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The jeep shoots through Baghdad at an exhilarating pace. Baghdad, city of 1001 nights, on the banks of the Tigris, with its troubled past stretching back 2000 years is unleashing shock and awe on my senses. All of my senses that is, except sight. For my family and I are wrapped in carpets, blindfolded and tied securely in the back of the jeep.
A week ago we entered the office of ‘Kidnap Karnage’, a small prefab building on the outskirts of Tikrit. An amiable man with a heavy moustache greets us. ‘My name is Hakim.’ Then I notice my children nudging each other. I do a double take, ‘don’t I know you from somewhere?’ Hakim smiles and nods proudly. ‘Yes, great white hunter, I used to be a double for Sadaam back in the day. I’ve been on CNN, al-Jazeera, Jeremy Kyle.’
Kidnap Karnage is a relatively new outfit, but the young team ooze enthusiasm and expertise. A young woman patiently ran through our kidnap itinery with us. When she was sure that we understood, a smiling young man in a leather jacket and sunglasses came in. ‘This is Aban’, your driver’ she explained. ‘How do you do?’ we all introduced ourselves. It turned out that Aban’s brother was at university in Southampton studying chemistry. After the introductions, he quickly blindfolded us and efficiently knocked us out with a rifle butt on the back of our heads. My older son told me later that the first blow hadn’t managed to knock him completely unconscious, but when he told Aban this, he was very apologetic, and immediately knocked him senseless. This consistent attention to customer satisfaction was always apparent during our trip.
We were driven to our living quarters for the remainder of the trip, a small dark basement, and chained to the walls. The surroundings seemed very authentic, though since we were all wearing heavy black hoods it was hard to verify this. Our itinery from this point on was well thought out and very active. The days passed remarkably quickly, with numerous people coming to flog the soles of our feet with electric cables, and ask confusing questions in Arabic. I have to admit that my Arabic improved no end from this total immersion. It was all very professionally executed. Impressed, I asked Aban who had trained them so well, and he told me, ‘the CIA.’
The company also catered for children. Realising that the basement could become monotonous for our two children, they organised trips out around the city. My two boys enjoyed the experience of riding up front and thus reducing the number of bullets fired by US soldiers as they made their way around the various checkpoints. It was the little touches that made our trip so memorable. My colleagues back in the office loved the ‘ransom’ video, and my virtuoso performance begging for the lives of my wretched family.
But there was also ample time for family and reflection. Our hosts encouraged my wife and I to spend time together chained up in our darkened cell. We played a game of draughts with our feet, talked about the fragility of human existence, and I must admit we were brought closer together when we were forced to open our bowels in front of each other on the floor of our cell. This is really one holiday that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Already I have had complaints from my children’s school that Peter has been delivering electric shocks to the tongues of his classmates. We are all united in agreeing with the company slogan, ‘whoever was tortured, stays tortured.’
Next week: Fat camp in Zimbabwe with everyone’s favourite left wing black man that it’s ok to hate.