Arjan as a speaker

My message is that you are in control of your own growth. Seek out opportunities and don’t be distracted. I also believe that you shouldn’t be a victim of your own life; try to turn negative experiences into positive lessons.

Drawing from my own experiences, during various lectures and conversations, I will address what participants are going through and reflect on resilience, strength, and various other themes that can contribute to personal growth and development for everyone.

From the very first moment, I had to find a way to keep myself calm, bend my thoughts, and make the best out of the situation I was in. How did I keep my spirit high when I felt like I couldn’t go on?

For 15 years, nationally and internationally, I have been booked as a speaker by both multinational and small companies, police, military, and other organizations. During seminars, team-building, or workshops, I talk about taking your own responsibility and how to activate it in others so that they can fully utilize their talents.

After all, the freedom of creativity and the courage and confidence to let go of or take on things is both personally and professionally the gateway to creating new possibilities.

When I look back on my abduction, I don’t harbor any anger. Of course, I would have preferred not to experience it, but I have come to terms with it. I have surpassed that period, and I am proud of it. Every day, I managed to motivate myself to keep on living, to improve the situation, to connect with my kidnappers without betraying myself. In freedom, we could all work on our dreams and desires, but we don’t always do that.


Shortly after my abduction, I was asked to write a book about my experiences. It felt good to write this book, not only because I could share my experiences with others but also to put on paper what had truly happened to me. Writing strengthened my belief that people can do much more than they realize. I had never felt the need to write a book before, and suddenly, there it was…

Meanwhile, more than 70,000 copies have been sold, the book has been translated into English (titled ‘Held Hostage’), and it has become a No. 1 bestseller on Amazon!


NRC Handelsblad
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"It is a phenomenal achievement to survive this, and it is almost as commendable to write such a beautiful, captivating, and moving book about it."
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"An intelligently written, fascinating report about a stay in hell."
Algemeen Dagblad
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"Openhearted, captivating, and thrilling."
Ruud de Wild, Radio 538
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"Buy Arjan Erkel's book fast."
Planet Internet
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"Reads like a true psychological thriller."
Planet Internet
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"About Samir; For lovers of current affairs an absolute must. And actually also for all novel lovers. The book is excellently written and reads away like a wild menace."
Paul Witteman
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"About Generation YEP: Generation YEP provides a new perspective on the opportunities multicultural society offers for the future of the Netherlands."

Nice to know

Arjan was born and raised in Rotterdam. He grew up in a close and warm family with two brothers and a sister.

In his youth he played soccer at Alexandria’66 and boxed at the famous Rotterdam boxing school Theo Huizenaar. After high school, he studied logistics management for a year but then followed his heart and went to study cultural anthropology at Radboud University Nijmegen.

He did his graduation project for Doctors without Borders in a refugee camp in northern Uganda. After his studies, he was eager to return to the field to see even more of the world, help people in need and work with international colleagues. Unfortunately, due to a lack of disasters, there was no work to be found in disaster relief. After a short time at Robeco, MSF called if he wanted to go to the field for them, and that’s how he ended up in Tajikistan where he worked as a logistics manager for almost two years.

He learned Russian and met his wife Amina.

After three more missions in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Sierra Leone, he was able to work as country manager Russia. A great career move to work as a 32-year-old in the largest country in the world in one of the most dangerous places that existed at the time. Unfortunately, Arjan then became the victim of a kidnapping. After his abduction, Arjan first takes some rest to recover. After six months, he begins work on his book “Kidnapped,” which eventually becomes a bestseller that has already sold more than 70,000 copies.

Soon he is booked as a motivational speaker. With his story of survival, he inspires many to move to change or improve their lives. In 2006, Arjan marries his Dagestani wife Amina and they celebrate the birth of Anna Sophia.

In 2007, he writes the book “Samir. A book that deals with why young people radicalize and are attracted to jihad. In his book, he follows the life of a young person sentenced to terrorism in his search and struggle. This as a warning of what might lie ahead for society.

He also founds the Free a Girl foundation together with Yolanthe Cabau, Evelien Hölsken and Roelof van Laar. The foundation frees underage girls from the sex industry.

In 2010 follows his third book, Generatie YEP, about the emerging group of successful immigrant youths who become part of the establishment and the opportunities this brings.

In 2011 and 2012, Arabella and Adriana are born, so Amina and Arjan then have three daughters!

For EO, a Dutch broadcaster, he gets to present six episodes of the series “Vreemde Tralies” in 2016. A program about Dutch people who are in prison abroad.

From the end of 2017 until 2020, Arjan can be seen in theaters throughout the Netherlands together with Jan Wilm Tolkamp, the last guitarist of the pop group ‘Normaal’. Until today they regularly, on request, do this theater show together.

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