Please save the abducted Japanese youth in Iraq

by: Katsuhisa Furukawa

As one of the Japanese citizens who are deeply concerned about the worsening situation in Iraq, allow me to explain why it is highly important, especially for the sake of Iraqi young children, that the three dedicated young Japanese, who are currently held hostages by a group allege itself as Saraya al-Mujahadin, should be released. These three young Japanese are two aid workers, Mr. Noriaki Imai, 18, Ms. Nahoko Takato, 34, and a freelance cameraman Mr. Soichiro Koriyama, 32. These Japanese have been abducted by the Iraqi group who vowed to burn them alive if the Japan Self-Defense Force did not leave Iraq by April 11.

The purpose of the threeís visit to Iraq has been to help Iraq children who are suffering from the radiological hazard that was caused by the use of depleted uranium ammunition during the wars on Iraq in 1991 and 2003.

Noriaki, a dedicated high-school student, was actively mobilizing a citizen movement in Japan in order to demonstrate his strong opposition to the war on Iraq. This time, he has decided to visit Iraq, despite the seriously deteriorating situation in Iraq, in order to conduct a study on the health hazard effects of the depleted uranium on Iraqi children. He has meant to publish his findings in the form of an illustrated book for both children and adults, in order to enhance the publicís awareness on this important problem and to mobilize international support to improve health condition of the Iraqi children.

Nahoko, another dedicated aid worker, has been engaged in volunteer activities for the street children in Iraq since last year. She has provided medical and food supplies voluntarily for these children, and appeared on the Japanese media to report the poor living conditions of Iraq people in order to ask for the Japanese publicís humanitarian support for Iraq.

Soichiro has also provided important pictures to the Japanese media that vividly conveyed the image of deteriorating living conditions of the Iraqi people, which were even more persuasive than any written reports. These pictures urged us the importance of mobilizing our humanitarian support for the Iraqi people. Soichiro has decided to join Noriaki and Nahoko in order to report the poor health condition of the Iraqi people.

These three Japanese clearly recognized the dangerous situation in Iraq, of course. Still, however, they believed that it was their duty to help Iraqi children and people. They firmly believed that the danger should never preclude them from being engaged in their voluntary mission to provide a humanitarian assistance for the Iraqi children and people. Upon entering into Iraq, these three people carried a medical supply for the Iraqi children, which was reportedly burned away by the hostage takers, according to a taxi driver who witnessed the abduction scene. This was a very unfortunate consequence for the Iraqi people, indeed.

The Japanese Self-Defense Forces currently operates in Iraq specifically in order to provide only the humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people. These people have never been engaged in any combat mission at all. These Japanese people has been engaged in providing water supply and medical assistance to Iraqi hospitals as well as reconstructing schools for the Iraqi children, which are highly appreciated by the local Iraqi leaders and people.

These Japanese are currently in Iraqi not because they want to save the face of the United States, but because they really do want to help the Iraqi people.

In view of these Japanese peopleís dedication and sincerity, I sincerely do hope that the hostage takers will grant these Japanese an opportunity to contribute to the reconstruction of Iraq, especially for the future of Iraqi children. I would also like to ask for the help of all people in the world trying to prevent any tragic consequence of this hostage incident. Please advise us on how we could possibly save these dedicated Japanese youth.

We, the Japanese, will surely live up to your expectations.

Katsuhisa Furukawa
A Japanese citizen, age 37
Researcher on International Security

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