The first kidnapping occured back in March 2005, when my husband's uncle in law went missing on his and his wife's way back from their medical clinic. He left Aunt H halfway home and contined walking to a nearby butcher shop. When he didn't make it home a few hours later, Aunt H knew something was seriously wrong. She had neighbors ask around, and heard that a man had been seized near their neighborhood stores. His glasses had fallen to the ground, and were brought to her.
Two long days later, she received her first phone call from the kidnappers. And twelve days later, Uncle S was finally released for $50,000 USD.
That's the short version of it. The long version includes the great turmoil and suffering that the family went through, on a minute by minute basis, for 12 long days, waiting for news from the kidnappers; delicate, nerve-wracking negotiations that my husband, his cousin and aunt carried out with the hardened criminals, and short-term and long-term physical/emotional effects suffered by our uncle in law after his release.
Just as the movie portrays, we lived and we watched Uncle S's four daugthers (ages 10-24 years) and wife live on the edge of their seats for two weeks. We watched his daughters and adult brothers lose their cool and demand that Cousin A (doing most of the negotiations) agree to the high ransom costs or 'their brother's blood would be on her (his wife's) hands.' We watched strong, patient Aunt H break down and lose it. We watched her finally agreeing to a ransom price way above her head, $50,000 USD, while she makes less than $400 monthly.
We watched the celebrations when Uncle S finally made it home safely, and we watched him slump into post-traumatic stress for a while after his ordeal. But he made it home alive and in one piece, Alhamdlulillah (Praise be to God).
Here's an excerpt from my journal written back on March 25, 2005 before I started to blog:
A took the phone and spoke with the man, insisting that they couldn’t go above twenty thousand, but that he had just gotten $1300 from his aunt in Mosul and would raise another $1000. He told the guy, “After all that you have put us through, do you also want me to go out onto the streets and beg for money?” He’s really a good speaker/negotiator. Anyway, apparently the man told him that he had other ways of pressuring them and shut the phone in his face.
The whole time I was sitting there listening to the conversation, I felt just a sliver of what Khala (Aunt) H and her family are going through every day. It was so nerve-wracking just sitting there. I felt the huge risk that they are taking, will these kidnappers accept the negotiations, or will they hurt Ammu S? If its this scary for me, how must Auntie and her daughters be feeling??? Allah Kareem, wa Huwa fawq kull ‘ibadih.
I had a long talk with E, Khala H's oldest daughter. She was telling me how she can’t do anything, she can’t study for her USMLE’s, can’t go to work, can’t sleep, can’t concentrate on anything. Everyday, morning to night, they wait for these phone calls, and race to the phone every time the phone rings. SubhanaAllah. I can just imagine.