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Margaret Hassan

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posted by alias Bim Bom on Wednesday 16th of October 2019 06:26:39 PM

Margaret Hassan, who has been murdered aged 59, devoted more than 30 years of her life to helping the disadvantaged people of Iraq. For the past 12 years she had been Care International`s country director for Iraq, refusing to leave when many other aid agencies fled as a result of the war. Care`s offices were surrounded by sandbags and she gave her 60-strong staff bicycles so they could get about more easily in the event of an attack. Last November the premises were struck by a grenade, and threatening letters arrived. Expatriate staff left the country, but Margaret Hassan, who saw herself as an Iraqi, remained. Care International is the largest humanitarian charity in the world; that it is also American cannot have counted in Margaret Hassan`s favour. In Iraq it concentrated on supplying medical facilities, clean water, food, blankets and generators to communities devastated by years of sanctions and violence. During the airstrikes, Care technicians would go around Baghdad restoring power supplies to hospitals, converting lorries into emergency water tankers and repairing buildings. Margaret Hassan was a familiar and immensely popular figure on the streets of Baghdad. Felicity Arbuthnot, who filmed a documentary about her work, has described Margaret Hassan being mobbed during a visit to a water sanitation plant. "A crowd gathered and tiny children rushed up and threw their arms round her knees, saying, `Madam Margaret, Madam Margaret`, and everywhere she went, people just beamed." Although no Western woman had previously been kidnapped in Iraq, Margaret Hassan was aware of the risks she ran, conscious that many Iraqi women had been abducted, ransomed, raped and murdered by the Baghdad mafia. On October 19, as she was leaving home for work in the Khadra district of western Baghdad, she was seized by unknown gunmen. Hours after her capture, the first in a series of harrowing videos was released on the Arab television station al-Jazeera. It showed her pleading: "I beg of you, the British people, to help me. I don`t wan`t to die like [Kenneth] Bigley." A second video showed her calling on Tony Blair to withdraw troops from Iraq and "not bring them to Baghdad". Devoted to her adopted country and its people, she converted to Islam, learnt fluent Arabic and took Iraqi citizenship. Under Care`s rules she was forbidden from talking about politics, but she nonetheless became a vehement campaigner against the United Nations sanctions, which she held responsible for the fact that ordinary Iraqis had to make do with shortages of food, medical provisions and adequate sanitation. "This is a man-made disaster," she said in 1998. In the build-up to the American-led invasion last year, she travelled to the UN security council in New York and the House of Commons in London to campaign against the war. "The Iraqi people are already living through a terrible emergency," she said. "They do not have the resources to withstand an additional crisis brought about by military action." As Care began stockpiling fuel, food and medical supplies in readiness for war, she said: "We will do what we can, but we do not expect to work miracles here." Source: The Daily Telegraph, 18 November 2004 Picture kindly provided by CARE Wikipedia



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