Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Margaret Hassan's family issues a plea

The top ten most viewed in Opinion in 2008

  1. The Daily Cartoon
  2. The News Cartoon
  3. Dominic Lawson: Why should anyone trust Joe Biden?
  4. Johann Hari: We need to stop being such cowards about Islam
  5. Robert Fisk: The tragic last moments of Margaret Hassan
  6. Robert Fisk : Obama has to pay for eight years of Bush's delusions
  7. On the brink of historic change, but will China see the light?
  8. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Calling Obama black is an insult to his mother
  9. Dominic Lawson: Democrat fingerprints are all over the financial crisis
  10. Sarah Churchill: Hang on in there Hillary, it's too soon to quit

That's from the Independent of London, "The most read Opinion articles in 2008" compiled by Jimmy Leach who notes:

Robert Fisk's piece on The tragic last moments of Margaret Hassan caused much disquiet, not least to Mr Fisk who knew Margaret Hassan. It is a truly harrowing piece, and there was some discussion about whether it should be run, but it is a remarkable insight into a horrifying situation.

We most recently noted that column in yesterday's snapshot because, as David Brown and Francis Elliott (Times of London) reported, Hassan's family members are accusing "British diplomats of refusing to help them to confront alleged members of the Iraqi gang that kidnapped her." Ali Lutfi Jassar al-Rawi goes on trial tomorrow with another man and Hassan's family have requested that a representative from England's Embassy be at the trial in attendance but they have been informed the Embassy considers it "too dangerous". Apparently only the Times of London and the Belfast Telegraph believe in covering actual news. The latter offers "Family of murdered aid worker begs UK officials to attend trial" which is more than worth reading but what we're going to do with that is string together the family's statement (Diedre, Geraldine, Kathryn and Michael Fitzsimons) that the article quotes throughout. For background, Margaret Hassan was with the NGO CARE and she worked in Iraq (where she held citizenship) long before the start of the illegal war (in fact, click on the Fisk's article that made the top ten above for more) and she was kidnapped October 19, 2004 in Baghdad. She was brutally murdered. Here's the family's statement as alleged kidnappers Ali Lutfi Jassar al-Rawi and Manif Slih prepare to stand trial:

Since Margaret's death we have spent the last four years trying to find her remains. We have sought justice and truth, and have never given up. We want to bring her home and give her a Christian burial with the respect she deserves. This was a promise made to her by her husband (Tahseen Ali Hassan), and together with our family, he has never given up hope of fulfiling that promise.
[. . .]
One of these men was trying to blackmail the British Government and our family in exchange for the return of Margaret's remains.
He demanded money from us, and a safe haven from the British Government in the UK for his family.
[. . .]
We have begged them to send an Embassy official to the trial to represent our sister Margaret. They feel unable to do so because of the security situation. We do not understand this.
[. . .]
Mr Brown said just this week that the British Government has achieved all its goals and the security situation in Iraq is much improved.

To date, the only one convicted for the murder of Margaret Hassan was a man who was holding her purse on behalf of the kidnappers. From Sabrina Tavernise's "Minor Figure in Iraqi Kidnapping Gets a Life Sentence" (New York Times, June 6, 2006):

The kidnapping of Ms. Hassan, the director of CARE International in Iraq who had dedicated her life to helping the country's poor, stunned Iraqis and opened a more dangerous era for foreign nationals working here. In one enduring image from a grainy video broadcast on television, she was seen crumpled and pleading. Her body was never found.
Judge Saab Khorshid of the Central Criminal Court sentenced Mustafa Muhammad Salman al-Jibouri, a man associated with a Sunni mosque in central Baghdad, to life in prison, a British Embassy official said. The charge, according to an Iraqi lawyer who watched the trial, was aiding and abetting: Mr. Jibouri held Ms. Hassan's purse after she was abducted, though he said he did not know whose it was at first.

We noted Hassan in the snapshot yesterday and also in a morning entry and a number of e-mails have come in outraged that there's no coverage on it from most outlets. As people compile outrage, take a moment to notice Panhandle Media which could write a column or editorial but does nothing -- and especially note how they're taking days off. How wonderful that the Lord Jesus Christ is the savior of one and all and his birth is cause for all 'independent' outlets to shut down. Surprisingly, however, a number of 'independents' are atheists, agnostics or members of non-Christian faiths. So could someone bother explaining why it's necessary for Panhandle Media to close shop? And while you ponder that, mark this down on next year's calendar: As 2009's Thanksgiving approaches and as various Pacifica radio hosts screech about the murder of that day and the blood it's based on and blah, blah, blah (not discounting the genocide, just noting no one celebrates that today at Thanksgiving -- the meaning long ago shifted), watch how those same people sneering about the holiday on air will turn around and require Thanksgiving off. There are no ethics, there are no standards in 'independent' media. It is a huge failure that Big Media won't cover this story. But don't let Little Media off the hook.

We offered Sabrina Tavernise above, one of the best Iraq-based reporters the New York Times has had (they've actually had many strong ones -- including Damien Cave, Cara Buckley, Alissa J. Rubin, etc. -- Rubin now heads their Baghdad division). Today? Nothing. No Iraq report in the paper (national edition). Surprising considering all the news coming out of Iraq yesterday but especially the resignation of the Speaker in Parliament -- a man the paper's written the obit for -- repeatedly -- since the summer of 2006.

In aid news, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is in the news cycle. From Zee News' "Sri Sri’s women empowerment prog in Iraq:"

Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living Foundation will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the officials at the Iraqi Youth Ministry in order to conduct progarmmes for empowering women and youth by giving them various kind of vocational training.
"The Iraqi people have suffered so much. The Art of Living Foundation will help in reducing and eliminating stress among them and train up them so that they are all empowered. We want Iraqis to be joyful once again," Ravi Shankar said.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is on a three-day visit to Iraq to continue his peace mission with political and religious leaders and to oversee the foundation's humanitarian initiatives in the war torn country.

And from K.G Vasuki's "Ravi Shankar visits Iraq to broker peace between Shias and Sunnis" (

Ravi Shankar's foundation is involved in many humanitarian activities in Iraq and is helping the war ravaged Iraqis to re-build their lives.
The Art of Living Foundation volunteers are working with the women, many of whom have lost their kin in the on-going conflict in Iraq, and help them to become self reliant.
"Some of them are widows, some of them have experiences that they have lost someone from their families. There is not a single family which has not lost its people. They have suffered form the war and now they have hope, because we have given them hope. We are teaching them computers, tailoring and we are also giving them trauma relief," said Mawahib, Art of Living teacher.

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sabrina tavernise
the new york times