Falconry, Kidnapping, and Syria

Robert F. Worth has an interesting article in the New York Times about a band of kidnapped Qatari falconers and the ransom paid for them. Here is a taste:

A week later, the money still impounded, the Qatari team left Baghdad in the same jet that had brought them. They were now accompanied by two dozen Qataris, including members of the ruling Al Thani family, who had been kidnapped during a hunting trip in southern Iraq 16 months earlier. The story of what happened on that trip has not been reported until now. It entails a ransom deal of staggering size and complexity in which the Qataris paid vast sums to terrorists on both sides of the Middle East’s sectarian divide, fueling the region’s spiraling civil wars. 
To Arab falconers, the houbara bustard — a bug-eyed, long-legged creature about the size of a large chicken — is the king of game birds. It is a fast flier with an unusual defense: When cornered, it vomits an oily green substance that can temporarily blind an attacking falcon or hobble its wings. In the days before oil was discovered in the Arabian desert, the houbara’s seasonal return every fall was met with celebratory poetry and long hunts on camelback. The Land Rover made things a lot easier, but chasing the houbara, whose stringy flesh is said to be an aphrodisiac, remains one of the hallowed pursuits — along with thoroughbred stallions, huge yachts and French chateaus — that occupy the minds of Persian Gulf royalty. 
In late November 2015, a large group of Qatari falcon hunters left Doha in a column of 4-by-4 vehicles and headed south. Crossing the Saudi border, the convoy turned north, traversing a portion of Kuwait and continuing on to their destination, the southern desert of Iraq, 450 miles from Doha ...

No comments: