Why praise the terrorists who released the Maaloula nuns?

The al-Nusra Front has shown that it has not even the most minimal of war ethics after kidnapping women and blackmailing them

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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We understand that when those who are kidnapped praise their kidnappers, and when victims thank criminals, it is possibly out of fear or simply the price of freedom. But it is impossible to understand those who showered the al-Nusra Front with gratitude because it released the Maaloula nuns who had been kidnapped in Syria. This is a crime. The women were held for four months and they are not a belligerent party in the war. This is a cowardly act by a terrorist group and there is no honor in belonging to the group. Nevertheless, some people in the Arab media praised the group, citing the women”s account of their time in captivity; they spoke of good treatment and hospitality. What sort of nonsense is this? Since when is the kidnapping of women an honorable action worthy of thanking the kidnapper for their good treatment of the victims?

The story of the nuns was a crime and, from the beginning, was a series of lies. When the fighters of the al-Nusra Front entered the Christian village of Maaloula, 55 kilometers from Damascus, they claimed that they would not target the monastery or anyone inside it. They then broke into the building at night and kidnapped the head nun and a number of nuns who were working at the monastery and an associated orphanage. After several Syrian factions denounced the crime, the al-Nusra Front and pro-Nusra media outlets claimed that the fighters took the women in order to protect them. But from whom? No one answered and the news of the nuns disappeared as many went on wondering. In recent days, it became clear that it was a blackmail for money operation that has nothing to do with the regime or with the revolution. The al-Nusra Front sold the abducted nuns, and several other people said to be from Gulf countries, for a major ransom.

Al-Nusra’s lies

The al-Nusra Front lied to justify its actions, as did those who worked to support the group. That is in itself a sandal. Al-Nusra”s spokesman Abdullah Azzam al-Shami denied releasing the nuns in exchange for a ransom, and this is a clear lie of course. He dares to say: “It is impossible that we agreed on a ransom because the nuns were not kidnapped and we have nothing to do with the offer presented.” Then why did the nuns disappear for four months? The al-Nusra affiliated man said: “The delay was due to routine procedures related to security [and ensuring] an armed force to protect their convoy!” Of course he forgot they took the women on one dark night and transferred them forcibly from Maaloula to Yabroud, where they lived for months while the bargaining went on.

The al-Nusra Front should have been criticized instead of it being thanked because it has committed crimes like the Assad regime

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

We are not able to say much about the regime of Bashar al-Assad because the man who kills 150,000 does not deserve to be blamed for other crimes in the country. The blame is on those who praised and thanked a criminal group such as the al-Nusra Front simply because it is fighting against the Syrian regime. They forgot that it is only a terrorist organization - like the other al-Qaeda branch known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) - that respects neither the humanism of others, their beliefs nor basic Islamic morals. The Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, stood up when the funeral procession of a Jew passed in front of him. Omar, the second Muslim caliph, refused to pray in a church in fear that later Muslims would use it as an excuse to convert the church into a mosque.

The al-Nusra Front should have been criticized instead of it being thanked because it has committed crimes like the Assad regime. It has shown that it has not even the most minimal of war ethics after kidnapping women and blackmailing them. It has none of the Arab ethics of chivalry and the protection of women’s honor. All that al-Nusra succeeded in doing was improving the image of Assad and frightening the world of the Syrian Revolution.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on March 14, 2014.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

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