Negotiation can be a necessary evil | Bulent Gokay

Turkish hostages held by Isis have been freed and returned home

(The Independent, 23 September 2014)

After 101 days of tense waiting, all 49 hostages held captive by Isis insurgents in Mosul, including Turkish diplomats, soldiers and children, and the Iraqi security guards of the consulate building, have been released.

The Turkish authorities announced that the hostages were freed after diplomatic negotiations with Sunni tribes in the region. In the British media, however, Turkey was accused of colluding with Isis to oppose Syrian Kurds and President Assad.

“We don’t negotiate with terrorists,” is the official line of the US and British governments. In stark contrast, continental powers, including Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Austria, have paid ransoms to hostage-takers.

Earlier this spring, four French and two Spanish journalists held hostage by Islamic State militants were freed after the French and Spanish governments negotiated and paid ransoms through intermediaries.

Now, a number of major aid organisations are not sending US and British aid workers to areas where they might be abducted. Instead, they are sending citizens from European countries with governments that will pay ransoms.

Even though the US State Department claims that it does not negotiate with the “terrorists”, the US has negotiated with various terrorist groups all through recent history. Even Israel, probably the toughest in dealing with terrorist groups, negotiates to save the life of its citizens.

The Israeli authorities did a prisoner swap in 2011 to secure the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit , and released 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in return. It hasn’t caused an outrage in Israel: when Shalit was released, 79 per cent of Israelis polled supported the prisoner swap.

Claiming that “we don’t negotiate with the terrorists” and then preventing even the families of the hostages from dealing with their captors  is unwise.

There are no easy answers in kidnapping cases. But it is a state’s responsibility to do everything to secure the safety of its citizens, every single one of them. What can be more important than saving a human life?

Professor Bulent Gokay
Keele University

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One Response to Negotiation can be a necessary evil | Bulent Gokay

  1. Oliver Gray says:

    terrific use of terminology within the article, it really did help when i was reading

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