Action Against Hunger, Aide Medicale Internationale and Handicap International were shocked and outraged to learn of the abduction of four humanitarian workers yesterday in Baghdad. Italians Simona Torita and Simona Baro, who work for the NGO “A Bridge to Iraq,” were seized by gunmen at their offices in the Iraqi capital in broad daylight, along with an Iraqi female aid worker and an Iraqi male colleague. The relief groups are expressing their grave concern about the situation, and making an appeal that all efforts be made to secure their release as soon as possible. Moreover, the kidnappings are forcing the humanitarian community to reconsider the possibility of continuing operations in Iraq altogether.
The abductions represent a crime which has already led to worldwide condemnation. The fact that relief workers were seized underscores the degree to which the situation has deteriorated in Iraq, and communicates the message that the kidnappers are seeking to sever any relationship between the Iraqi people and the outside world. Under the circumstances, the vast majority of NGO’s who still maintain foreign aid workers in Baghdad are now in the process of pulling them out. Iraqi aid workers as well are being forced to cease activities, having been shown that they too are in danger.
Beyond the message the situation communicates, the critical fact remains that the lives of Simona Torreta and Simona Pari, as well as our two Iraqi colleagues, are in grave danger. Action Against Hunger, Aide Medicale Internationale and Handicap International hope for the strongest possible movement within the community in the coming days to reassure that our friends are not forgotten, and to encourage the authorities to do everything within their power to win their immediate freedom.