[Marxism] FW: Article by Giuliana Sgrena

Einde O'Callaghan einde at gmx.de
Mon Mar 7 22:54:14 MST 2005

 From the Portside mailing list:

Il Manifesto March 6, 2005

My truth (La mia verità)

By Giuliana Sgrena

Translated by Eva Milan, ZabrinskyPoint

I am still in the darkness. Last Friday was the most
dramatic day of my life since I was abducted.

I had just spoken with my abductors, who for days kept
telling me I would be released. So I was living in
wait. They said things that I would understand only
later. They talked of transfer related problems. I had
learned to understand which way the wind blew from the
attitude of my two "sentinels," the two fellows who
watched over me every day-especially one of them, who
attended to my requests, was incredibly bold. In the
attempt to understand what was going on, I
provocatively asked him if he was happy because I would
go away or because I would stay. I was surprised and
happy when, for the first time, he told me, "I only
know you will go, but I don't know when."

To confirm that something new was happening, at one
point they both came in the room to reassure me and
joke: "Congratulations," they said, "you are leaving
for Rome." To Rome, that's what they were saying.

I had a weird feeling, because that word immediately
evoked liberation but also projected a void inside
myself. I realized it was the most difficult moment of
my abduction and that if all I had lived yet was
certain, now an abyss of heavy uncertainties was
widening. I changed my clothes.

They came back: "We'll escort you, but don't give
signals of your presence, otherwise the Americans might
intervene." That was not what wanted to hear. It was
the happiest and also the most dangerous moment. If we
ran into someone, meaning American troops, there would
be an exchange of fire, and my captors were ready and
they would have responded. I had to have my eyes
covered. I was already getting used to a temporary

About what happened outside, I only knew that in
Baghdad it had rained. The car ran safely in a muddy
area. There was the driver and the same old abductors.
I soon heard something I didn't want to hear. A
helicopter flying low over the area we had stopped in.
"Don't worry, now they will come look for you . . .
within ten minutes they will come." They had spoken
Arabic all the time, some French and much broken
English. Now they spoke in this way, too.

Then they got out of the car. I stayed in that
condition of immobility and blindness. My eyes were
stuffed with cotton, and covered by sunglasses. I was
motionless. I thought . . . what do I do? Should I
start counting the passing seconds to another
condition, the one of freedom? I had just started
counting when I heard a friendly voice: "Giuliana,
Giuliana, this is Nicola, don't worry, I've talked to
Gabriele Polo, don't worry, you're free."

He took my cotton blindfold and sunglasses off. I felt
relieved, not for what was going on, which I didn't
understand, but for Nicola's words. He kept talking
nonstop, he was uncontainable, a flood of friendly
words and jokes. I finally found comfort, almost
physically, a warm comfort I had long since forgotten.

The car proceeded on its way, through an underpass full
of puddles, almost skidding to avoid them. We engaged
in incredible laughter. It was relieving. Skidding
along a road full of water in Baghdad and maybe have a
bad car crash after all I had experienced would not be
really explainable. Nicola Calipari sat by my side. The
driver had notified the embassy and Italy twice that we
were heading to the airport, which I knew was
controlled by the American troops. It was less than one
kilometre, they told me . . . when. . . . I remember
only fire. At that point a rain of fire and bullets
came at us, forever silencing the happy voices from a
few minutes earlier.

The driver started shouting we were Italians, "We are
Italians! We are Italians . . ." Nicola Calipari dove
on top of me to protect me and immediately, and I mean
immediately, I felt his last breath as he died on me. I
must have felt physical pain, I didn't know why. But I
had a sudden thought: I recalled my abductors' words.
They said they were deeply committed to releasing me,
but that I had to be careful because "the Americans
don't want you to return." Back then, as soon as they
had said that, I had judged their words to be
meaningless and ideological. In that moment such words
risked to take the taste of the most bitter truth away.
I can't tell the rest yet.

This was the most dramatic moment. But the month I
spent as a kidnap victim has probably changed my life
forever. One month alone with myself, prisoner of my
deepest belief. Each hour was a pitiless test of my
work. Sometimes they kidded me. They even asked me why
I would leave and asked me to stay. I pointed out that
I had personal relationships. They led me to think to
such priorities that too often we put aside.

"Ask for your husband's help," they told me. And I did
so in the first video, the one I think you all have
watched. My life has changed. Same as Ra'ad Ali
Abdulaziz's, the Iraqi engineer from "Un Ponte per" who
was abducted with Simona & Simona. "My life is no
longer the same," he told me. I didn't understand. Now
I know what he meant. Because I have experienced the
hardness of the truth, I realize the difficulty of
communicating it, and the weakness of trying to.

In the first days of my abduction I didn't shed a
single tear. I was simply mad. I told them directly:
"How can you abduct me, if I am against the war?" And
they started a fierce debate. "Yes, because you want to
speak to the people, we would never abduct a reporter
who stays shut in the hotel. And then the fact you say
you're against the war could be a cover up." I would
reply, almost provoking them: "It's easy to abduct a
weak woman like me, why don't you do it to the American
officers?" I insisted that they couldn't ask the
Italian government to withdraw its troops; that they
had to address the Italian people who were and are
against the war, not Italian government.

It was a month of ups and downs, moments of hope and
moments of deep depression. Like when the first Sunday
after my abduction, in the Baghdad house where I was
prisoner and where there was a satellite television
dish, they let me see the EuroNews. I saw my poster on
the Rome city hall building. I was relieved. Soon
after, however, a claim from the Jihad announced I
would be executed if Italy didn't withdraw its troops.
I was frightened. But they reassured me that it wasn't
them, that people should have mistrusted those
proclamations, that they were a "provocation." I often
asked the one who seemed more approachable and who
looked more like a soldier: "Tell me the truth, you
will kill me". Nonetheless, many times, we talked.
"Come see a movie on TV," they told me, while a Wahhabi
woman, covered from head to foot, hung around the house
taking care of me.

The abductors seemed a very religious group, constantly
praying the Koran verses. But on Friday, at the time of
my release, the one who seemed the most religious and
who used to wake up at 5 o'clock every morning to pray,
"congratulated" me and incredibly shook my hand-it is
not a usual behaviour for an Islamic
fundamentalist-adding "If you behave, you'll leave
soon." That was followed by a rather humorous episode.
One of my two guards came to me astonished because the
TV showed my photographs displayed in European towns
and also on Totti. Yes, Totti (the Rome football team
player, T.N.). The guard said he said he was a Rome
team fan and he was amazed that his favourite player
had taken to field with "Free Giuliana" on his T-shirt.

I now live with no more certainties. I find myself
deeply weak. I failed in my belief. I had always
claimed there was need to go tell about that dirty war.
And I had to decide whether to stay in the hotel or
going out and chance being abducted because of my work.
"We don't want anyone any more," the abductors told me.
But I wanted to tell about the bloodbath in Falluja
through the refugees' tales. And that morning the
refugees and some of their "leaders" didn't listen to
me. I had in front of me the evidence of what the Iraqi
society has become with the war and they threw their
truth in my face: "We don't want anyone. Why don't you
stay home? What such interview can be useful for?". The
worst collateral damage, the war killing communication,
was falling on me. On me, who had risked it all,
challenging the Italian government that didn't want
reporters gong to Iraq, and the Americans who don't
want our work that gives witness to what that country
has really turned into with the war, despite what they
call elections.

Now I wonder. Is their refusal a failure?


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