Tuesday, October 05, 2004

European Heros

The latest Time Europe magazine has our friends as the cover story on their 2004 tribute to European heros (ranging from Anita Roddick to Sylvie Guillem). The article writes: "The Simonas are heroes because of their brave, good works. They heeded a quiet voice that told them: don't mind the danger, go where the suffering is." Simona Torretta says: "The people they help aren't abstractions; they're friends. It's work we do with them, not for them. They felt close to us, and we could feel their affection. That's why we stayed. We were a part of their lives in the good and the bad. We lived with the same security risk that all Iraqis lived with."

In an interview with the Corriere newspaper, Simona T said "You have to distinguish between terrorism and resistance. The guerrilla war is justified, but I am against the kidnapping of civilians." She also called on Italy to remove its troops. She said that Iyad Allawi's government is a "puppet in the hands of the Americans" and that the elections scheduled for January will have no legitimacy. "During my days in detention I came to the conclusion it will take decades to put Iraq back on its feet." On the issue of an alleged ransom payment she said: "If a ransom was paid, then I am very sorry. But I know nothing about it. I believe that [the captors] were a very political, religious group and that in the end they were convinced that we were not enemies." She intends to return to Iraq but: "I've got to wait until the end of the US occupation." She said they had been well-treated during their three-week detention.

At a news conference the day after their release, Simona T said their captors asked for their forgiveness when they realized they were in Iraq to help local people. "The relationship improved. They checked out who we were. They gave us towels and soap and books about Islam, and they made us read the Quran. Our treatment was privileged, possibly helped by us being women." She said that the kidnappers gave them sweets as a farewell gift.

The right wing gutter press in both Italy and Britain has been critical of them for continuing to speak out against the occupation. The Guardian and the BBC summarise some of the comments.

They've also visited old papa JP in the Vatican. "We wanted to thank the Pope for being so near to us during these 21 days". Said Simona T, while Simona P added: "The Pope's eyes told us much more than his words".