In August of 2013, Kayla Mueller was abducted by ISIS in Syria. She had travelled to Syria to assist her boyfriend who worked for Doctors Without Borders, (Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF) and was fixing a satellite at a MSF hospital. Prior to this, she spent four years working with aid groups in India, Israel, and Palestine. She was held in captivity for more than 18 months before evidence of her death was released to family members.
It did not need to be this way. The story could be a much different one, instead following the similar experiences of those who were kidnapped with her. Although not an employee for MSF, she was participating in the repair of their satellite, and was riding in a MSF vehicle when she was kidnapped. MSF made a conscious decision after the kidnapping to not provide any assistance towards her release, and in fact to keep information from both her family and the United States government.
For 18 months, Kayla was a hostage of ISIS. According to initial reports by fellow captives, she was claimed as the direct property of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – the leader of ISIS at the time. As corroborated by other captives, he sexually abused her repeatedly during this time and she may have been forced into a marriage with him. When given an opportunity to escape with one of her fellow captives, a Yazidi girl, she turned it down to ensure that the Yazidi girl was not seen with a foreigner. Her decision may have sealed her fate.
Simultaneous to these events occurring, MSF worked to release their employees. Kayla smuggled a letter to her family with the released hostages. They were also made to memorize an email for her family to communicate and negotiate with the kidnappers for her release. MSF withheld this information for seven weeks from the family because they wanted to make sure it did not compromise their own employees first.
Ten months into her captivity, MSF announced to the family that it would not assist in the negotiations for her, and closed down their crisis management team as their case was closed. The executive director to the United States for MSF declared that “I don’t think there was a moral responsibility. We can’t be in the position of negotiating for people who don’t work for us.”
This is an ironic stance and position for MSF. In February of 2016, 42 people lost their lives when US warplanes bombed a location in Northern Syria that ended up being a MSF hospital. More than a dozen service members faced repercussions for the mistakes that led up to the bombing. It was an unfortunate series of mistakes that led to the grievous loss of life.
What is not surprising is that the US responded by identifying responsibility and solutions. What they did not do is inform MSF that they did not have a moral responsibility to ensure there were no civilians on the ground, and that they cannot be in the position of caring for people that do not work for them.
This is the difference between an organization that shows appropriate leadership in the face of adversity, and one that does not.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.