Tuesday, November 29, 2005
HOLDING INNOCENTS HOSTAGE IS A FOUL TACTIC
The tactic of kidnapping and holding hostage innocents for some “political” goal is pretty abhorrent in general. It is particularly disgusting when the people grabbed are only trying to help resolve a bad situation.
Such is the case in Iraq - again.
International violence-reduction organization Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) confirmed today that the four human rights workers kidnapped in Baghdad on 26 November are associated with their organization.
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is an initiative among Mennonite and Brethren congregations, and Friends meetings who support violence reduction Teams around the world. Their mission as described on their web page is:
"Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) offers an organized, nonviolent alternative to war and other forms of lethal inter-group conflict. CPT provides organizational support to persons committed to faith-based nonviolent alternatives in situations where lethal conflict is an immediate reality or is supported by public policy. CPT seeks to enlist the response of the whole church in conscientious objection to war, and in the development of nonviolent institutions, skills and training for intervention in conflict situations. CPT projects connect intimately with the spiritual lives of constituent congregations. Gifts of prayer, money and time from these churches undergird CPT’s peacemaking ministries."
CPT initiated a long-term presence in Iraq in October 2002, six months before the beginning of the U.S. led invasion in March of 2003. The primary focus of the team for eighteen months following the invasion was documenting and focusing attention on the issue of detainee abuses and basic legal and human rights being denied them. Issues related to detainees remain but the current focus of the team has expanded to include efforts to end occupation and militarization of the country and to foster nonviolent and just alternatives for a free and independent Iraq.
In a "Statement of Conviction," the long-term Team members stated that they "are aware of the many risks both Iraqis and internationals currently face," and affirmed that the risks did not outweigh their purpose in remaining. They express the hope that "in loving both friends and enemies and by intervening non-violently to aid those who are systematically oppressed, we can contribute in some small way to transforming this volatile situation."
The group does not advocate the use of violence to save any members who have been placed in the situation the four hostages now face.
The Swords of Righteousness Brigade claimed credit for the kidnapping and stated the four were spies working undercover as Christian peace activists, Aljazeera television news reported. The accusation seems absurd.
Only one member of the team has so far been publicly identified. He is long-time British peace activist Norman Kember.
Kember, a retired professor from Pinner, north London, was abducted with two Canadians and an American in Baghdad on Saturday. Kember, a grandfather in his 70s, had traveled to Iraq last week on a peace mission.
A former secretary of the Baptist Peace Fellowship and a trustee of the Christian peace organization the Fellowship for Reconciliation, he had recently decided that instead of activism in Britain he should promote peace directly in Iraq.
A statement issued by Kember's family said:
"Norman feels very strongly that the occupation in Iraq is a mistake."
"He has been a pacifist all his life, working in hospitals rather than doing national service at the age of 18. He was in Iraq for a short time to join a peace group that is talking and listening to people of all persuasions, believing that dialogue, not confrontation, should help bring about conciliation."
Chris Cole, director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, told the Guardian Kember had consistently opposed war and violence. "He has worked for peace and to educate in particular young people about non-violence and the power of non-violence."
These four are not the only ones to be kidnapped in the past few days.
Susanne Osthoff, 43, an archaeologist who has spent many years in Iraq and is a convert to Islam, was abducted with her Iraqi driver last Friday.
Osthoff's kidnappers have threatened to kill her and her driver unless Berlin stopped cooperating with the US-backed Iraqi government. Extracts from the tape displayed on the ARD website showed two people sitting on the ground with their eyes covered by white material surrounded by three masked, armed figures, one of whom appeared to be reading from a piece of paper.
Spiegel reports Osthoff, who speaks fluent Arabic, has worked for the "Direkthilfe Irak" charity for a number of years, transporting drugs and medical equipment to Iraq. She won an award for bravery from Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper for being the first civilian to transport medical supplies to Baghdad from Jordan at the height of the war in 2003.
She had recently been planning to set up a German cultural center in Arbil, a town in northern Iraq, and had already held talks with the German embassy in Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government. She is reportedly married to an Arab man and has an 11-year-old daughter who is at boarding school in Germany.
Osthoff's mother Ingrid said she had been obsessed with alleviating the suffering of people in Iraq. "She loves the people, the culture, the country, she's fanatical about it," her mother told Germany's n24 television. "If you see how badly off the people are there you almost get a guilty conscience that you're doing so well. She had to help."
Michael Osang, a Munich-based doctor with whom she had worked, said Osthoff continued to transport medical supplies after the war, even resorting to taking Bedouin routes across the desert to bring in drugs from Syria.
More than 200 foreigners and thousands of Iraqis have been kidnapped since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Fifty-two foreign hostages are known to have been executed by their captors -- 41 in 2004 and 11 in 2005.
Following is a list of foreigners believed to be held hostage in Iraq (HOSTAGE NATIONALITY DATE OF CAPTURE):
Mohammed Rifat Canada April 8, 2004 Wael Mamduh Jordan April 12 Saad Saadoun Kuwait June 5 Ali Ahmed Mousa Somalia July 29 Unidentified hostage Jordan Sept 1* Four unidentified hostages Jordan Sept 5* Two unidentified hostages East Asian Sept 13* Khalifa al-Breizat Jordan Sept 14* Two unidentified hostages Turkey Sept 14 One unidentified hostage Syria Sept 16 Unidentified hostage Turkey Oct 9 Two unidentified hostages Turkey Oct 14 Unidentified Somalia Oct 30 Noureddin Zakaria Sudan Oct 30 Roy Hallums U.S. Nov 1 Radim Sadiq U.S. Nov 2 Ghazi Abu Hamzeh Lebanon Nov 13* Two unnamed Turkey Dec 25 Two unidentified South Korea Jan 9, 2005* Unidentified Turkey Jan 13 Sayed Abdel Khalek Egypt Jan 13* Joao Jose Vasconcelos Jr. Brazil Jan 19 Mohammed Haroun Hamad Sudan March 9* Maher Ataya Sudan March 9* Nabil Tawfiq Sulaiman Egypt March 19 Mitwali Mohammed Qassem Egypt March 19 Jeffrey Ake U.S. April 11 Six unidentified Jordan May 6 Ali Abdullah Turkey June 7 Unidentified Turkey June 21* Samuel Edward Egypt Sept 26 Abderrahim Boualam Morocco Oct 20 Abdelkrim El Mouhafidim Morocco Oct 20 Unidentified Canada Nov 26 Unidentified Canada Nov 26 Norman Kember Britain Nov 26 Unidentified U.S. Nov 26 Unidentified German Nov 25 1 Radim Sadiq U.S. Nov 2 Ghazi Abu Hamzeh Lebanon Nov 13* Two unnamed Turkey Dec 25 Two unidentified South Korea Jan 9, 2005* Unidentified Turkey Jan 13 Sayed Abdel Khalek Egypt Jan 13* Joao Jose Vasconcelos Jr. Brazil Jan 19 Mohammed Haroun Hamad Sudan March 9* Maher Ataya Sudan March 9* Nabil Tawfiq Sulaiman Egypt March 19 Mitwali Mohammed Qassem Egypt March 19 Jeffrey Ake U.S. April 11 Six unidentified Jordan May 6 Ali Abdullah Turkey June 7 Unidentified Turkey June 21* Samuel Edward Egypt Sept 26 Abderrahim Boualam Morocco Oct 20 Abdelkrim El Mouhafidim Morocco Oct 20 Unidentified Canada Nov 26 Unidentified Canada Nov 26 Norman Kember Britain Nov 26 Unidentified U.S. Nov 26 Unidentified German Nov 25ouhafidim Morocco Oct 20 Unidentified Canada Nov 26 Unidentified Canada Nov 26 Norman Kember Britain Nov 26 Unidentified U.S. Nov 26 Unidentified German Nov 25 Sources: Spiegel (Germany), Reuters Alert Net, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Globe and Mail (Canada), Guardian, Aljazeera, ARD (Germany)