A few days ago, after more than a year and a half of stagnation, a major breakthrough in the case of Lebanon’s hostages with “Al Nusra” came through, culminating in their release in what can only be described as a shameful and despicable swap that paints this proud nation of ours as powerless, useless and utterly, irrevocably castrated.
It took our government more than a year and a half to get our captives home.
It took our government more than a dozen mediations to even reach a breakthrough.
It took our government to beg for the help of foreign nations – as usual – to make sure its sons returned home.
It took our government giving back terrorists, making sure those terrorists are provided for, for our hostages to come back home.
And we still have nine left with ISIS.
The aforementioned is horrific. In fact, the only good thing about the recent hostage swap is that our heroes have returned, that their families are whole again and that this dark, shameful chapter of the history of this nation can now begin to heal.
Most of us don’t even know their names, but here they are for everyone to know:
- Nahi Abou Kalfouni,
- Rayan Salameh,
- Georges Khoury,
- Ahmad Abbas,
- Mohammad Taleb,
- Georges Khazaka,
- Pierre Geagea,
- Ehab El Atrash,
- Abbas Mshik,
- Sleiman El Dirani,
- Lameh Mzahem,
- Rawad Abou Darhamin,
- Wael Homs,
- Maher Fayyad,
- Maymoun Jaber,
- Ziad Omar.
We also received back the body of Mohammad Hamieh, who was executed in front of his fellow captives on September 14th, 2014.
The release of Al Nusra’s Lebanese prisoners meant the potential for a bombastic field day for Lebanon’s media outlets, and they made sure to benefit as much as they could: Sixteen men freed from a terrorist group meant a whole lot of interviews and “scoops.’
Part of the media frenzy was a New TV interview with freed captive Georges Khazaka which you can watch in the video below:
The video translates loosely to the following:
Georges: I want to also thank “Al Nusra” for the good treatment they gave us.
Reporter: They treated you well? Someone who kidnaps you treats you well? *in semi-outraged tone.*
Georges: Yes, thank God.
Reporter: We used to say you were under pressure to say such things. Today, there are no more outside pressures on you to thank Al Nusra which is a terrorist organization that kidnapped you.
Georges: A terrorist organization, but they were okay with us. No one beat us, no one verbally assaulted us.
Reporter: But you were kidnaped for 16 months! You broke the heart of your families for 16 months. You thank Al Nusra for that?
Georges: Thank God.
The comments on Facebook are of the same outraged tone that reporter sported while interviewing this man who has been, as she said, held hostage for over 16 months in conditions that – so say the least – are much worse than anything that reporter or any of us has lived through in the past year and a half. Behold an exhibit:
You’d think that with the prospect of their release, after more than 16 months of captivity, that there would be some research into what to expect from ANY human being who has been in such conditions for such extended periods of time. You’d think they would know what to ask, how to ask it, how to handle such fragile creatures whose only fault really was to be citizens of a spineless country that couldn’t bring them back until 16 months later.
Yet again, expecting Lebanese media to actually do its job before crucifying people in the public eye is similar to expecting an owl dropping your Hogwarts acceptance letter at your windowsill.
In the mayhem of the freeing of these Lebanese prisoners, no one bothered to look up why these hostages had a sense of gratitude to their captives, and it all boils down to one concept in psychology called the “Stockholm Effect.”
The Stockholm Effect was discovered in Sweden in 1973 after captives at bank were held hostage for five days and then found to have developed attachment to their captors, rejecting governmental assistance at a certain point.
It’s a phenomenon in which people taken into captivity express empathy and even sympathy and could have positive feelings towards their captives. The feelings are considered to be irrational, emanating from the victims believing a lack of abuse at the hand of their captors is an act of kindness.
Research has suggested that hostages may exhibit the condition in situations featuring captors that do not abuse the victim, a long duration before resolution, continued contact between the perpetrator and hostage, and a high level of emotion. It affects around 8% of victims of kidnapping.
A prominent example is that of the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847. Shortly after takeoff from Athens, two terrorists stormed the cockpit and demanded the diversion of the flight to Beirut. After capturing the plane, the perpetrators released the women and children. Two sailors and a group of wealthy American businessmen remained on the aircraft, and the captors held them for 10 days.
During the incident, the terrorists threatened the hostages with guns to their heads and in their mouths. They also beat one of the victims to death and dumped his body out of the tail section of the plane.
After the eventual rescue, reporters interviewed the captives as they disembarked. When asked to describe the captors, one hostage stated, “They weren’t bad people; they let me eat, they let me sleep, they gave me my life.”
There are certain Lebanese media using Georges Khazaka’s interview to showcase ‘Al Nusra’ in a positive light, in the sense of “oh look, they’re not that bad,” and those media are as bad, if not worse, then those who are outraged at what Mr. Khazaka said.
Al Nusra is a terrorist organization. They took soldiers and policemen hostage for over a year. They beheaded some of them for political and theatrical purposes. They are not human. They are animalistic barbaric entities that, like ISIS, should be annihilated. Period.
As some of you mighty keyboard clicking Goliaths click away at your Facebook, YouTube and Twitter profiles to shame our freed soldiers and policemen because of their statements, none of you had to go through what they went through for the past year and a half.
None of us had to be separated from our loved ones.
None of us had to take each day one step at a time hoping we wouldn’t die the next.
None of us were forced to watch as our colleagues were decapitated in front of us.
None of us had to go through what they’ve been through, and yet here are many of us belittling them.
This can be a political ploy. In the political chess game overtaking the region, these soldiers are mere pawns being manipulated by those who are far higher up. And isn’t the following picture the clearest indication of that?
Our soldiers kneel while higher powers rise above. Isn’t that the truth everywhere?
Before being soldiers, our hostages are people. And they are people who lost everything they knew for more than a year. They’ve been broken, humiliated and decimated.
Before being soldiers, our hostages are people. Understanding that they might be prepared to fight terrorism in Arsal, where they were placed probably because they don’t know someone who knows someone who can assign them to less risky areas, but were not ready to be taken into captivity for more than a year is key.
Before being soldiers, our hostages are people. Wearing a police suit does not mean they are exempt from being human beings who can be hurt, changed and maimed too.
I’m not saying Stockholm Syndrome is a certainty. I’m saying it’s a possibility. Asking our soldiers to move on from their ordeal just because they’re freed is akin to asking a depressed person to snap out of it. We will never get it. We will never know. Whether psychology or politics, everything that we do will remain nothing more or less but speculation.
But when it comes to me, I look at Georges Khazaka and see a man whose humanity comes first and who breaks my heart at him being nothing more than a scarred pawn in a game of nations that is much bigger than him, than me or any of us will ever be.