THEY ARE NOT INSTRUMENTS OF THE OCCUPYING FORCES
We are individuals and organizations from around the world who opposed and continue to oppose the occupation of Iraq and we plead for the release of two Italian and two Iraqi humanitarian workers who were abducted in Iraq last September 7, 2004.
Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, both Italians, and Ra'ad Ali Abdul Azziz and Mahnoaz Bassam, both Iraqis, are members of Un Ponter Per Baghdad (Bridges to Baghdad) an independent Italian humanitarian organization that has been working in Iraq since 1992. During the embargo, other humanitarianorganizations refused to operate in Iraq, Bridges defied that in the belief that the suffering of civilians should not be used as a political bargaining chip.
In this occupation, the United States and its coalition cynically blurred the distinction between the humanitarian and the political, using aid and relief as an apparatus for pacifying the Iraqis. As a result, Iraqis have become increasingly and understandably suspicious of international humanitarian organizations. Despite the perils caused by this confusion, Bridges consciously decided to continue its operations in Iraq, convinced that Iraqis will see through their intentions.
Bridges is not an instrument of the Italian government, nor of the US-led coalition, to make the occupation more bearable, and therefore, more acceptable to the Iraqis. From the very beginning, Bridges has been open and consistent with its positions: it opposed the embargo, it opposed the invasion, and it opposes the occupation. In Italy, Bridges has been a leading critic of the government's decision to join the US-led coalition.
It plays a leading role in the nation-wide movement that mobilized over a million Italians to march against the war in February 15, 2003, as well as in various demonstrations after. Bridges has also been very active in the global anti-war movement, maintaining links with various anti-war organizations around the world and playing a key role in establishing the Occupation Watch Center in Baghdad, a center for monitoring the occupation founded by anti-war organizations and coalitions from different countries.
Simona Torretta has spent a third of her life for Iraq; Simona Pari joined her in 2003. As chief of Bridges' in-country operations, Simona Turreta has been supervising projects to rehabilitate Iraq's decrepit water infrastructure and to repair school buildings. Among other things, Simona Pari was organizing educational programs for Iraq's traumatized children. Ra'ad is an Iraqi engineer who took charge of Bridges¹ school projects in Baghdad and Basra. Manaf was involved in the social programs. Aside from these projects, Bridges has also helped build the capacity of local Iraqi organizations to document and report cases of human rights abuses committed by occupation forces. In April this year, Bridges organized a humanitarian convoy that delivered food, water, blood, and medicine to civilians under siege in Fallujah. Last month, as US and Iraqi interim government forces mounted their offensive in Najaf, Bridges was also there, providing aid and assistance to Iraqis caught in the crossfire. Simona, Simona, Ra'¹d and Mahnoaz are not enemies of the Iraqi people. They stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in calling for an immediate end to the occupation. We appeal to those holding them to release them immediately.
We also call on the Italian government to immediately withdraw its membership in the US-led coalition. We call on the United States and the remaining members of the coalition to end the occupation.
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