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article imageOp-Ed: NGO workers are easy prey for obscurantism and terrorists

By Michael Cosgrove     Jan 15, 2011 in Politics
The deaths of a French Non Governmental Organization worker and his friend in Niger highlights yet again that by targeting them the terrorists are demonstrating their real goal, which is to refuse social progress and perpetuate obscurantism.
Antoine De Leocur was a 25-year-old French NGO worker who, after working for health-oriented NGO's such as Help and AMI, began working for the Franco-Nigerian NGO Tarbiyya Tatali in Niger in 2008. He loved the country, learned the Dogondoutchi dialect and fell in love with Rakai Hassan Kouka, a Nigerian woman. They planned to marry.
Delory was a computer engineer from Lincelles in the north of France. De Lecour was from there too and that's why the two men had been lifelong friends, that's why De Lecour invited him to Niger as his best man and that's how they both came to be in the bar-restaurant Le Toulousain in Niamey, the capital of Niger, last Friday, January 7, just hours after Delory's arrival. They sat at a table near the door.
And that is why they were chosen as hostages by the AQIM al-Qaida offshoot terrorist organization members who burst into the premises and hauled them off at gunpoint. A few hours later, after being tracked and attacked as they fled in four-wheel-drive vehicles towards neighboring Mali, their base, the terrorists were stopped in their tracks by a French military unit. The ensuing battle left 5 or 6 terrorists dead as well as the same number of Nigerian soldiers. When the gunfire stopped, Delory's half-burned body was found in a burning car with several bullet wounds which suggested he had been killed by friendly fire and that of De Leocur was found nearby with a single bullet hole in the head. He had been executed by the terrorists. He should have got married today in Niamey, but he, like his friend, is now lying in a graveyard in his hometown.
That is certainly a tragic and horrifying event which amply demonstrates the utterly and cruelly random nature of death, but it is by no means the only one which concerns NGO workers.
British aid worker Linda Norgrove, 36, who worked for US aid group 'Development Alternatives Inc (DAI)' was kidnapped on December 26 last year by a Taliban-linked group in Afghanistan. She was killed in the operation which was launched to save her. Just a month before, another British woman and aid worker was shot dead in northern Badakhshan province in Afghanistan. British doctor Karen Woo, a 36-year-old NGO worker was shot dead along with nine colleagues in August of last year. She too was on an aid mission in Afghanistan.
It's the same story in Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan and many other countries where Fundamentalist Islamic terrorists are at work, and the list of those who have died whilst working for them is a long one. Many others have been kidnapped but have lived to tell the tale. Others are still being held in captivity.
NGO's and those who work for them are not angels, they are concerned people and citizens who fight for the rights of others to a decent life. Almost 100% of their work is exemplary and they do not take sides overtly in conflicts, with the exception of the Israel-Palestine dispute, but that is just one major error in a long history of helping people which goes back to 1839 and beyond.
These organizations are defined by the World Bank as being "private organizations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services, or undertake community development" (Operational Directive 14.70).
They often replace weak governments and international organizations as vectors of aid destined to help the weak and powerless in areas such as health, food, education and self-reliance. They represent the best that the world - and the West - has to offer in terms of compassion and practical assistance to those in need.
I mention the West because the vast majority of NGO's are Western organizations and the vast majority of their funding comes from the West. They work for peace and understanding between peoples and religions, ideologies and political ideas.
And that is precisely why terrorists target them. Terrorists often assimilate them with Western spies and agents. They do not like the idea of sending girls to school or of helping women to work. They despise the idea of democratic decisions about what is to be done being taken by the people, they are totally against any kind of technology - particularly the Internet - which may help local populations to better educate themselves in order that they may create networks to help them develop agricultural activity and rebuild shattered infrastructures and they cannot tolerate the idea of people preferring progress to domination.
Terrorists in many countries do not want the world to change. They are mired in the same Obscurantist beliefs that resulted in the Muslim world becoming the poorest on the planet in only four centuries after being one of the most cultured and advanced contributors to humanity before Obscurantism arrived and swept away all that had been achieved.
NGO's are considered by them to be the representatives of everything they do not want to see happen - the emancipation of the people they wish to control - and that is why NGO representatives and workers are paying such a high price for their laudable efforts.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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