Day #35: Prisoners

Theirs’ is a group of extremely tough-looking men. For now, they are kneeling passively, but their bodies are coiled and ready to strike out, regulations be damned.

Of course, they aren’t striking out. They are kneeling, fingers interlocked behind their heads. They are prisoners, and surrounding them are 25 armed men – rifles and machine guns at the ready.

Both groups are waiting.

After several minutes, a small man comes up to the group. Unlike his fellows, he looks peaceful. He looks weak. But he will not have any trouble conveying confidence. His hands won’t shake as he speaks. He literally has a captive audience.

“Welcome,” he says, to the kneeling group.

They don’t acknowledge him.

“Do you speak English?” he asks. His own English is perfect.

Nobody answers.

“WHICH OF YOU SPEAKS ENGLISH!” shouts the little man.

A brute of a man answers. His body is lined with tattoos, his hair is only a short stubble sticking roughly from his head. “I do,” he says. He has a thick Dutch accent.

“Good,” says the little man, “You will translate my words, ya?”

“Yes,” answers the brute, calmly – dangerous anger just below the surface.

“Good,” says the little man.

“First,” he continues, “I do not want to harm you.”

The little man gestures to the brute to translate, and then he waits.

The Dutch man translates.

“We do not want to harm you,” the little man says, “We have no dispute with you.”

He waits for translation.

“Our dispute is with your employers. You see, they are wealthy, and we are poor.”

He pauses for translation.

“We need help, but none arrives. So, after much reservation, we find we must help ourselves. We collect a pittance from your employers, but it is a royal sum for us.”

The brute translates.

And then the little man asks, “Do you understand the justice?”

The brute translates.

Nobody answers.

The little man shouts, “DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE JUSTICE?”

Heads nod. As he expected more than one man understands English.

“Good,” says the little man, quietly. He will continue to wait for translation, to maintain the fiction they’ve chosen.

“We genuinely don’t want to hurt you,” says the little man, “You are just puppets in a larger game. If you don’t believe me, look at our track record. Once you have become hostages, we’ve never killed a single one of you. Our fight is not with you.

“But if you resist, I will be the first to pull the trigger. There are hundreds of armed men here – there is nowhere to run.

“Do you understand?”

Heads nod.

“But we don’t want that,” says the man. “If you and others like you know you’ll survive – if you know our dispute is not with you, then we don’t have to worry about you fighting us. You can stay here in comfort and not in chains.

“If, however, you resist, you will die. And then others like you will have a new incentive to fight. They will fear death if they fail to resist. We don’t want prisoners who feel compelled to resist.”

The man pauses.

“So, unless we must, we will not harm you. If you make us harm you, you will gain nothing. Do you understand?”

Heads nod.

“Yes,” says the brute, “They understand.”

“Will you resist?” asks the little man.

A murmur of ‘no’s ripples through the crowd.

“You may stand up, and stand at ease.”

The men rise and pull there hands down from behind their heads. They are forcing themselves to be more relaxed.

“What now?” asks the brute.

“Now,” says the little man, “You wait.”

He pauses for a moment, smiles, and then says, “Oh, and welcome to Somalia. I hope you have a peaceful stay.”

“We will negotiate your ransom, and the ransom of your ship, as rapidly as possible.”