Peace Movement Aotearoa   |   Support for Peacemakers

Harmeet Sooden - Media Statement

31 March 2006

I would like to express my gratitude for the prayers and support that my family and I have received from communities worldwide, and the assistance provided by the New Zealand Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade and Foreign Affairs Canada.

I acknowledge the burden that my family and friends have borne over the last four months and I thank them for their efforts.

Furthermore, I am grateful to all those involved in the operation that ultimately led to our freedom, especially individuals in the British armed forces and Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

I mourn the loss of my friend Tom Fox who was a dedicated peace activist and a role model to me.

The primary reason for my participation in the Christian Peacemaker Team Iraq delegation was to bear witness to the suffering of Iraqi people living under a harsh military occupation, and to provide an alternative narrative, based on humanitarian principles, to a New Zealand audience.

Thus, it was always important to me that the media (and therefore the public) have ready and fair access to my stories, which is why I have convened a press conference here today.

The issue many wish me to address is the particulars of our captivity.

I choose to ask a more crucial question:

What are the consequences of an illegal Anglo-American invasion and occupation with the complicity of a host of Western institutions, including the New Zealand government, on ordinary human beings living in Iraq?

Surely it is a natural human instinct to promote the reduction of both human rights violations and the risk of exacerbating regional armed conflict.

Although we were held captive for 118 days, all of Iraq is a prison. Iraqis must endure daily violence and insecurity, lack of food, contaminated water, limited electricity and fuel supply, a breakdown in law and order, and they carry fear and uncertainty about the future. Our captors, too, are prisoners of this circumstance.

My experience in Iraq has reinforced my belief that the true impediment to peace is violence, regardless of whether it be the violence of an occupying army or the violence of an insurgent group which uses kidnapping to finance its resistance to that occupation.

If one is serious about peace, one should be prepared to take the same risks for peace as for war.

I continue to hold this conviction. Thank you.

Auckland, New Zealand

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