Afghan president Hamid Karzai is attempting to shame Taliban militants into releasing the South Korean women they kidnapped by stating that the rebels’ action is unprecedented in Afghan history and would bring shame upon the country.
Karzai, who is under intense pressure to free the Taliban’s 21 South Korean captives while not encouraging terrorism, is appealing to the militant group’s sense of honor and patriotism in his latest attempt to resolve the crisis which has garnered international attention.
“Women from another country are being kidnapped in Afghanistan… This would bring historical shame and defamation for this country and this nation,” Karzai said Thursday, according to Reuters.
“Women are being kidnapped in this soil today under the name of Taliban, Muslims and Afghans … In Afghanistan’s history, never anyone has kidnapped women,” he emphasized.
On July 19, the Taliban abducted 23 Korean Christian volunteers in insurgency-plagued Ghazni province. Out of the aid group, 16 are females, according to Agence France-Presse. The church group was on its way to provide free medical services to poor Afghan citizens when their bus was hijacked.
Since then, nearly a dozen deadlines for their lives have passed and two male hostages have been killed. The leader of the aid group, Bae Hyung-kyu, was the first victim, found dead July 25 with 10 bullet holes in his body. The second victim, 29-year-old Shim Sung-min, was killed last Monday and his funeral ceremony was this past Saturday.
The Taliban’s main demand is for the release of Taliban prisoners in exchange for the remaining hostages. However, Karzai and U.S. President George W. Bush have firmly declared earlier this week after a meeting at Camp David that a prisoner-hostage swap is not an option.
Earlier this year, Karzai had released Taliban militants in exchange for an Italian reporter and was harshly criticized by the United States and western nations for encouraging terrorism. Some have even accused Karzai’s exchange as encouraging the abduction of the Korean volunteers. The Afghan president has vowed that his March exchange was only a one-time deal.
In response to the U.S.-Afghan hardline stance, captors have said they are willing to exchange the 16 women hostages for 16 female Taliban supporters instead of male prisoners. However, both the United States and Afghanistan have denied holding captive any female Taliban supporters.
Currently, Karzai and hundreds of Afghan and Pakistani tribal leaders are meeting for four days of talks, which opened on Thursday, on rising Islamist extremism in the region. It is hoped that the gathering in Kabul will address security problems in the border regions, where both Taliban and al-Qaida are feared to be re-emerging.
The kidnapping of the 23 Korean Christians was the largest abduction of foreigners in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.