Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recounts how the Emir of Qatar negotiated the release of 57 IRGC members who were kidnapped on pilgrimage to Syria in 2012. He made his remarks in a public address that was aired on Dolatebahar.ir (Iran) on May 1, 2021. Ahmadinejad said that the Emir of Qatar interceded on his behalf with the Jihadi militants who had held the IRGC members and ultimately paid the ransom of 57 million dollars for the sake of the friendship between the two nations. He further said that the well-being, security, and progress of both nations depend on "our brotherhood, cooperation, and friendship."
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: "You know that in the year 1391 and the beginning of 1392 , some militant groups in Syria caused armed clashes. During the same time there, 57 of our IRGC members, with uniform and ID cards, were going for pilgrimage to the Shrine of Sayyida Zaynab. You must have also been there for pilgrimage. The bus driver was a collaborator. He took a detour, kidnapped 57 IRGC members and took them to the militant groups. The efforts of the Syrian government as well as our efforts to release them were unsuccessful, and that caused us great concern. If you remember in the earlier days, they used to carry out beheadings in order to generate fear, tape the beheadings and publicize them worldwide. We were very worried because our forces, as well as the Syrian forces, could not release them.
"So, I turned to the honorable Emir of Qatar and asked him to appeal for the release of our boys. He said that these were very rough people - he used the phrase 'wild' - they don't understand common sense, they carry out beheadings, communication with them is very difficult, a very hard task. The way he said it, it sounded like there was no recourse. But I asked him to do this, as my brother. Like one brother asking another brother to do something for him. I said: 'I am putting the lives of our boys in your hands.' He asked to give him some time to investigate the situation.
"After a few days, he told me that he found some way to communicate with them, so I sent them a message that the prisoners must be released. They did not accept this and demanded a million dollars for each person. That's 57 million dollars. It was a lot of money. We said very well, after all, the life of any Iranian is worth a lot more than this. In my eyes, each and every one of you is worth billions and billions. I will have more to say in the second part."
Audience member: "That is a lot of money!"
Ahmadinejad: "I am your humble servant."
Audience: "Allah Akhbar! Allah Akbar! Allah Akbar!"
Ahmadinejad: "I asked [the Emir] to pay the money and told him that we would pay him back. He did so, and after a while, the boys were releases and returned to Iran. As promised, I sent our Foreign Minister with a 57 million dollar check to Qatar. The Foreign Minister went and came back. I saw that he was very happy, so I asked him to explain what happened. He said: 'I went and sent him your regards, thanked him for what he did, presented the check for 57 million dollars and urged him to accept it. He immediately said 'no' and returned the check.' He said: 'I did it for my brothers. Once something is done for a brother, you do not ask for payment.' He said: 'send my regards to Ahmadinejad and tell him that I did this for the friendship between our two nations, for my brothers.' Based on our great relationship, we didn't expect him to act any differently. My dears, this anecdote, along with hundreds of other scenes and memories, emphasize the point that we all are brothers, and our well-being, security, and progress, are dependent on our brotherhood, cooperation, and friendship."