Joel Guerrero Freed; What Comes Next?

Numbers only provide a snapshot, a sense of the size of the story. In February, soon after the new U.S. President announced a desire to deport three million illegal immigrants in his first year in office, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) started to conduct what it called “targeted enforcement operations” across the nation.

Sources report that in a five-day operation in February, some 680 individuals were detained under ICE’s new mandate. In March, another 729 were arrested in actions across the country. The total numbers are not yet known. The number deported has not been publicized.
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Where Is Dawit Isaak?

Dawit Isaak, the Eritrean-Swedish journalist and playwright, was awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2017 today in Jakarta, Indonesia. Today is World Press Freedom Day, a global United Nations commemoration, and Isaak was not present for the UNESCO ceremony.

Dawit Isaak has been held prisoner in Eritrea since September 2001. His whereabouts and his condition are unknown.

In June 2016, in a rare interview with France’s RFI (Radio France Internationale), Eritrea’s Foreign Minister, Osman Saleh, spoke with RFI’s Anthony Lattier about Eritrea’s “political prisoners,” and he specifically revealed that Dawit Isaak is still alive.

It was the first official Eritrean acknowledgement that Isaak is alive since 2009, when the nation’s president, Isaias Afwerki, ominously told a Swedish journalist that Eritrea “knows what to do with” Isaak and others “of his kind.”
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A Plea from Lauri Love

The waiting is torture enough. Any individual placed in confrontation with the legal system knows that the process somehow moves too quickly in the most painful ways and then too slowly in other, equally painful, moments.

Lauri Love, the British hacktivist who the United Kingdom has agreed to send to the United States to face charges despite pleas from over 100 MPs that he not be extradited, reported earlier today (April 21) that he is becoming ill from the stress.

But in this moment of profound tension, almost in a recognition that this moment is no different than the one immediately before or the one that will follow because no news has been announced, he wrote of his hopes for the rest of us, for his ambition that the fight will continue: “Mostly though I’m worried about the world and whether we can rise to the challenge that we find ourselves in, at this crux of history and generational crisis-cum-opportunity. Show me the courage and strength I need to maintain, and I’ll try to show you the same.”

It is typical of Lauri Love that even in his darker moments he finds hope in his plight, shares that hope (albeit with plenty of sarcasm and wit), and then brings it out to the world.
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The Deep Repercussions of a Bombing in Syria

Yesterday’s violent suicide bombing that killed at least 112 refugees in a bus convoy near Aleppo, Syria, derailed at least temporarily a complicated operation to evacuate Syrian civilians from four besieged towns in that country as well as help for the families of twenty-six Qatari men held hostage in Iraq.

The Qatari hostages have been the subject of a social media campaign to bring attention to their plight that is known as “OpFOQ,” and this website started to report on that campaign from the day it was launched.
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25 Million Euros for a Whistleblower? Help #OpFOQ Rescue Two Dozen Hostages

Twenty-five lives are at stake.

In less than a week, #OpFOQ has learned more than any other interested party has learned about two dozen hostages kidnapped in December 2015 in Iraq in more than eleven months. #OpFOQ is a campaign to focus attention on this mass kidnapping, to force the government of Iran to divulge what it knows about the whereabouts and health of the Qatari hostages, and to earn the freedom of the hostages.

On March 27, #OpFOQ learned that at least one of the hostages is still alive and published this information along with a photograph. This represented the first break in the case since two hostages were freed in April 2016.

On March 29, the #OpFOQ campaign published a Tweet without clarification that further established that it is acquiring information about the hostage situation. It read: “We have learned of a persistent rumor that a Qatari national maybe behind the kidnappings. Our intel suggest this is entirely false.” No further comment has been posted on Twitter and no elaboration has been publicly offered to journalists.
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#OpFOQ Learns One Hostage Is Alive

BREAKING, March 27: In the three days since the launch of #OpFOQ, a human rights effort to secure the release of two dozen Qatari hostages held (it is believed) in Iraq or at least to learn if the hostages are alive and well, there is progress to report.

At this hour, it was learned that one of the Qatari hostages, seen below, is alive.

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#OpFOQ: A Campaign to Free Two Dozen Hostages

A group of human rights activists and members of Anonymous launched an operation directed at Iran on March 24, #OpFOQ, 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.

The men were kidnapped in December 2015, and since April 2016, when two of the hostages were freed, the missing men have been absent from the world’s headlines and attention as well, despite the fact that a handful of the hostages are members of the royal family of Qatar. Families are missing sons, brothers, husbands, fathers. The men were not taken by an official government entity, so groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been bystanders as the mystery deepens each day.

The men were 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.
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To Dream a Dream …

Bravery is a skill. I do not know if I have cultivated it in myself. Bravery is, of course, not what one does in the absence of fear but what one can do—what one actually does—when fear is present. Accept fear, move forward, change the world.

[A comment: Today is March 22, 2017. I wrote the first draft of this column more than eighteen months ago. Sadly, the only update to offer today is this one: All the parties described herein are, simply, even more brave than they were several months ago. Ali remains in prison. His father posts updates on Facebook each week and sometimes more frequently. We learned last summer that he earned a university degree while in prison. Dawood al-Marhoon and Abed allahhassan al-Zaher also remain in prison. Raif Badawi remains in prison. He has begun to learn of the global movement that has grown around the fight to free him. Back to the column from October 2015:]
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