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An Assyrian Tragedy

By Rosie Malek-Yonan

8/24/2010 Iraq (AINA) — What will you do if a loved one is kidnapped? To what extreme will you go to see them returned safely? Will you pay a kidnapper to have your child returned? What will you do if the authorities do not mount an investigation? Will you give in to the demands of the kidnappers? How much will you pay to have your teenage son returned? What if you can’t come up with the thousands of dollars being extorted for the return of a brother or sister? Would you pay the ransom knowing there is a chance you would still never see your abducted father or mother?

These are not just hypothetical questions. They are questions Assyrians have been forced to reconcile with since the onset of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The targeted kidnapping of Assyrian Christians in Iraq has been big business and will continue to escalate with the U.S. withdrawal from the region.

How to pay for the release of a loved one is a monumental concern for those who have no means to pay the kidnappers. On the other hand, paying off kidnappers in Iraq carries a greater ramification as the U.S. treats these Assyrian victims as colluding with Islamic terrorists.

But what if you didn’t have the means to pay the ransom? What then?

This is the anguish Yonan Daniel Mammo’s family has been living with since his abduction several weeks ago.

Yonan is married and has two small children. They live in the Assyrian neighborhood in Kirkuk. Yonan’s sister and brother also live in the area. His children have no idea why they have been separated from their father, though I suspect his six-year-old daughter will most likely understand more than her two-year-old brother. She is old enough to know her mother’s tears are caused by her father’s absence.

Yonan graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English from Baghdad University. He worked at Hammurabi Exchange Office on Al-Jamhwaria Street in Kirkuk and supported his family on a modest salary of $300 a month.

At 8 pm on 29 July 2010, when Yonan left his place of work, four armed gunmen jumped out of a BMW in front of the Exchange Office and took the Assyrian man as hostage. According to witnesses, Yonan was stuffed in the trunk of his abductor’s vehicle. That evening, Yonan’s family waited for his return. There was no sign of him. The family clung to hope and prayer. Nothing else was in their power. With the dawn of a new day, their hopes were shattered.

On 30 July 2010, the Muslim kidnappers used Yonan’s own cell phone to contact the family. Yonan was allowed to briefly speak with his family. He informed them that he was taken against his will. The kidnappers then demanded ransom in the amount of USD $150,000 for Yonan’s safe release. When the phone went dead, Yonan’s family realized their nightmare had already begun. Countless Assyrians had been kidnapped. They knew all the stories. All the lives that had been cut short. And now the tragedy was theirs to live through.

Yonan’s family did not have the means to come up with this kind of money.

Two weeks dragged on. When on 14 August 2010, the kidnappers realized that this was an impossible amount for the family to raise, they lowered their demand to USD $100,000.

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