Matthew Parris Matthew Parris

Should I have urged my rich friend to try to pay a ransom for poor Margaret Hassan?

Should I have urged my rich friend to try to pay a ransom for poor Margaret Hassan?

Do you not find that when a wrong has been done, time may elapse before the wrongfulness pricks through into our consciences? I mean not only wrongs we do ourselves, or which are done to us, but also the sense we may have that a small or large injustice has been done in the world, and nobody has acknowledged this or tried to put it right. In the dead of night, goaded into wakefulness by something sharp the unconscious mind has sifted from the rubble and will not let drop, we run again through events under which we, or those we know, or our politicians, have supposedly ‘drawn a line’ — and conclude that we do not want to draw a line; we do not want to ‘move on’. We run again through the excuses and find that they will not do, that ‘time’ will not heal this, and that as individuals or as a nation we are rebuked by our indifference.

Looking back from the turn of the year, I feel the rebuke in three files I cannot close. They are unrelated, and the first is a story infinitely more awful than the others. Could these wrongs be righted or at least acknowledged in the year ahead? Perhaps this column is part of the acknowledgment.

Around the beginning of last year we were still not absolutely certain Margaret Hassan was dead. Maybe you remember reading about her kidnapping, in October 2004, in Baghdad. Mrs Hassan was British, married to an Iraqi. She was a charity worker in Baghdad. Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the Washington Post’s correspondent, said of her: ‘Margaret Hassan is just an incredible woman who literally had devoted her life to helping the Iraqi people. I first met her almost two years ago. One of a very few international aid workers operating in there, she had been heading the Care International office in Iraq for more than a decade.

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