A couple of weeks ago I published a post about a gang of high-level Western diplomats who invaded a sensitive court hearing in Istanbul. In an obvious and high-handed attempt to influence the judicial process in a country where they are privileged guests, the twelve consuls and ambassadors snapped group ‘selfies’ which they proceeded to post on Facebook.
If there was an award for cultural arrogance, that would surely have to be on the short list. I can’t imagine the reaction if such an invasion was organised by foreign diplomats at a court in London or Washington DC.
Following close on the heels of that outrage, here’s another group of contenders:
It was reported on Tuesday that nine people had been arrested in Lebanon on charges related to the kidnapping of two small children.
Normally such an event in a Middle Eastern country wouldn’t arouse much international interest – but in this case, those arrested include the Australian mother of the two children, four personnel from the Australian ‘60 Minutes’ TV news programme, and agents of a shady British ‘child recovery’ company.
Reports suggest that the Australian TV network paid ‘a six-figure sum’ to the British child-snatchers so that they could film the operation in Beirut. The operation went well, apparently, except that the heist was captured on CCTV cameras in the street, with the predictable result that all nine are now in custody facing charges that could bring them up to twenty years in a Lebanese prison.
What’s the background? Well, the mother, Sally, from Brisbane, has two children, Noah (4) and Lahela (6) from her Lebanese ex-husband, and now has a baby with her new partner. Ex-hubbie apparently took his two children for a holiday in Lebanon, but then refused to return them. Sally decided to arrange a snatch-back, but couldn’t afford the company’s fee, and that’s where the TV people came in, on the understanding, no doubt, that they would film an action-packed, tear-jerking human interest story.
I don’t imagine they’ll be allowed their cameras in the prison where they’re being held, so it seems the only footage we’ll be seeing is the grainy CCTV clip showing two small children being torn away from their grandmother by strangers on a busy street, and bundled into the back of a van – pretty traumatic for the little kids, not to mention grandma. For sure, it raises some interesting questions about freedom of the media.
An Australian academic specialising in Middle East affairs has been quoted as saying the child-snatchers had seriously underestimated the difficulty of the task they were attempting to pull off. He says the area where the children were picked up is a Hezbollah stronghold, with a high level of security. In addition, he says the father of the children is related to the speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, so pulling diplomatic strings won’t be easy.
Apart from that, there seems to have been an assumption that those third world countries inevitably have inefficient law enforcement and primitive technology, so our intrepid Aussies would be in and out with the kids before the locals knew what was going on. Ah well, you live and learn, huh?