Kidnapping in Iraq


Feb 2017


This week’s latest outrage by the terrorist group, Abu Sayyaf, in the Philippines has brought kidnapping back into the focus of the world’s media.

Kidnapping has been part of the way of life in the Middle East for centuries. It was a part of the standard modus operandi of the inter tribal feud and a method of exerting pressure on opposition or competition; it was usually resolved by the granting of concessions or payment of ransom.

For the past decade Iraq has been in the top 5 countries in the world for kidnapping. Much goes unreported in the Western media. While feuds can still be a basis for the activity, there is also a ‘demand’ for it. A lot of kidnapping can be a purely commercial enterprise. The victim is kidnapped either for a direct ransom, or as a commodity with a value that can be traded. The ransom being paid eventually and providing the income for the kidnappers or their clients.

A shift in the reasons behind kidnapping

The more recently ideologically and terrorist based kidnap activity has changed things. Victims are kidnapped not necessarily for money but for the propaganda effect that comes from their recorded murder. Sometimes such kidnaps started as commercial enterprises, with the victim being kidnapped by a commercial gang and then sold on to the terrorists. The revulsion across the region after the kidnapping and murder of Margaret Hassan in Iraq in November 2004 caused a reduction in spectacular kidnaps.

As with being shot at or blown up, the best way to deal with kidnap is not to be kidnapped in the first place. Kidnapping can be done in a much less public way than more violent forms of attack. If a person can be perceived to have a value, he or she are liable to kidnap. That value may not be in themselves or family, but how much a ‘caring employer’ may be  perceived to be able to pay.

There are measures that can and should be taken both to minimise the risk, and to deal with an event should it take place.


Our next blog on the subject: Kidnapping; the employer’s problem