(photo of Juergen Chrobog, former State Secretary of the German Foreign Ministry)
A loyal reader of The Washington Note and very good friend, Karim Chrobog, as well as four other members of his family were kidnapped in Yemen according to various news reports.
Juergen Chrobog, Karim’s father and former State Secretary of the German Foreign Ministry as well as former German Ambassador to the United States, was invited to Yemen as the guest of the Yemeni Deputy Foreign Minister. He had his wife and three children traveling with him. His wife is Egyptian, and Karim is German-Egyptian by descent.
From a CNN report:
Juergen Chrobog, his wife and three children were in a tour group traveling from Aden to Shabua province when their vehicle fell behind and disappeared, German television network ARD reported.
Chrobog, 65, also was ambassador to the United States from 1995 to 2001.
ARD said kidnappers are demanding the release of jailed comrades.
Reuters quoted a kidnappper from the Abdullah tribe as telling the news service by phone that the five hostages are safe.
“Their life is not in danger, and they are guests of our tribe,” the tribe member told Reuters.
“We were forced to do this to focus the government’s attention to our cause,” Reuters quoted him as saying. He added that he hoped the kidnapping — the third involving Westerners this year — would pressure the San’a government to free five of his tribesmen who are in jail for criminal charges, including murder, Reuters reported.
German sources told CNN that Chrobog and his family were on a private trip at the invitation of a Yemenese deputy foreign minister. The sources said the tour group reported the family missing.
Most of the news has focused on the profile of Juergen Chrobog, also a friend of mine and this blog, who recently became Chairman of the Herbert Quandt/BMW Foundation.
Chrobog is a candid, skillful diplomat — particularly in matters involving the Middle East.
But Karim Chrobog’s interests have not been profiled and should be noted by the kidnapping tribe of the Chrobog family. This family is one that is deeply concerned about enhancing self-confidence and pride among youth throughout the Arab world. I have spoken many times with to both Karim Chrobog and Juergen Chrobog about the systematic humiliation that average people in the Arab world have endured from both Western governments — and their own governments.
It is quite likely that if the Yemeni tribesmen who kidnapped the Chrobogs are sincere that they are trying to bring attention to various grievances they have with their own government that they have taken people who are generally sympathetic with and useful to any efforts to improve conditions and political empowerment of Arab citizens in the Middle East.
Karim Chrobog is a film-maker and had two projects underway. One of these film projects is being funded out of Saudi Arabia and the UAE and focuses on the life and deeds of a 15th century Arab navigator and explorer Ahmad ibn Majid.
This film project is important to the Arab world because it helps tell the story of an Arab hero that few in the West and few in the Arab world have been introduced to. Major film productions on topics such as Ahmad ibn Majid — as well as a set of educational films and tools that would be generated alongside this feature film project — can help enhance a sense of self-worth among Arabs who have long felt that the West looked at them as a global underclass to be exploited.
Another film project Karim Chrobog was launching was a documentary film on political blogging. TWN is one of the featured blogs in the projecs, and the life of bloggers — particularly hard-core, often young bloggers on the political right and left — was one of Karim’s interests. I recently introduced and took Karim to a couple of the progressive Townhouse blog meetings run by one of the country’s top blog networkers, Matt Stoller.
In any case, the Yemeni tribesmen who kidnapped the Chrobog family need to know that they have people under their control who have been working hard to enhance conditions and self-determination for people throughout the Arab world. Juergen and Karim have both helped build economic opportunities for Palestinians in both the Arab world and in Europe.
To harm this family is to harm your own cause — and that can only bring dishonor and shame to your goals in the eyes of others in Yemen and throughout the Middle East who are also fighting to bring attention to grievances that they have with their governments.
To hurt them, you undermine yourself and anger many others who are on the same side in your struggle.
Please consider this in your negotations with the Yemeni government — and listen to Karim Chrobog on his thoughts about building up heroes for Arab youth to look up to.
— Steve Clemons