Givers’ gift to hostages

2014-01-13 00:00

FIVE days of intense negotiations and seven months of footwork. This is what it took to have the wife of the teacher couple who had been abducted in Yemen in May released on Friday.

Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of Gift of the Givers, yesterday confirmed to The Witness that the extraordinary rescue effort in Yemen was co-ordinated from KwaZulu-Natal in a five-day effort.

Yolandé Korkie, who was released on Friday night, said she is very worried about the safety and health of her husband Pierre, who is still being held hostage in Yemen.

Yolandé was released with no ransom demanded. Their abductors are however demanding a ransom of $3 million (about R32 million) within eight days for Pierre’s release.

Negotations are meanwhile continuing for the release of Pierre.

Yolandé said to be free was overwhelming. “I am grateful, but a part of me remained behind, because Pierre is not free yet.

“We want to get him out as soon as possible, because he is not well.”

Sooliman said he had supplied his Yemen country manager, Anas al-Hamati, with reams of evidence of South African help to the country’s most vulnerable citizens — and that this evidence had helped leverage Korkie’s release.

“We understood the mindset of the kidnappers,” said Sooliman, who told SABC radio the kindnappers thought the Korkies were American.

“[Al-Hamati] took photographs and documentation which showed all the projects South African organisations have been implementing to help the people of Yemen, and explained to the kidnappers that these are your people.

“I am thrilled about Yolandé’s release, but also very worried that her husband is still being held.”

Yolandé’s release followed intense negotiations by Al-Hamati, who joined the organisation when the Korkies were abducted and has risked his own life to help them.

He said it was his duty to help South Africans in Yemen because they have done so much for the country.

Al-Hamati is ashamed about the abduction. “I apologise to South Africa,” he said

Yolandé said she is very grateful to Al-Hamati and his organisation’s help, enthusiasm and passion.

She is also grateful for the support that she and Pierre received from South Africa and especially Bloemfontein, where they are from.

“It means a lot to us.”

Yolandé told sister paper Volksblad she also wanted to thank the members of Al-Qaeda for treating her and Pierre with respect.

“They never hurt us.”

She confirmed she will soon return to South Africa and do what she can from here to help free her husband.

“I will now get out [of Yemen] and I want to ask people to help to get Pierre out as well.”

She said Pierre was her hero and while they were held together they supported each other and relied on God. They cried and laughed together.

“During captivity one goes through a phase of shock, then reality sets it and then you get to a place where you find peace. This is a peace that cannot be comprehended. You don’t know where it comes from. You just know it comes from above.”

She said the last stages of her captivity were very tough as they did not know people were negotiating for their release.

She now cannot wait to hug her son (16) and daughter (14) again. The children returned to South Africa after the abduction and are being looked after by a guardian in Bloemfontein.

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