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Simona Marinescu: "You Can’t Imagine the Things the Kidnapped People Are Going Through"

29 Mar 2005 - 00:00

Simona Marinescu has been in Baghdad for the last two years, at first as a special emissary of the Romanian Government, and now as a representative of the British Government and of the World Bank. She agreed to talk with Jurnalul National about the dangers that the people going to Iraq confront with, as well as about the authorities’ actions for the recovery of the kidnapped journalists. She collaborates with the authorities permanently.

  • EVENT - March 30th 2005
  • The bulletproof vest is compulsory in Baghdad, even for the officials that do their jobs in rigorously protected areas.

    Jurnalul National: Mrs. Marinescu, how safe is Iraq now for a governmental expert like yourself, for a journalist, or for a businessman going to Baghdad?
    Simona Marinescu: Iraq is still an unsafe area for any stranger, no matter his mission. After almost one year and a half since my arrival here, I am still afraid when in Baghdad, even when we are in the Ministry headquarters, although we are being highly protected. For a journalist it is even harder. Its occupation asks for a contact with the locals. They have to be everywhere something happens, so anything can happen to them.


    What are the risks they face?
    There are multiple risks. Explosions, armed assaults, kidnappings occur every day. One can be the victim of an assault without being its set target. For example, in traffic, there have been numerous times when an improvised device exploded and innocent people passing by died. However, kidnappings are more complex criminal actions. There are actual networks that capture foreigners and resell them. Connections set with the locals working in hotels, who guide us as translators, who know the time of our being in the courts of a public institution etc. This is why any risk must be minimized.

    How do you do your job in Iraq? Can you leave the office in you personal car, in a taxi? Do you have any protection?
    I go every day to the ministries I work with. We are always protected. The British are very strict when talking about the rules we must follow. I drive my own car, but there are security escorting us inside the ministries. At night, I drive home after 10 o’clock passing also through a dark area. We are usually more than one in a car. Sometimes, in here, your own instincts are much more important than any gun.

    How is life on the streets? Kidnappings, robberies or explosions happen everywhere…
    The streets form the most unfriendly place in Baghdad and anywhere else in Iraq. It’s always crowdie. The buildings with small shops are partially destroyed and can hide unimagined dangers. There are no route markers on the roads, the lights don’t work, driving is chaotic, between tons of garbage, or military patrols which are highly stressed these days. How should one be safe in here? There are obvious progresses. We get to see more and more cops, the guarded areas have Iraqi guards as well, but horrible things happen each day.

    What do you know about the three journalists?
    I found about them by chance, when I asked for more information about Mile Carpenisan and Dragos Bota (Adevarul), who contacted me before arriving here. The embassy told me two journalists from PrimaTV and one form Romania Libera have arrived, but they had their own arrangements. I feared for them because I remembered other stories with journalists, which came being led by rebels. However, as I said before, being a journalist implies risks and, sometimes, when trying to send the news back at home, you get to be their subject.

    There are more hypotheses: some say the group of Al Zarqawi would have claimed the kidnapping, others talk about some sort of revenge against the businessperson who invited them in Baghdad. Could this be the effect of the Romanian troops’ presence in Iraq?
    Since we don’t have specific information, we cannot tell the coordinator of this kidnapping. I said we hope for financial reasons, because I hope for it not to imply anything else. As you know, there have been cases when the reasons were political. I don’t want to involve the military troops or the supporting actions for the coalition here. It would be a mistake. Since no one here considered Romania as an enemy, we remain optimistic.

    Should we wish for any of these options? Is it better for them to be kidnapped by an organized structure or for it to be revenge?
    It is better for us to wish to see them free as soon as possible, no matter the cause. One cannot imagine the things our journalists are going through. I took part in a simulation to know how to react in case I was kidnapped and the simulation only terrified me for a long time. Their lives are in the hands of some people who follow another set of values and who might take any decision in an instant. How should one resist under such threats, even if it is for a few hours?


    What is the present status of the authorities in Baghdad, are they capable to manage such a situation short time after the Saddam system?
    The authorities do their best in protecting their citizens. You know there have been many Iraqi people kidnapped, too. They are as touched as the international opinion, every time such things happen. All I can tell you is that all the possible resources are active. The foreign secret services that act in here, I am talking about the ones of the coalition, are very experienced and, from the moment they found out about this, they started the special investigations, the tracking operations etc. This is not my field and all that I could add is the fact that, from the moment they found out, I have been in touch with the investigators permanently. They do professional work and defective information managing must be avoided. I have asked the people at home, who are very impatient in finding out anything, to understand that discretion is the wisdom we need.

    How does the possible involvement of an American citizen change the situation?
    Any detail can be an advantage or an aggravating circumstance. We should hope they would be released. Why should you harm some people that come from a country with a history as dark as your country’s? The bulletproof vest is compulsory in Baghdad, even for the officials that do their jobs in rigorously protected areas.
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