On October 19th, 2004, an aid worker by the name of Margaret Hassan was kidnapped to be murdered weeks later.
Hassan held a dual citizenship between England and Iraq, having been married to Tahseen Ali Hassan and moving to Iraq with him in the ’70s. She taught English at the British Council of Baghdad and knew Arabic. Though immersed in an Islamic culture, she remained Roman Catholic during her time in Iraq. In 1991, she joined the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) and was an aid worker from then on, focusing on the poor districts of Baghdad and positively received by the people of the city. She would become the director of CARE International in Iraq.
On October 19th, she was on her way to work with a driver taking her to the CARE offices in Baghdad. Two unknown cars swerved to interdict, and men wearing police uniforms attacked her driver and grabbed her out of her seat. They sped off to an unknown location.
A few hours later, Al-Jazeera broadcasted a video with Hassan as a captive. Her identification was visible and there was a distinct lack of flags or other propaganda as often seen in these kinds of videos. She was simply up against a blank wall.
Hassan said that “these might be my last hours… tell Mr. Tony Blair to take the troops out of Iraq and not bring them here to Baghdad.” She pleaded that she did not “want to die like Mr. Bigley,” referring to the British Kenneth Bigley, a man working on reconstruction projects throughout Iraq who was kidnapped alongside two of his American colleagues. All three of them were beheaded. The kidnappers would even threaten to give Ms. Hassan to the same group that executed Bigley.
Despite efforts from the Iraqis and British government, her location was not able to be ascertained. Several hundred Iraqi civilians that cared for the fate of Ms. Hassan demanded her release outside CARE’s offices in an effort to show support.
During this time, the U. S. Marines were neck-deep with heavy fighting in Fallujah, Iraq. Amidst the daily and nightly firefights, car bombs and strafing runs, the Marines came across the body of a western woman–at the time there was only one other western woman missing in Iraq, as far as they knew. Her arms and legs were cut off and her throat was slit, but they figured it was unlikely that it was Ms. Hassan whose hair was brown, unlike the body’s whose hair was blonde and gray. Still, it was not able to be confirmed as the Marines were in the middle of taking the city at the time.
The next day, 16th of November, CARE said they were shown a video depicting Hassan’s death. She was blindfolded, next to a man with a pistol. He put an apple over the pistol’s muzzle and pulled the trigger. After a misfire, he left and returned to successfully shoot her in the head. She fell back onto a sheet of plastic. It was not determined whether the apple was an attempt at a suppressor or if it was supposed to be symbolic in some way.
Britain mourned for the loss of another soul who was just trying to help in a conflict-ridden area of the world.
Featured image courtesy of the U. S. Air Force.