The two little daughters of a German family kidnapped in Yemen 11 months ago, were rescued by Saudi forces on Monday in the border region between Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Details of the operations have not been revealed. There are conflicting reports about the operation, but officials said no shots had been fired. It will likely remain unknown whether a ransom was paid for the two girls or not.
Lydia and Anna Hentschel, six and four, were flown back to Germany in a Challenger 601 jet of the German Luftwaffe on Wednesday.
The fate of their parents, Johannes and Sabine Hentschel, remains unknown. The devout Christians had worked in a hospital run by a Protestant organisation in Sa’ada in the north-west of the country since 2003. Their baby son, Simon, is believed to have died.
The family was seized by gunmen on June 12, 2009 while on an excursion with two female German Bible school students, who had worked as assistant nurses, a British engineer and a female South Korean teacher. The badly mutilated dead bodies of the German Bible school students and the Korean teacher were found three days later. What happened to the Brit is unknown.
Several weeks after the kidnapping, a video appeared where the German children could be seen. The little boy, who reportedly looked exhausted, had been about one year old then, the girls five and three.
Lydia and Anna were with a relative, a doctor and a psychologist on their flight to Dresden after undergoing medical tests in Saudi Arabia. They are said to be in good health, well fed and not sunburnt. They are living with family and being shielded from the press. According to unconfirmed German media reports, the girls have apparently been looked after by an Arab family, which would explain why they speak Arabic with each other. Only the older one remembers some German. That would suggest, too, they have not had contact with their parents for a long time.
The brutality and length of this hostage taking may be explained by the fact that the girls father had been trying to convert Muslims to the Christian faith. German authorities believe that the Germans were regarded as Christian missionaries in Sa’ada and missionary writings were found in the belongings of the Bible students who have been murdered.
Johannes, a technician and Arabic speaker, and Sabine, a nurse, had fulfilled a dream by uprooting themselves from their home in Saxony seven years ago and moving to Yemen. They were employed by Worldwide Services, a Christian charity based in the Netherlands, which makes the qualification used by the media, that they "were regarded" missionaries, appear somewhat superfluous. To all intents and purposes, they WERE missionaries.
They had planned to return to Germany this year for their daughters to start school.
I won't say much about the parents. Just that this is just another sickmaking example of what German "idealism" is capable of doing. Because THEY thought THEY could bring the light to the savages in one of the most backward countries in the world, because of this preposterous arrogance, because they thought that made it worthwhile to start a family and live there, they are now most likely dead, together with their baby son who never had a chance.
And now everybody is pondering over the "riddle", the "mystery" of that kidnapping.
Why were the girls spared? Because they are children? Good joke. Then the little boy would have been with them. People long to believe in things nice, beautiful and good. The very likely truth in this case is neither.
Look at the little girls, how fair they are. Three respectively five more years from now, and and they would have been "marriageable" in an Islamic country. In chapter 3 of his epochal work "Mohammed - Leben und Legende" (life and legend) the German orientalist Tilman Nagel describes how expensive it is for a man in that world to marry outside his tribe. Because of that, they usually marry "uxorilocally". This may give us an idea how much interested chieftains would have had to pay to the captors of the little girls for one of them.
Obviously, the children's hair has been dyed. It looks like a henna job. People who have lived in the Middle East will tell you that children with blonde hair and a fair complexion are all the time admiringly touched and groped. So this was, again very likely, done to make them stand out less.
Later, married, they'd vanished beneath a niqab and only their husbands would have been able to enjoy their fairness.
It can only be hoped that the girls will awaken to this only when they are well into adulthood and strong enough to handle the truth about what might have happened to them.
My thanks go once again to Gudrun Eussner who helped me understand this.