Kidnapped in Yemen


Andy in Yemen posing with a guide and a soldier who was there to scare off potential kidnappers

It’s such an adventure — that’s the only way to cope with it.”  Now that is how to deal with being kidnapped!  These were the words of Heleen Janszen, who, along with her husband, was surrounded by Yemeni tribesmen bearing Kalashnikov rifles last week and taken to the mountains east of the capital.

Fortunately for this adventure-minded couple, Yemen is actually one of the better countries of the world in which to be taken hostage.  When I was there, locals and foreigners alike regaled me with stories of local kidnappings, which don’t involve the rather unpleasant techniques seen elsewhere in the world (removal of ears, fingers, heads, and so forth) and only rarely end in violence (only 5 of the over 200 foreigners kidnapped in Yemen in the past 15 years have been killed).

My favorite story described an American diplomat (possibly Haynes Mahoney), who, upon his release, was asked what he did during a typical day of being held hostage.  According to the story (some of which I’ve verified in the Washington Post), after breakfast, he and his captors would go shooting for a bit.  Then, they would head back home, eat lunch, and chew qat for several hours while talking about how big of a problem kidnappings had become in Yemen in recent years.  When they finally parted ways, the tribe presented their former hostage with an AK-47 as a parting gift.  We sincerely hope that the brave Dutch couple currently being held captive will come out of it all with a similar tale to tell.

Of course, the League of Gentleman Adventurers does not condone kidnapping – or being kidnapped, for that matter.  It’s far easier to enjoy a country without a gun being pointed at you.  But if you are kidnapped, I recommend an attitude like Heleen’s and I hope you’re in a country like Yemen.

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