Colleagues taken hostage in Iraq

Rome – Yesterday I turned on the television and attempted to watch the news in Italian. The dreaded photo for journalists appears on the TV screen. You know the one where some guy is standing on the right side of the screen looking into the camera and saying something that we cannot hear because the news agencies mute it and talk over what my colleagues are saying. It’s the scene with the black backdrop behind them with red Arabic words that say, something. I am not sure what it says but I suppose it says the “Islamic Army in Iraq”.

Their symbol is that of a white shape with a gun in the center, the AK47 type of gun the guns that are meant for killing. This time, I see another familiar face. Someone, I would run into in the field out there in war land. This face is in another land, the land of Iraq. He was missing for a few days before they videotaped him, to show everyone that he is still alive.

That is a really mixed thing to see for one’s mind. Great! He’s alive, but his fate hangs in thin air. His life is in the hands of others, a country and the Islamic Army in Iraq people. Okay, so we all look into his eyes, what is he thinking? He looks healthy. Our journalist emotions go wild, we get angry, we get frustrated at the new wave of political strategies.

Most of the journalist I know that are or have been in Iraq, are there reporting the reality of the situation, for the underdogs. The hearts want to get the truth out to the world, and they go using their own money in hopes that they can sell their articles or photos to help pay for the reportage.

This time, the demands are different. The Islamic Army is stretching the borders concerning their justification for kidnapping and killing others. They are expanding into other countries policies in attempt to dictate what laws others should have on their own soil. I can understand when someone walks onto your own soil and tries to take over your government, make new laws and kills your families. But to gather innocent people to use them as a political playing card is hypocritical and lower in morals than those who invaded a country.

The journalist who are reporting for the downtrodden, reporting the realities of their lives to the world are not safe anymore, yet the Islamic Army of Iraq is using the same journalistic media that the kidnapped and murdered journalist use as their tool in attempt to make demands from other countries. It is the only way that they can be heard? What would happen if the media, refused to report these messages? It is a catch 22, if we the media participate, then we may be adding fuel to the fire. If we do not participate, then we are not telling the story. And of course, the stories must be told.

Who is the Islamic Army in Iraq anyway? I can’t seem to find a website of theirs, unless its blocked. I did a bit of research and I found an article by Pamela Constable with the Washington Post (July 19, 2003) saying, “A leading Shiite Muslim cleric issued a sharp challenge Friday to American authority and the U.S.-backed Iraqi leadership, announcing plans to form an independent "Islamic army" and denouncing the Iraqi Governing Council as an "illegitimate" body of American "lackeys." These quotes are from Moqtada Sadr, 30, an activist who heads one of Iraq’s major Shitite movements. It was then he requested for thousands of followers to unify their ranks and form a separate council to represent “justice.” The followers then chanted, “No to America, no to the Devil.”

He then vowed to “build an Islamic army, obedient to Hawza authority…The door will be open for you to register in the great army.” It is this army who killed the Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni (Aug. 27,2004) and Two Pakistani workers (July 28, 2004), killed 4 American contractors in a shootout (March 31, 2004).

Another report from Reuters (July 9th, 2004) says it has over 5,000 fighters with dozens of regional cells lead by tribal sheiks and inspired by Sunni Muslim imams. Part time fighters may be as high as 20,000. The article states that a cell in Baghdad has two leaders, one assassin and two groups of bomb-makers.

At this time, the Islamic Army in Iraq has extended the deadline another 24 hours while many of the Islamist organizations denounce the action of kidnapping and killing journalist.