After execution of Japanese hostages, will Sajida be released?

ISIS’s act of slaughtering the two Japanese hostages has put the Jordanian government in a difficult situation

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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If it hadn’t been for international pressure, Japan would have paid a hefty ransom to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to release the two Japanese hostages who were kidnapped in Syria. ISIS beheaded the two in the same barbaric way it executed previous hostages - including American journalist James Foley who was the first foreign hostage to be executed in such a way by ISIS after the American government refused to pay a ransom.

The beheading of the two Japanese hostages has put the Jordanian government in a difficult situation after it voiced readiness to compromise and release terrorist Sajida Rishawi in exchange for captive pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh.

Acceptable condition

Jordanians may say that as long as the agreement with ISIS does not include paying money, then the swap is an acceptable condition which happens among fighting parties. Add to that, the detained woman, i.e. Rishawi, is of no significance to the organization. ISIS seeks to utilize her release as a propaganda ‎and portray it as victory.

The problem with paying ransoms is that they enable terrorists to buy arms and manage the areas they control. Operations in which huge sums of money are paid to terrorist groups in Syria have stirred international suspicions.

It’s estimated that more than $120 million has been paid to fund the operations of extremist armed groups, and funders have neither been blamed, nor charged with supporting terrorism.

The increase in negotiations to pay ransoms pushed the Americans to act against this. Perhaps this is why mediators stopped efforts to release remaining captive Lebanese soldiers who were kidnapped in Aarsal, the Lebanese town at the Syrian-Lebanese border. ISIS and Al-Nusra Front had kidnapped there 35 soldiers and Internal Security Forces personnel and of whom some have been executed or released.

The problem with paying ransoms is that they enable terrorists to buy arms

Long war

Governments are pushed to pay ransoms to release their kidnapped citizens either due to popular pressures or to seek political propaganda. This is what the French government did when it paid approximately $30 million to Al-Qaeda in Niger for the release of four Frenchmen who worked in the field of nuclear energy and were held hostage for three years.

The Americans have previously been concerned by news of payments being made for the release of a French journalist. Although Paris denied paying a ransom, British officials confirmed otherwise.

Executing the two Japanese hostages is a step which did not deprive ISIS of money. But it may finally put an end to surrendering to blackmail, as now there’s international activity pursuing governments who submit, compromise and pay terrorists without considering the dangerous repercussions such as encouraging them (terrorists) to kidnap foreigners and civilians.

This is a long war that requires plenty of sacrifices and that also requires depriving terrorists of their two most important weapons: money and propaganda.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on February 3, 2015.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former 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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