#OpFOQ Fights on, Despite Attacks

“Some of these … U.S. Anons have spent the last 24 hours trying to make sure that an Anon op fails. Its name is #OpFOQ.”—a statement from Raymond Johansen, #OpFOQ’s public coordinator, March 28, 2017

In the last twenty-four hours, #OpFOQ has come under fire. #OpFOQ is a campaign to focus attention on a mass kidnapping in Iraq, to force the government of Iran to divulge what it knows about the whereabouts and health of two dozen Qatari hostages, to bring this case to forefront of the world’s consciousness, and to earn the freedom of the hostages.

Raymond Johansen, #OpFOQ’s public coordinator, released this statement to The Gad About Town an hour ago, which I run verbatim:

“Around 55 percent of my friends are American. Around half of them are Anons. Quite a few of them are seasoned Anons that dont even know I have had my ‘boots on the ground’ with them in operations too many too count. I don’t fault them for not knowing, or understanding that there are those of us that managed to keep our identity a secret even through the reign of ‘Sabu.’
 
“Today I am heart broken to an extent I have never been before. Some of these snobby and rather limited U.S. Anons have spent the last 24 hours trying to make sure that an Anon op fails. Its name is #OpFOQ. Their hate for the op seems to be because an as of yet unknown sponsor gave us the money to actually print, fax, call, and send people with trains, planes, and automobiles to where people in power are.
 
“The op is no longer called an Anon op because of this. Still 60 Anons are actively taking part because they care. They care that 20 men, missed by their families, should be able to return home after their kidnapping.
 
“What the asshats seem to care about is that no Anon op should have money or it will be corrupted. Do you think a year of #FreeLauri cost nothing or that #FreeRaif did not cost hundreds of people large sums?
 
“Do you think that making 835 members of the European Parliament get Raif (Badawi) the Sakharov Prize was free? Do you think the actions that got 116 UK MP’s to write President Obama on behalf of Lauri Love had no monetary cost? Do you live in a world devoid of logic?
 
“I do not answer to any of these and I still have my integrity, but hardly enough money to eat, because I spend it on everything from travel, calls, and money for toothpaste to jailed Anons. I am rich anyway, but my detractors must feel poor. Attempting to destroy an Op whose only goal is to bring 24 men home makes you look really bad.
 
“The good thing is that there are still 300 people working actively on it so your sour grapes mean fuck all to me. Also I do not give a flying flock about what you did to my cred because I have no ego to bruise, but I am very disappointed in you! Feel better, and stay safe. Only love, and today, a lot less respect.”—Raymond Johansen

* * * *
I am one of those 300 people. The operation has already learned more than any other interested party has about the hostages since April 2016. It has already been proved effective.

#OpFOQ is an informational and social media operation designed to learn what can be learned about two dozen Qatari hostages, some of them members of Qatar’s royal ruling famnily, the Al Thani dynasty. Yesterday, the operation gleaned the first proof of life of any of the hostages in almost a year.

The men are sportsmen—falconers—who crossed the Saudi Arabian-Iraqi border with government-issued permits and their birds, and they set up camp in Iraq’s remote southern province, Al Muthanna. December is training season for the falcons because December is the breeding season for the houbara bustard, a turkey-like bird found in Central Asia that the falcons hunt. On December 16, 2015 a convoy of 100 members of the Imam al-Ali Brigade of the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, an Iran-backed Shi’a paramilitary force, which controls much of the desert region of southern and western Iraq, descended on their camp and took the entire group hostage.

Qatar’s government has attempted negotiations with Iraq’s government, but neither entity has the ear or allegiance of the group or groups that took the falconers hostage. Iran probably does.

For the last eleven months, this is where matters stood … until March 24. On that date, an announcement was published on Pastebin by the creators of the #OpFOQ campaign: “We call on #Anonymous and all Human Rights activists from the west, from the U.S. and from the whole of the Middle East to join in … while the Arab Summit is taking place, 23-29 March.”

The annual conference of the Arab League, the Arab Summit, meets this week, from March 23 to March 29, in Amman, Jordan. #OpFOQ was launched on March 24 to direct the conference’s attention to this mass kidnapping and ultimately to earn the freedom of the two dozen Qataris held against their will in Iraq. A media campaign centered on the #OpFOQ Twitter account. In four days of existence, the operation has earned more than ten million social media impressions and attracted attention in halls of power.

It is a humanitarian operation.

Soon after #OpFOQ was publicly launched on March 24, questions followed: Who is behind the operation? What relation did the operation have with the global collective of hacktivists known as “Anonymous,” especially when its first call to action named the group?

When it was revealed that #OpFOQ would receive funding from a source that still has not been named as of March 28, 2017, money became a point of controversy. It is known that Qatar’s royal family retained the services of an American-headquartered consultancy in 2017 with the specific mandate (link is to a PDF) to “research the location of missing members of the Royal Family of Qatar” and “if appropriate, petition US Department of State to assist in obtaining their return.”

The question became: is #OpFOQ being supported by Qatar’s royal family? Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have shined a light on abuses that migrant workers in that nation face: 1.7 million workers have been recruited with promises of high wages to build a stadium for the 2022 FIFA World Cup only to have their passports taken from them on arrival to prevent departure, be subject to unsafe living conditions, and watch as their wages are delayed indefinitely. The workers are almost slaves. Is #OpFOQ aiding a regime that is doing bad or encouraging its businesses to treat workers so poorly?

Further, given the current U.S. presidential administration’s enmity toward the nation of Iran, is the #OpFOQ campaign being coached, encouraged, or even led by entities in Washington, DC?

Accusations followed on Twitter and IRC chat rooms and Reddit and elsewhere.

In a statement to The Gad About Town, Raymond Johansen, public coordinator of #OpFOQ and himself a survivor of torture and unlawful imprisonment by non-state actors, reiterated the humanitarian concept that animates the operation to help the two dozen hostages:

“This Op is an Op that is devoid of state actors. It’s about families trying to get their loved ones back or achieve closure. The families of these falconers are fueling the efforts to learn their fates or earn their freedom.”

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