Phil Sands: I would like to ask my captors: 'Would you have killed me?'

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The Independent Online

News of Norman Kember's release brought back vivid memories of my own time as a hostage in Iraq. I can imagine what he has been through, is going through still, and will face in the weeks to come.

Being a hostage is confusing. I couldn't work out if my kidnappers were my sworn enemies or misguided friends, and my opinion was in constant flux; it still is. I had no liberty, was tied up and threatened. Yet I was also well fed, and joked and swapped family stories with some of my captors. I learned about their lives, their hardships, their prejudices and pride.

Today, I would like to meet the people who held me, look them in the eye and ask: "Would you have killed me?" Because they too seemed conflicted, uneasy that being hostage-takers damaged the purity of their cause. One explained that kidnapping was against Islamic values and asked - desperately - that I consider myself a guest.

I harboured no hatred, rather a mixture of fear, pity, fondness and anger. If I think about them now, inevitably suffering the misery of Abu Ghraib, I still feel pity. They will be treated worse by their captors than I was by them. It is not a question of forgiveness, just that they were wrong to take me, and wrong to hold me hostage.

I was lucky: although I had been threatened with beheading, I was held for just six days. I saw nothing profound in it. My drama was pretty insignificant compared with what happens in Iraq every day.

Phil Sands, a journalist for 'GQ' magazine, was kidnapped in Baghdad on Boxing Day, 2005