Archive for December 19th, 2012

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The on-going kidnap saga of Anhar Kochneva in Syria

December 19, 2012

For those of you who have no idea who Anhar Kochneva is, she is a Ukrainian translator who went to Syria with a Russian TV channel in late September and was subsequently kidnapped on or just before 15th October.

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She remains kidnapped by “Syrian rebels” for want of a better label, and was thought to have been executed on 16th December, only for there to have been a change of mind amongst those who are holding her.

During this time, according to those who are holding her, negotiations with the Ukrainian Embassy in Syria (and by default the Ukrainian Government) have been filled with broken promises – or what is equally as likely, misunderstandings and misinterpretations of what seem to be less than specific demands to achieve her release.

By less than specific demands, from what I am to understand, there is no definite “ransom $ figure” or other “definite demand”.  It appears those holding her are trying to discover what is “on offer” from Ukraine to gain her release.

On the assumption that Ukraine as a State will negotiate officially or otherwise with those who kidnap its citizens and then blackmail the State, and even those nations that officially declare they don’t, normally do, either covertly or via third parties/nations, then it must be very hard to negotiate the release of a captured citizen when there are no defined demands from kidnappers that appear to be trying simply to get “something” from Ukraine – the “optimum something” naturally.

Since 16th December those holding Anhar Kochneva have held an interview with TSN Channel, the contents of which are now with the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, again in which no clear demands are made to secure her release.

Naturally what is available in the public realm will not be anything like as detailed or nuanced compared to what is known to those in the Ukrainian Embassy in Syria, and this undoubtedly will be a case where releasing everything for the sake of “public interest” may not best serve Anhar Kochneva or the Ukrainian State – for now.

I am not sure of the labels used in main stream media relating to the reporting of this incident either.  At what point do the actions “Syrian rebels” become what I would define as an act of terrorism?

Terrorism for me, in a less than academic explanation, would be the act of violence (and kidnapping is violence against those subjected to it) carried out against a victim(s) who the terrorists are strong enough to wield sufficient strength against, whilst those they do so against are not the intended target – but are the responsibility of an entity that is far too great for them to attack directly and is the target.

The general point is to commit a crime against something or somebody you are capable of doing so against, that the real target far too big to attack directly, has a responsibility to protect – thus creating a climate of both fear, rage and belittling the target through its failure to protect.  In short, publicly undermine the powerful entity without tackling it head on.

Another driver is to generate a response from the far greater entity based upon its natural profound anger and aggression from your act, that causes the powerful entity to lose its perceived moral authority via engaging in a response far greater than is perceived as necessary by an on-looking world.

Generally though, such acts have as a route cause, some form of grievance against the powerful entity where those who carry out the act feel they have been humiliated or shown a lack of respect – thus it is a method to display their displeasure and go some way to righting the wrong against them.

To my knowledge, Ukraine has carried out no actions to belittle the “Syrian rebels” in any definitive way.  Maybe it has, but I am not aware of any.  Thus this incident to me would not be classed as an act of terrorism despite it having some hallmarks of what fit my less than academic definition of terrorism.

Is this merely an opportunist crime carried out amidst an otherwise entirely separate civil struggle for which those responsible are now trying to belatedly shift the mens rea to something more befitting their larger struggle?

It will be interesting to see how this works itself out, what if any concessions are given by Ukraine and for what reasons etc.

Whatever the outcome though, we have to hope that Anhar Kocheva comes out of this alive and well!

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