Exclusive: Wife of kidnapped Iraqi Olympic boss calls on IOC for answers
Thursday, 09 August 2012
August 9 - The wife of a former National Olympic Committee of Iraq (NOCI) President who went missing six years ago and has never been seen since has written an open letter to International Olympic Committee (IOC) boss Jacques Rogge urging him to make a stand and intervene.
Niran Al-Samarrai says she has received no help at all from the Iraqi regime – or any other country for that matter – and is lobbying the IOC to put pressure on the Iraqis to reveal the whereabouts of her husband Ahmed (pictured above) and why he was abducted.
The Al-Samarrais fled to Britain in 1980 to escape the regime of Saddam Hussein but, on his return after Hussein was overthrown, Ahmed was kidnapped in central Baghdad during the NOCI's annual general meeting when he and several other committee members and sports officials were held at gunpoint and whisked away.
Despite a tireless campaign to see justice done, Niran, who like her husband has joint Iraqi-British citizenship, still doesn't know whether he is dead or alive – and wants answers.
She spoke exclusively to insidethegames during which she revealed the contents of her letter to Rogge which, she says, was written fully four years since a meeting between the two that has apparently produced no concrete results.
"It has been six years and we are still trying to ascertain the fate of my kidnapped husband, the President of the NOCI, Ahmed Al-Samarrai, and his 24 colleagues as the Iraqi Government has remained silent all these years," she wrote.
"In our meeting with you in 2008, you assured us that the IOC will do its utmost to put pressure on the Iraqi Government to tell us what happened to our men, but instead the IOC stood by the Iraqi Government who announced your support prior to the Beijing Games.
"Then the Beijing Games passed without any word at all from your side regarding the savage crime which attacked the NOCI, and the failure of the Iraqi authorities to carry out any investigation."
Niran's son Osama has also tried to discover the whereabouts of his father but like her has met only with silence.
"I believe the Olympic community should show some sincerity to a man who is a member in one of its National Olympic Committees, and member of Sport for All, and who served the Olympic Charter strongly under sectarian pressure that he was continuously facing, something which you are well aware of," Niran's letter continues.
"The International Olympic Committee should make a stand during the London Games, and demand the outcome of any investigation carried out by the Iraqi Government in Baghdad.
"As you know, we believe that the Government itself was responsible for that crime (we provided you with the evidence, Sir) and then kept its silence and failed to conduct any proper investigation.
"Indeed, they did not bother even to meet those few who were released within 10 days after the abduction.
"We had asked you to personally meet them in order to see the torture marks on their bodies, but sadly we received no response from your side.
"The London Games will be starting soon, and being a British citizen who lost her husband while he was on duty for the Olympic community, I hope that this opportunity will not also get wasted (similar to the Beijing Games).
"I am formally requesting that the International Olympic Committee ask the Iraqi delegation officially about the case, and to request that the results of an official investigation be made public.
"I believe that the recently established NOCI which replaced Ahmed and his colleagues should also bear responsibility for ignoring the crime and not demanding any investigation.
"They are also responsible for withholding the salaries of the kidnapped, which left their families starving when they are entitled to receive salaries until the Beijing Games and the proper election of a new NOCI in 2009."
Niran, who met with insidethegames at a pre-arranged London location, has written a book about the kidnapping episode in both Arabic and English entitled "A Homeland Kidnapped".
Her open letter to Rogge concluded: "We are counting on your help, Sir, in the spirit of the Olympic values and out of humanitarian concern, to help all the families of those abducted to reach closure after six terrible years of suffering.
"The London Games is an opportunity for any person with conscience to raise their voice and use their influence to bring about a conclusion to this crime that hit the Olympic community."
Read the exclusive insidethegames interview with Niran Al-Samarrai here.