Abdurrahim bin Abdullah al-Bayan, self-styled champion and campaigner for the rights of his homeland, turned to his house-guest and said, “Smile for the camera, Nurse Cameron. You must show your government that we are a civilised people, that we treat you well and do you no harm.”
“That won’t be difficult,” she said, “the only way you could treat me any better would be to let me go.” The last three words she spoke through gritted teeth.
British-trained Australian nurse Dulcie Cameron had spent some years as a health worker in the small tribal area of Omai, hidden in the mountainous area between the Emirate of Dubai and the Sultanate of Oman. With a population of a little more than three thousand adults and a similar number of minors, it was one of the last remaining enclaves of lawlessness and anarchy in the region. That doesn’t imply that it wasn’t peaceful. Indeed, you would be hard-pressed to find a more harmonious place to live. Although inhabited entirely by committed Moslems, Sharia law didn’t hold sway, and the laws of its two neighbours had no effect. It was without laws or formal government, but at the same time both egalitarian and democratic. Every decision: financial, civil or criminal, was made at a gathering that was open to all adult Omaians. The only thing they lacked, the only thing they sought, was recognition. Omai didn’t necessarily want a seat at the United Nations, but it did want to be acknowledged as an independent nation-state.
Abdurrahim not being the brightest of Omai’s residents, it was of little surprise that he had, once again, reached a false conclusion. This time, he had assumed that, because the nurse’s family name was the same as that of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, his demands for recognition for his state would be met by the British leader, if only to secure the release of his kinswoman.
“I send this picture with a note of demand to your David, and he will persuade the United Nations that Omai must be recognised,” he said.
“How many times must I tell you, Abdurrahim? I am not related to that man.”
“You lie. You are from same family. You are both Cameron. He will want you to be free. This wife,” he said, pointing to the woman seated beside him, “is from al-Nasr. If something bad happen to her, all al-Nasr come to avenge her. It is natural. It is normal.”
Ten days later, the small package arrived in Downing Street. It didn’t reach David Cameron, though. One of his staff opened it, read the note and immediately sent it to the Foreign Secretary’s office. There they ascertained that although Dulcie Cameron was a British-trained nurse, she had retained her Australian citizenship and was not now UK-resident. The Home office sent the note and photograph to the Australian High Commission in London, who transmitted it to Canberra.
With great efficiency, the note and image were copied to the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Health and Immigration who, between them, tracked down who Dulcie was, and who was her next of kin. Dulcie’s brother David received the image and note in an email from the Department of Health two weeks to the day after Abdurrahim had committed it to the post in Muscat. He immediately penned a reply.
Eighteen days after taking the photograph, Abdurrahim was seated in his courtyard with Dulcie and one of his wives, when a runner arrived with a letter for him. He accepted it and ambled into the house, returning with the gold-plated, jewel encrusted letter-opener that he had ‘liberated’ during a trip to Oman as a teenaged boy. Without any haste, he opened the envelope and retrieved its contents. There was a note on plain paper and another, smaller envelope, with the single word ‘Dulcie’ written on it. He handed the smaller envelope to his hostage, saying, “This for you. Take it.” He then read the note:
“You were wrong to kidnap my family member,” it said, “this is not the way civilised nations behave. However, provided you release her immediately, I see no reason the United Nations should not recognise Omai as an independant nation-state.”
It bore the signature of David Cameron.
Abdurrahim turned to Dulcie. “What your letter it say?” he asked.
“Here, see for yourself,” Dulcie replied, handing it to him. He read it. “I hope this works, Dulcie. We all look forward to seeing you when you get back, and we love and miss you. Dave”.
Abdurrahim frowned and, holding the note in his left hand, struck it dismissively with the back of the fingers of his right hand. “What this mean?” he asked.
“Simple,” Dulcie replied. “My brother, David, wants me back.”
“You say David Cameron not your family. You lie to me!”
“I’m sorry. I wanted to protect him. This isn’t something he should worry about; he has enough problems already.”
Abdurrahim reached across and gently touched Dulcie’s shoulder. “Is okay,” he said. He then turned to his wife and exchanged with her a few words that Dulcie couldn’t hear. He nodded his head, then leapt to his feet and danced around the yard, whooping with joy. “I take this to a meeting today. You go now.”
Dulcie didn’t need telling twice. She ran to the edge of the village, to the house where she both lived and worked, grabbed the emergency bag that she had always kept ready, and which she regularly refreshed, and jumped into her car, symbolically shaking the Omaian sand off her shoes as she did so. She then drove the dirt road as far as its junction with the main inter-state highway, and on to the international airport as quickly as she could. Her intention was simple: to be in the air on her way back to Oz before Abdurrahim realised that he had been duped.
I wrote this in response to Kreative Kue 28, issued on this site earlier this week.