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2006-01-20

Muslim Leaders in Iraq Call for Release of Kidnapped U.S. Journalist Jill Carroll as Deadline Set by Captors Expires

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Nearly two weeks have passed since 28-year-old freelance journalist Jill Carroll was kidnapped on the streets of Baghdad. Her family has been pleading for her safety while calls for her release come from throughout the Muslim and Arabic world. A deadline set by her captors expires today. We speak with Ayman Safadi, editor-in-chief of Jordan’s Al Ghad newspaper, who once worked with Carroll. [includes rush transcript]

Gunmen abducted her on January 7th shortly after she interviewed a Sunni Arab politician. The gunmen also killed her translator–who was well known in Baghdad for running a popular record store that specialized in western music.

Carroll had been working in Iraq since 2003 as a free-lance unembedded reporter. Last year she wrote: "The sense that I could do more good in the Middle East than in the U.S. drove me to move to Jordan six months before the war to learn as much about the region as possible before the fighting began. All I ever wanted to be was a foreign correspondent." The article was titled "Letter from Baghdad: What a Way to Make a Living."

At the time of her kidnapping, Jill Carroll was working for the Christian Science Monitor. Until this Tuesday, there had been no word on Carroll’s whereabouts. But then Al Jazeera aired a videotape of Carroll showing her talking but there was no audio on the tape. Her captors threatened to execute her unless the United States freed all Iraqi female prisoners within 72 hours. On Thursday, her mother, Mary Beth Carroll, appeared on CNN and made a public plea for her daughter’s release.

  • Mary Beth Carroll, mother of Jill Carroll, speaking on CNN.

Meanwhile, her father, Jim Carroll addressed the kidnappers on Al Jazeera, the Arabic television network. He said, "She’s just a journalist and an innocent person ... Use her as a reporter to support your cause."

Meanwhile, calls for Carroll’s release have come from throughout the Muslim and Arabic world. On Wednesday the head of Iraq’s Muslim Scholars Association condemned the kidnapping. The official — Muthana Harith al-Dari–said, "She is considered one of the best journalists who stood against the American occupation of Iraq and she focused in her articles on telling the world about the Iraqi people’s suffering."

One of Iraq’s most influential Sunni Arab leaders–Adnan Dulaimi–has also called for her release. Carroll was abducted shortly after interviewing Dulaimi in his office in Baghdad nearly two weeks ago. Dulaimi told a news conference, "The kidnapping of this woman is an insult to me and to my work...Release this journalist who strived for Iraq, defended Iraqis and condemned the war in Iraq."

The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has sent a delegation from Washington to Baghdad to help facilitate Carroll’s release. CAIR’s executive director Nihad Awad spoke to reporters on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Carroll’s captors set a 72-hour deadline for the U.S. military to free women prisoners in Iraq. That deadline expires today. Iraqi officials said on Thursday the U.S. military was freeing six women out of eight it was holding but that this was not linked to Carroll. However, US officials told Reuters there are no plans to release the women.

We go to Amman, Jordan to speak with a former co-worker of Jill Carroll:

  • Ayman Safadi, he hired Jill Carroll for the Jordan Times when he was editor-in-chief of the paper. He is now editor-in-chief of Al Ghad newspaper, also based in Amman. Carroll worked there for a year and learned to speak Arabic before moving to Iraq shortly after the U.S. invasion in March 2003.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: On Thursday, her mother, Mary Beth Carroll, appeared on CNN and made a public plea for her daughter’s release.

MARY BETH CARROLL: My daughter, Jill Carroll, was taken hostage on Saturday, January 7, in Baghdad, where she works as a reporter. Jill’s fairness in reporting and her genuine concern for the Iraqi people made her the invited and welcomed guest of her many Iraqi friends. A video just released gives us hope that Jill is alive but has also shaken us about her fate. So I, her father and her sister are appealing directly to her captors to release this young woman who has worked so hard to show the suffering of Iraqis to the world. Jill has always shown the highest respect for the Iraqi people and their customs.

We hope that her captors will show Jill the same respect in return. Taking vengeance on my innocent daughter, who loves Iraq and its people, will not create justice. To her captors, I say that Jill’s welfare depends upon you, and so we call upon you to ensure that Jill is returned safely home to her family, who needs her and loves her. Jill’s father, sister and I ask and encourage the persons holding our daughter to work with Jill to find a way to contact us with the honorable intent of discussing her release.

AMY GOODMAN: That was the mother of kidnapped journalist, Jill Carroll. Meanwhile, her father, Jim Carroll, addressed the kidnappers on Al Jazeera, the Arabic television network. He said, "She’s just a journalist and an innocent person... Use her as a reporter to support your cause."

Meanwhile, calls for Carroll’s release have come from throughout the Muslim and Arabic world. On Wednesday, the head of Iraq’s Muslim Scholars Association condemned the kidnapping. The official, Muthana Harith al-Dari, said, "She is considered one of the best journalists who stood against the American occupation of Iraq, and she focused in her articles on telling the world about the Iraqi people’s suffering."

And one of Iraq’s most influential Sunni Arab leaders, Adnan Dulaimi, has also called for her release. Jill Carroll was abducted shortly after attempting to interview Dulaimi in his office in Baghdad nearly two weeks ago. Dulaimi told a news conference, "The kidnapping of this woman is an insult to me and to my work...Release this journalist who strived for Iraq, defended Iraqis and condemned the war in Iraq."

And the Council on American-Islamic Relations has sent a delegation from Washington to Baghdad to help facilitate Carroll’s release. CAIR’s executive director Nihad Awad spoke to reporters in Amman on Thursday.

NIHAD AWAD: Here on a short temporary visit, continuing to Baghdad tomorrow to appeal to the kidnappers to release, unharmed, Jill Carroll, the reporter with the Christian Science Monitor. The reason we are making this appeal just right now, because we just arrived from Washington, and we’re proceeding to Baghdad tomorrow. We hope that the kidnappers will hear this appeal, and we appeal to them on humanitarian grounds to release this reporter. She’s known for her objectivity. Reporters should not be subject and should not be harmed to any kind of kidnapping in any situation, including the situation of war. Harming her or, God forbid, killing her, will harm the cause of the Iraqi people and any cause that the kidnappers may hold.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Nihad Awad of CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He was speaking in Amman yesterday. He is already in Baghdad. Carroll’s captors set a 72-hour deadline for the U.S. military to free women prisoners in Iraq. That deadline expires today. Iraqi officials said Thursday the U.S. military was freeing six out of eight women it’s holding, but that this was not linked to Jill Carroll. However, U.S. officials told Reuters there are no plans to release the imprisoned women.

We’re joined now on the phone from Amman, Jordan, by Ayman Safadi. He hired Jill Carroll to work when he was editor-in-chief of the Jordan Times. Carroll worked there for a year and learned to speak Arabic before moving to Iraq shortly after the U.S. invasion in March 2003. Ayman Safadi is now the editor-in-chief of the Al Ghad newspaper in Amman. He joins us on the phone from Jordan. Welcome to Democracy Now!

AYMAN SAFADI: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you hear us?

AYMAN SAFADI: Yes, I can.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Can you tell us about Jill Carroll and why you hired her?

AYMAN SAFADI: I met Jill in the States shortly after she applied to work for the Jordan Times. At the interview, she appeared to be very professional, very dedicated. She had a clear interest in getting to know the issues with the Middle East, and I thought the Arab world does need American journalists who do know the area, who are willing to go beyond the surface on the issue of the concerns, the aspirations, the people. I decided to hire her immediately, because she certainly appeared as a professional, dedicated, objective journalist who’s willing to work hard.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And what has been the impact or the reaction of journalists in your country to her abduction and, obviously, to the many journalists who continue to be abducted in Iraq?

AYMAN SAFADI: Enormous anger. Enormous rejection of any act of this criminal kind. Jill was a professional reporter. She worked in Iraq. All she did was do her job, trying to portray the truth about what’s happening in Iraq. She did not stay in the Green Zone and got reporting by the officials there; she went out in the street, befriended Iraqi people, tried to report on their suffering and their concerns. Nobody here condones the kidnapping of journalists. We’ve heard statements from across the Arab world, in Jordan and elsewhere, urging her release and saying journalists should not be punished for basically doing her job, and specifically in the case of Jill, where she has done a tremendous job trying to really let the world know through her media organization what was happening here there.

I think we’ve got to be seeing more statements. We do hope that she’s released before, but a group of journalists are also working on issuing a statement from across the Arab world, signed by the most prominent journalists there, simply because kidnapping is rejected. Everybody’s in agreement that such criminal acts do not serve the Iraqi cause, do not serve the image of Arab and Islam, which has been tarnished on and on and again by people who try to harm innocent people. Everybody’s with Jill, and everybody’s organizing in her support. Such acts do not help anybody, and they certainly encroach on an innocent person for no fault other than doing her job and actually helping the Iraqi people through her reporting through exposing what was happening in Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you have any sense of who’s taken her?

AYMAN SAFADI: I’m sorry? I couldn’t hear that one.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you have any sense of who has kidnapped her?

AYMAN SAFADI: Well, we do not know. I mean, all we’ve seen on the tape on Al Jazeera is a group called the Battalions of Revenge. It’s the first time that we hear of this group. There’s a lot of chaos and anarchy in Iraq now. Some are criminal groups. Others are driven by ideological motives. It’s premature to say who that group is, but whoever that group is, whatever their motives are, they’re certainly not helping any cause, and they’re certainly unnecessarily harming innocent people, and they’re also harming the Iraqi people. I mean, the Iraqi people do need credible voices, who will tell the world about what’s happening in their country, and Jill was certainly doing that. So regardless of the — whoever, what identity that group is, basically they’re helping nobody. They’re hurting the cause of the Iraqi people. They’re hurting and tarnishing the image of Arab and Islam. And more importantly, they are hurting an innocent person who’s done no wrong during her stay in Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Ayman Safadi, thank you very much for joining us. Again, he hired Jill Carroll for the Jordan Times when he was editor-in-chief there. He is now editor-in-chief of another paper in Amman, Jordan, Al Ghad, and he speaks to us from Amman.

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