PARIS, 30 Aug. (IPS with agencies) In a dramatic appeal to their government, the two French journalists kidnapped ten days ago in Iraq demanded in a video to heed their captors' demand and rescind a ban on Muslim headscarves in schools or else they might be killed soon.
The journalists, Christian Chesnot of Radio France International and Georges Malbrunot, a senior correspondent working for the centre right newspaper Le Figaro, were reported missing the morning of August 21 on their way to the holy city of Najaf to cover the fighting between American and Iraqi forces with the Army of Mahdi of the rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
In a videotape released on Sunday by the Qatar-based Al Jazira television, the captors, known as the Islamic Army of Iraq urged France to overturn a law that bans all visible signs of attachment to a religion, including scarves some Muslim girls students wear public schools.
The two journalists, appearing on the video with, on the background, a black sheet with inscription in Arabic of the Islamic Army of Iraq said briefly that they were in a good health.
Le Figaro observed that journalists are not decision makers and no one should held them responsible for the decisions made by their governments.
Following the broadcast, France, in a rarely seen national union, moblised all its forces for the release of the journalists. After a nationwide radio and television address, French President Jacques Chirac dispatched his Foreign Affairs Minister Michel Barnier to Cairo and another high-ranking diplomat went to Baghdad to coordinate the different actions taken for the release of the men.
Newspapers, including Le Figaro observed that journalists are not decision makers and no one should held them responsible for the decisions made by their governments.
“The same that Enzo Baldoni is not responsible for the decision of the government of Italy to send troops in Iraq, th two French journalists are not party of the law banning scarves in public schools”, the paper wrote on Monday in an angry editorial entitled “We are outraged”.
The editorial was referring to the Italian journalist who was kidnapped by the same so-called Islamic Army of Iraq on the very day his two French colleagues went missing. Baldoni was murdered on Saturday after Rome rejected the demand of the group to withdraw its 3.000 strong force from Iraq.
What outraged and angered the French public opinion was that from the outset of the Iraqi crisis more than a year ago, Paris strongly objected to he American-British plan of attacking Iraq.
Alongside most Arab governments and leaders, both political and religious, including Yaser Arafat and the Sheikh of Al Azhar, all leaders of France’s 5 to 6 million strong Muslim community condemned the kidnapping of the journalists, demanded the kidnappers to free them unconditionally, observing that their action harms Islam and Iraq above all.
On Sunday, and immediately after the warning, France reiterated that the incriminated law would enter application as from 2 September when schools reopens after the summer holiday.
"Failure to revoke it might cost us our lives. It's a question of time, maybe minutes, before we are among the dead", the journalists warned, also calling on the French people to demonstrate against the headscarves ban.
But Al-Jazira said the captors from the Islamic Army of Iraq had extended the ultimatum by 24 hours.
Of all the Muslim and Arab nations that offered their help and assistance to France, the Islamic Republic of Iran not only stayed away
Of all the Muslim and Arab nations that offered their help and assistance to France, the Islamic Republic of Iran not only stayed away, but also repeated its condemnation of the controversial law, saying that the ban has damaged relations of Paris with the Islamic world and the Muslins in France.
The Islamic Army of Iraq abducted last week Fereydoun Jahani, the newly appointed consul holy city Karbala, accusing him of being a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and dispatched to Iraq to foment trouble between Iraqi Sunni and Shi’a Muslims.
Mostafa Darban, the bureau chief of Iranian official news agency IRNA in Baghdad who was detained last week by the Iraqi Police alongside three Iraqi colleagues had been freed on Friday 28 August.
Baghdad routinely accuses its Iranian neighbour of trouble making. Iraq’s Defence Minister last month labelled the Islamic Republic as “Iraq’s number one enemy”, setting off a series of charges and counter-charges between the two Shi’a-dominated Muslim nations. ENDS FRANCE JOURNALISTS 30804