast, lunch, go to sleep, go to the bathroom, etc. We could control nothing. It was only when the door was closed that we could talk freely and that was all. 
Q: Did you feel afraid that the Yemeni government might use force to release you? 
A: Not at all. It was that we were isolated and we had not information about what was happening outside. It was only the driver who gave us some information. We knew that there were troop movements and that the army was somewhere in the mountains nearby. 
Q: What is your advice to the tourists visiting Yemen and what word do you have for the Yemeni people? 
A: To the first, I say that there are some tribal areas in the south where they should be accompanied by army forces. And to the Yemeni people I tell them that every person on this earth is in search of happiness, security and help and there are many Yemeni people who are the same way, but there are some primitive people who do not think in a proper way to find solutions for their problems. We like the Yemeni people and we would like them to help themselves and build the modern Yemen. 
Q: Are you planning to visit Yemen again? 
A: Not tomorrow, of course. I plan to visit all the world. I will remember Yemen as a nice and edgy place 

Yemen Times Interviews GM 
of Bazara Travel and Tourism Agency
Q: When did you first get in contact with the kidnapped, and how? 
A: The first contact we had was at 14:30 on Thursday. We were contacted by our French-speaking guide who fled with the 3 other tourists from the kidnapping. This was immediately upon his arrival to Saada. 
Q: How were they released? How much did that cost? 
A: As you might be aware that we have contacted all the authorities concerned, especially the Minister of Interior who helped us in a professional and efficient way. That is how and why the tourists were released in 3 days time. It is not possible for me to tell you the price for the release of the tourists. I think you can ask the Ministry of Interior this question. 
Q: How were you able to convince the tourists to continue their tour? 
A: I do agree with you that it is difficult to convince kidnapped groups to continue their tour. For Your information we had to do it in 2 ways: 
We had to convince the 3 tourists who were not kidnapped to continue the tour. To do this we left them in Saada for one day. Our guide explained to them that the risk was nearly nil for any harm. When they came to Sana’a, I managed with the Dutch Ambassador to convince them of continuing their trip. We had a positive response. The second one was the 4 kidnapped tourists. Upon their arrival in Sanaa, we made an official reception for them at Hadda Hotel. The Minister of Tourism himself was present and made a very good speech in which he invited them to continue their tour. At night we had dinner in His Excellency’s house, the Ambassador of Holland also convinced them to continue the tour. Believe me, they responded positively. All of them were very happy to have done and showed no regrets.