Indonesian crew returns home after Benghazi abduction

Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi (in white) had a chat with families of six Indonesian sailors released from six-month captivity by militants in Benghazi.
Updated 06 April 2018

Indonesian crew returns home after Benghazi abduction

  • Crew members reunite with their families in Jakarta after being held hostage by militants in Libya for six months.
  • In December, the Indonesian Embassy in Tripoli finally secured direct access to the militia in Benghazi

JAKARTA: Embun Diarsih had been used to being in touch once a week with her husband Ronny William, a sailor for 35 years.
But in September 2017, after William did not contact her for two weeks, her worries were confirmed when one of his fellow sailors told her that the Malta-flagged fishing vessel on which William was working had been hijacked near Benghazi, Libya.
“I hadn’t heard from my husband for two weeks, then I had a call from his friend, an Indonesian sailor who was also working on a fishing vessel in Europe, he told me that the boat in which my husband was working on had been hijacked near Benghazi,” Embun told Arab News at the foreign ministry on Monday where Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi officially handed over William and five other crew members to their families.
Diarsih told Arab News that she immediately told Indonesian authorities about the abduction.
William told Arab News that he and his fellow crew members sailed from Malta to look for fishing grounds.
The Salvatur VI vessel was seized by a Benghazi-based militia on Sept. 23 last year about 23 miles off the Libyan coast.
The militiamen seized everything, including communication devices and the crew’s personal belongings.
“Since the vessel didn’t have any means of communication, the Indonesian government only found out about the hijacking on Sept. 28 from the vessel’s owner, who contacted the Indonesian Embassy in Rome,” said the Foreign Ministry’s director for the protection of Indonesians abroad, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal.
Indonesian authorities, including officials from the state intelligence agency BIN, tried to contact the militia to gain access to the crew.
In December, the Indonesian Embassy in Tripoli finally secured direct access to the militia in Benghazi, which gave approval for communication with the crew. That “enabled us to get proof of life and to monitor their condition,” Iqbal said.
Diarsih said that was when she was finally able to talk to her husband again, after waiting for three months.
“I just waited and waited. I understand it’s a conflict area and the process was difficult,” she added.
Following months of intensive communication with various parties in Benghazi, Indonesian officials reached an understanding with them on how to extract the hostages.
“On March 27… the six crew were handed over to us at the port of Benghazi,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said, adding that the whole process was delicate given the complex political situation in Libya.
William said they survived on the run-down boat by fishing, and they asked one of the militiamen assigned to guard them to sell some of the fish they caught in the market, and to use the money to buy rice and other provisions.
“Until December, we witnessed clashes between the militia… and Daesh militants. A bomb fell not far from the boat where we were held captive,” he added.
“The port and the city are in ruins. It’s like a dead town. There were decayed boats and damaged buildings everywhere.”
Marsudi said the Foreign Ministry is continuing to communicate with the boat’s owner in Malta, adding: “We will make sure that the crewmen’s rights are fulfilled.”


The MENA fashion designers dressing up social causes

Updated 24 August 2019

The MENA fashion designers dressing up social causes

  • How designers in the MENA region are making a different kind of fashion statement

CAIRO: Fashion is about far more than just trendy outfits. The growing demand for ethical clothing is one example of how designers are seeking to leave a legacy beyond the runway.

The ethical fashion movement is spreading to the Middle East and North Africa. Recent initiatives include Talahum by UAE-based designer Aiisha Ramadan, who created coats that transform into sleeping bags for disadvantaged and refugee communities living without proper shelter.

In 2016, Cairo hosted ICanSurvive, an event to commemorate World Cancer Day. As part of the project, 32 cancer survivors were paired with fashion designers to help them create the outfit of
a lifetime.

“I consider this to be one of my biggest achievements,” said Egyptian couturier Ahmed Nabil, 28, one of the volunteers at ICanSurvive. “I still can’t let go of the moment I saw her crying from happiness when she got to wear her outfit at the event.”

Though a transformational experience for Nabil, this was not his first attempt at thought-provoking designs. He was only 23 when he launched his company, Nob Designs, in 2014 to begin a journey of exploration by designing clothes for unconventional causes and experimental concepts.

The company sells a diverse set of fashion pieces with designs that aim to inspire conversation. Nabil’s creations are much like art pieces at a gallery, but instead of being displayed on canvas, they are exhibited on t-shirts, tops, dresses and abayas.

His latest collection combines street fashion inspired by underground culture with Arabic calligraphy. The Halal Project endeavors to blur the lines between conservative and edgy to demonstrate that fashion designs can be accessible to anyone.

“It’s all about the idea of accepting one another regardless of differences,” Nabil said. “My main aim for this project is a call for all people to peacefully coexist.”

Nabil added that the shift towards tolerance is not something that just the general public needs to work on. Fashion designers themselves are sometimes biased in their perceptions.

Many millennial designers, particularly in Egypt, remain wary of exploring modest fashion, despite the trend’s rising popularity. Sometimes it is because they want to avoid defining themselves as conservative instead of being considered modern and trendy.

Fellow Egyptian designer Sara Elemary, who has been running her Sara Elemary Designs label for nearly a decade, agrees.

“Modesty is a big thing in Egypt. I can’t understand why they are neglecting it,” she said. “A woman doesn’t have to be in a headscarf to wear modest clothing. There are so many famous designers for whom modesty plays a big role in
their work.”

Meanwhile, events such as Dubai Modest Fashion Week have been promoting the concept and encouraging budding designers in the region to consider this trending domain.

“I believe that there’s a problem with modest fashion, but over the past two years, that issue has started to diminish as designers have incorporated more modest designs in their collections,” Nabil said.

The next step for him is getting into the couture domain with his long-awaited project, Nob Couture. The look of the new collection is still a mystery, but he seems determined to continue sending messages and starting discussions through his designs, which he said are inspired by his life experiences.

As for designers in the region, the time is ripe for them to start supporting the causes they believe in through their work. Whatever topic or fashion style they decide to pursue, they need to be fearless in triggering conversation in the Arab world with their creations.