Syria: the Business of Kidnapping

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April 5, 2014
Ras al Ain, Syria

Younan Constantine Younan, a Syrian-christian from Ras al Ayn, was kidnapped by Jabhat al-Nusra and released for a 100 000USD ransom after 40 days of torture. Younan's experience illustrates the marriage of ideology and business when it comes to kidnapping by radical Islamic militias in Syria. While the ultimate goal of the kidnapping was to extort money and not to punish Younan for being christian, Younan believes that the fact that he is christian allowed the kidnappers to feel the kidnapping was ideologically acceptable and not against Islam.

Shot List and Translation:

Shots of the city of Ras al Ain.
Shots of the Syriac Church in the town, located next to Younan's house.
Shots of Younan inside the Church.

Interview:

"I was kidnapped by the Gouiran battalion/ al Hasakah, I was tricked. My uncle owns a factory in western Ras al Ayn, just before Tell Halaf. We produce materials for building and construction. It was there that the battalion decided to settle in. We kept on asking them when would be leaving and they always replied "tomorrow, tomorrow, we will go and liberate al Hasakah". They were all citizens of al-Hasakah. One of the battalion's members was called Mohammad Aadouch. One day, they took all our trucks, stating that the trucks belong now to Jabhat al Nusra. We went to ask Jabhat al Nusra for our trucks, they replied the trucks aren't yours anymore. We kept on trying with the battalion and Jabhat al Nusra for 4 to 5 days to get our trucks back until the battalion's commander, called Tamim, said, 'I have the trucks and I will give them back to you after 2-3 days.' There was fighting in the area so we stayed home all day, and we went to meet with them every day around noon.

One day, he told us to go with him so he can show us where the trucks are, in a town called Al-Aziziyah. I went with my cousin. Right before arriving to Al-Aziziyah, we were ambushed by 6 fighters, some of them were in their cars, asking for our IDs. Once we gave them our IDs, they told us that we were "the wanted persons". The reason they said this was that my cousin had a farm that is worth a lot and, being Christian, his money was Halal. They pointed their AK-47 at us, handcuffed us, put us in the back of the vehicles and drove us to Ras al Ain, Allah only knows where to.

Once there, they told us our case was simple, a week maximum and we'll be free. On the tenth day, they called our parents, and asked them for 100,000 USD for each. We didn't have any contact with the kidnappers; they put us in a room, handcuffed and kept our eyes uncovered. They would only cover our eyes when the guards come in to give us food. On the fortieth day, they covered our eyes and they started to beat us with their hands, belts and riffles. We could tell that they were the same persons on the Gouiran Battalion because of their voices and their accents. While they were torturing us, our parents were on the phone, and they kept on asking them for money. After 4 hours of being tortured, they took us to a school they turned into a prison. We remained there until the fiftieth day, when they covered our heads and removed our handcuffs, and dropped us in a city called Suluk, in the countryside of Ar-Raqqah. We took a car to Ras al Ayn, where they took the money, the amount of 3,500,000 Syrian Pounds.

My uncle was dead when we came back, he never knew his son and nephew were kidnapped. The day after we went to check on the factory, we found out they stole everything; tools, metals, they left nothing. After few days, we discovered that all our personal papers and IDs were with Jabhat al Nusra. We realized that they were in coordination with the battalion that kidnapped us, when they told our parents before that they are working as an intermediary to set us free.

It was then when we realized that they were all the same."