Unique 20th anniversary event brings together former hostages at the Old Bailey in London
Former hostages Sir Terry Waite KCMG CBE, John McCarthy CBE, Judith Tebbutt and Anoosheh Ashoori, will be joining together in conversation at the Old Bailey, Central Criminal Court in London, UK, to help raise funds for Hostage International.
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The quartet will share their experiences of time in captivity, and how they have adjusted to life back home, in a bid to highlight the plight of hostages and their families and the increasing need for the charity’s work.
Lara Symons, CEO, of Hostage International said: “Our charity has now existed for 20 years, and while we want to mark this anniversary, we don’t see it as a celebration but rather an opportunity to thank those who have supported us over the years and to highlight the growing need for our core services – to assist those affected by hostage-taking and arbitrary detention.
“We have seen a doubling in the number of people reaching out to us in the past couple of years, and against the backdrop of an unsettled world, with continued geopolitical tensions and a series of unresolved global crises, we predict a continuing rise in the number of individuals in need of our support.
“As such, we hope that people will be moved by hearing from those directly affected and will give what they can to help raise much-needed funds for Hostage International.”
Each speaker at the event will bring their individual perspectives.
Sir Terry, who co-founded the charity in 2004, represents the view of a humanitarian, as someone who for many years sought, through negotiation, to support the needs and wellbeing of hostages. He was kidnapped in Lebanon in January 1987 and held hostage for nearly five years.
John brings the perspective of a journalist, writer and broadcaster, who was kidnapped in Lebanon in 1986 and held for more than five years. For a small period of time he was held with Terry, who had originally gone to Beirut to negotiate John’s release.
Anoosheh Ashoori a retired engineer from London was held for nearly five years in Evin prison, having been arbitrarily detained when visiting his elderly mother in Iran.
Judith Tebbutt highlights the risks tourists may face when simply being ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’. Having gone on holiday for a break from her demanding job, she was staying in a beach hotel off Kenya’s northern coast when she was torn from her husband by Somali pirates and held captive for six months.
Judith, a patron of Hostage International, reflected: “I wish I had known about the charity after I was kidnapped and my husband murdered by Somali pirates, when we were on – what we had hoped would be – a holiday of a lifetime.”
John, who became a patron of Hostage International in 2022 , said: “We were all very lucky to survive captivity and to pick up with our lives. It’s not an easy process and the help Hostage International offers returning hostages is so valuable.
“But on top of this, the charity also provides unique and expert support to people with a loved-one in captivity whose lives are turned upside down throughout their ordeal and beyond.”
The work of the charity has expanded to support those, like Anoosheh, who have been affected by arbitrary detentions.
Anoosheh said: “Hostage International was the only organisaton that connected to our situation on a deeply personal level, as well as offering many resources it had available to meet our needs.
“This support was invaluable for me and my family and we want to ensure that others can access the charity when in need.”
The work of Hostage International is confidential and below the radar, and talking of the anniversary, Sir Terry said: “It is with mixed emotions that we join together to mark our 20th anniversary.
“On one hand I am delighted that our charity is going from strength to strength in being here to provide expert and truly empathetic support to those in need, but, I will always hope for a peaceful world in which we no longer see the brutality of hostage-taking and arbitrary detention and one in which the services of Hostage International will no longer be required.
“Sadly, I’m not sure we’ll see that in the near future and in the meantime, we are grateful for any donation that people can offer to help Hostage International continue its essential work.”