IRAQ: Former Hostage Protects Captor who Helped Her to Freedom

"I promised him I would keep him safe," Fairuz Yamulky said. "He said 'If I let you go, they will kill me.' I said, 'OK, you come with me. I will take care of you.'"
Publisher Name: 
CBC News/The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - A Canadian businesswoman beaten, threatened and held captive in Iraq for two weeks arrived home in Vancouver on Friday and continued to protect the captor who helped her avoid almost certain death.

Fairuz Yamulky had been living in Dubai since the beginning of October.

She said last month she had no plans to return to Canada until the new year because she needed to tie up some business loose ends, but also needed to heal physically and emotionally from her ordeal.

She arrived at Vancouver International Airport on Friday, greeted by her mother and other supporters.

With a smile and an occasional laugh, she answered difficult questions about her 16 days in captivity where she was beaten and mocked and threatened with beheading.

But she would not say anything about the man who aided her escape.

It had been reported the man helped her when she convinced him she would bring him to Canada.

On Friday, Yamulky said she never promised him passage to this country.

"I promised him I would keep him safe," she said. "He said 'If I let you go, they will kill me.' I said, 'OK, you come with me. I will take care of you.' I did not say I will take you to Canada."

Yamulky said she has not had any contact with him since.

She wouldn't say if he is being held by Iraqi or U.S. troops as a prisoner.

"He's in a safe place," she said. "I did keep my promise and he's in a safe place. But I'm not thinking of bringing him to Canada."

Yamulky is the head of Mideast-based General Services Supply International which is heavily involved in civilian contract work in Iraq.

Contractors aiding the U.S.-led occupation and the new Iraqi government have been favorite targets of the insurgents.

The 39-year-old Canadian citizen was working in Baghdad when she was ambushed and kidnapped by gunmen on Sept. 7.

Her captors, calling themselves Brigades of the Victorious Lion of God, had demanded a $2.5 million ransom from Yamulky's employer; the construction of 150 houses destroyed by U.S. bombs; and the release of 50 Iraqi women held prisoner by the coalition.

"I was always surrounded by three, four men with guns, moved from one place to another blindfolded with a gun pointed to my stomach or to my neck," she said Friday.

"I was pushed and kicked and slammed and expected to be walking properly when my eyes were blindfolded. Initially, I would slide my feet and then they thought I can see. I was hit. Then I walked normally and kept falling. They laugh at you and hit you."

Yamulky called her captors criminals and terrorists.

She had little conversation with them.

"No, they just beat you up. They don't talk to you much. They asked me information, what does the company do, how long have you been here, what are you doing. General interrogation, basically."

She said after three days, "I didn't have much hope to live anymore."

She said she fully expected to be beheaded or to be sold to another group and never trusted that her captor might actually free her until she arrived in American hands.

Even then, she said she was afraid she may have been followed by a sniper.

Yamulky stayed in Iraq for a few nerve-wracking days before being reunited with her family in Dubai. Her family went home a short time later and she spent most of the last month there alone.

Despite her experience, Yamulky said she remains optimistic for the future of Iraq.

"It's going to take time," she said. "The damage that was done there was done for a period of time where generations were involved. So I think it's going to take time. But it'll come."

She also remains optimistic about her own recovery.

She said her work will mean she'll continue to travel, though not to Iraq. And she intends on living in Vancouver after previously living for a time in Calgary.

"I think time will heal. Time will heal."

AMP Section Name:War & Disaster Profiteering