More Than a Year Later, American Remains Hostage in Iraq
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Tom Fox is one of four Americans now being held hostage in Iraq. Some have been held for more than a year, and this morning, we're going to get an update on one of their stories. His name is Aban Elias. He is an Iraqi-American, and he was kidnapped in May 2004 while working as an engineer on a road-building project in Baghdad. The people who know him in the United States include the editor of the Arab-American Journal in Denver where he lived for a long time. His name is Mazen Kherdeen and he's shared with us what he knows of Elias' situation.
Mr. MAZEN KHERDEEN (Editor, Arab-American Journal): He was an Iraqi who came to the US in the '80s to pursue his education in engineering. He started a travel agency in Denver to support his family after he decided that the engineering jobs he was getting were not good enough for him. So he was a very gentle person, peace-loving, loves his country for sure.
INSKEEP: Both Iraq and the United States.
Mr. KHERDEEN: Yes.
INSKEEP: How did he come to go to Iraq?
Mr. KHERDEEN: Well, after the American invasion of Iraq, he decided to go and invent a new Iraq and do his share. It wasn't safe and secure enough to bring his family back there, so he left them in Jordan.
INSKEEP: He found a job in construction contracting.
Mr. KHERDEEN: Yes.
INSKEEP: Had Aban Elias ever expressed strong opinions about the war in Iraq?
Mr. KHERDEEN: Yes, he has. He was a pro democratic government in Iraq, pro new Iraq where the Iraqis run their country through elections and he was against dictatorship.
INSKEEP: I'm looking here at a photograph. It's taken from a videotape that was played on Arabic-language television at the time that he was taken hostage in the spring of 2004.
Mr. KHERDEEN: Yes.
INSKEEP: We see a man with a mustache. He's got a blindfold across his eyes, you can see very little more. At the time, he was shown on television around the world pleading for his life.
Mr. KHERDEEN: Yes. Big change from the strong man who always believed in his right and freedom and doing what's right to a man who is pleading for his life.
INSKEEP: Have you heard of any developments in his case in the year and a half now since he was taken hostage?
Mr. KHERDEEN: Well, nothing major. I just talked to his brother and they do not have any specific information. They were led to believe that if they go back there and talk to some tribal leaders, they might get him released. So his mother went to Iraq about four times so far begging for help, and she got nowhere with it.
INSKEEP: His mother went to Iraq.
Mr. KHERDEEN: Yes, four times.
INSKEEP: Not an easy thing to do I would imagine.
Mr. KHERDEEN: Exactly. She's an older lady and with the situation there, it's hard.
INSKEEP: As his family has tried to learn about Aban Elias' condition and tried to get him free, what help has the United States government been able to provide?
Mr. KHERDEEN: Very little if at all. I have not heard of anything from the US government at all.
INSKEEP: What would you hope that the US government would be able to do in this situation?
Mr. KHERDEEN: Well, he's definitely a good man worth rescuing, and if it takes to bargain with whoever the captors are, they should do so.
INSKEEP: Although you do wonder if this is a group that you can negotiate with at all?
Mr. KHERDEEN: Absolutely. I have no idea, and the family are lip-tight about it. I think their position is the less we talk about it, the more he has a chance of being released alive.
INSKEEP: We've been talking to Mazen Kherdeen. He is publisher of the Arab-American Journal in Denver, Colorado. Thank you, sir.
Mr. KHERDEEN: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: And we contacted the US military in Iraq where a spokesman had no information at this time about the case of Aban Elias, one of four Americans being held hostage in Iraq.
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.