31 August 2009

Kidnapped children returning home

There have been a number of stories in recent years of children who were kidnapped many years before finally being reunited with their families. One of the most recent concerns Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was kidnapped in 1991 at the age of 11, and was recently reunited with her family.

It's a happy ending in a way, because many children who disappear are sometimes later found dead, and in some cases their families never hear of them again, and are uncertain about their fate. A similar case was that of Natascha Kampusch in Austria, who was kidnapped at the age of ten, and kept in an underground cell. A sadder case was Elizabeth Fritzl, who was not kidnapped from her family, but imprisoned by her own father.

Unlike Jaycee, cellar victims did not see life they were missing - Times Online:
The photographs of Ms Dugard’s backyard jail may spin the illusion that her imprisonment, though dreadful, was better than the lot of the entombed Austrians — the schoolgirl Natascha Kampusch (who freed herself in 2006 after eight years underground) and Elisabeth Fritzl, held in a dungeon for almost a quarter of a century. But the tent-world of Ms Dugard may have been an even greater mental torture than that faced by the Austrian cellar children.

For the Fritzl children the outside world was an abstraction; they had no concept of sky, of birdsong or trees. For Ms Dugard and her daughters, the real world was tantalisingly close. What was she supposed to tell her children?

The tent-prison must have expanded as she grew into adolescence and became the mother of her captor’s children. The canopies multiplied and now the pictures show a warren resembling a shanty town or a refugee camp.

But there is another story that perhaps did not receive quite the same prominence in the Western media, of a 12-year-old boy who was kidnapped in Afghanistan, and kept for seven years. Youngest Gitmo inmate returns to Afghanistan:
The youngest detainee in Guantanamo has been finally released to join his family in Afghanistan after seven years in custody in the notorious detention center run by the US military.

Mohammed Jawad, who is now believed to be 21, reunited with his family in the Afghan capital, Kabul, late on Monday, his lawyer confirmed.

Jawad was arrested by Afghan police on charges of throwing a hand grenade that injured two US soldiers and their interpreter in Kabul in 2002. He was later delivered into American custody, and about a month later he was sent to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

A federal judge ordered Jawad released in July, after a war crimes case against him was dismissed for a lack of evidence and concerns about his age.

In the first cases mentioned, parents turned to state authorities to help them find their missing children, except in the case where it was the parents themselves who had imprisoned their children, and in the case of Mohammed Jawad, it was state authorities who were the kidnappers, and reminds me of Psalm 94:20-21:

You never consent to that corrupt tribunal
that imposes disorder as law
that takes the life of the virtuous
and condemns the innocent to death.

Perhaps there is a common childhood fear of being kidnapped and taken from one's family. I am aware of having had such fears in my own childhood. Perhaps the fears were sparked off by learning this poem at school, at the age of nine. I found it both very sad and very scary, and I think of it whenever I read such news stories:

Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together,
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl's feather.

It's called "The fairies", but a few lines further on, it tells what these "good folk" did:

They stole little Bridget
For seven years long;
When she came down again,
Her friends were all gone.
They took her lightly back,
Between the light and morrow,
They thought that she was fast asleep,
But she was dead with sorrow.
They have kept her ever since,
Deep within the lakes,
On a bed of flag leaves,
Watching till she wakes.

1 comment:

Chris H said...

Steve, the point about the Afghan child was totally unexpected.I like to think I am well informed from the media but missed that release entirely.

The points are well made though.

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