Aid Agency Pleads for the life of Devoted Humanitarian

Published 25 October 2004  |  
A video of the Iraqi-British hostage Margaret Hassan has been shown on Al Jazeera, the Arab satellite news network. After four days of detention, she made a tearful plea for her life. As CARE International’s Country Director in Iraq, her work has impressed her colleagues and the Iraqi people who have benefited from her contribution. Her fate is truly empathetic to many.

Hassan’s employer, CARE International, showed deep concern to her welfare and immediately responded to the video. In the press release, it stated, “CARE joins with the many Iraqi people who Mrs Hassan has helped over her decades of charitable work in Iraq in calling for her immediate release.”

After Hassan was kidnapped, there was a public outpouring of support in Iraq for her release. On Wednesday patients of the National Spinal Cord Injuries Centre in Baghdad staged a demonstration for the release of Hassan. Rebuilt twice by Hassan and her CARE team, the hospital’s patients campaigned for her safe return, saying “she loves Iraq, she is a good woman.”

The General Secretary of CARE, Denis Caillaux, also voiced his call through Al Jazeera television, “Mrs Hassan is a humanitarian who has lived in Iraq for 30 years and has worked for the past 13 years to secure better health and water and sanitation for the people of Iraq...She is a naturalised Iraqi citizen and always holds the people of Iraq in her heart.”

He tried to stress that Hassan herself is an Iraqi and she is politically neutral, therefore she is just a victim of this abduction with a political motive behind it, and she should be released immediately.

In the video, Hassan pleaded in great distress, “Please help me, please help me, these might be my last hours. Please help me. Please, the British people, ask Mr. Blair to take the troops out of Iraq, and not to bring them here to Baghdad.”

She warned that her fate might end up the same as Kenneth Bigley, a British engineer, who was beheaded by 'One God and Jihad', a group led by a Jordanian, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi earlier this month. Bigley’s captors demanded that the British Prime Minister Tony Blair release women prisoners in Iraq. Bigley was executed after the demand was not fulfilled.

“That’s why people like myself and Mr Bigley are abducted, and we might die,” Hassan said in the video.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw described the video as “extremely distressing” and said, “I have the greatest sympathy for what her family is suffering.” However, Blair has made no response to the video yet.

The Associated Press has also released a list of foreigners kidnapped by insurgents in Iraq. Up till now in 2004, more than 150 foreigners were taken hostage. A series of kidnapping of foreigners in Iraq have stunned many aid agencies. More and more are leaving the country. This worries the Iraqi National Security Adviser Muffawaq al-Rubaiye, who commented that the pulling out of aid agencies would mean giving in to terrorists.

The commanders of five separate guerilla groups have all reportedly said that they are not holding the aid worker who has British and Iraqi citizenship. The rebel commanders told Reuters that they condemned the kidnapping.

"She had been living in Iraq for 30 years and she was a humanitarian. The resistance did no kidnap her because this would have left a bad impression of the resistance in the world," one unnamed rebel commander said.

The identity of Mrs Hussan's captors remains unknown, although the rebel commanders said that they had seen no evidence to suggest that the militant group headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi were holding the hostage.

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