Intl. community must call for release of Iranian pilgrims in Syria: Analyst
Armed insurgents have kidnapped 48 Iranians near the Syrian capital, Damascus, according to reports from Syrian media.
On Saturday, 48 Iranian pilgrims, who were traveling on a bus from Damascus International Airport to the shrine of Hazrat Zainab (AS) on the outskirts of Damascus, were abducted by insurgents.
In a statement released later on the day, Iran's Consulate in Syria said it is pursuing the fate of the Iranian nationals in collaboration with Syrian security organizations.
On Saturday, Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi called his Turkish and Qatari counterparts Ahmet Davutoglu and Hamad bin Jasim bin Jabir Al Thani and called for their assistance in securing the release of the hostages.
The Qatari and Turkish foreign ministers promised to do their best to bring about the liberation of the Iranian pilgrims.
Meanwhile, the Saudi-owned news channel Al-Arabiya has aired footage of 48 Iranian pilgrims a day after they were kidnapped by insurgents near the Syrian capital of Damascus.
The kidnappers claim that the hostages are members of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) by simply referring to their military discharge cards.
It seems that the Saudi channel has obtained the footage directly from the insurgents.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Kamel Wazne, political analyst, to further discuss the issue. The following is an approximate transcript of the interview.
Mr. Wazne, I’d like to get your opinion firstly on this entire kidnapping situation itself please.
Well obviously this is not the first kidnapping against innocent people just doing their Islamic duty. This is the pilgrim, it is very important place for the Muslims Shittes, Sittna Zainab (AS) and a lot of Muslims from around the world, they come to this place, this very important religious place to pay their duty for her suffering and for her courage and for her greatness for preserving the Islamic beliefs.
I think those Iranian pilgrims were doing the same thing that a lot of Muslims around the world do and I think it is a hostage situation, it is a kidnapping and actually violates all the international norm and should be called for immediate release for these innocent pilgrim people who actually were doing just their religious duty.
Obviously on the other side there is a propaganda machine headed by Al-Arabiya and Al Jazeera and other networks. They try to twist the facts and provide a picture that is the opposite what it is.
This Sittna Zainab, this Mazar Sharif should be respected and should be protected and we know for fact that some people tried to stir trouble especially at this delicate situation in Syria.
Mr. Wazne, I’d like to get your opinion on why do you think these kidnappers gave these footages directly to a Saudi-run channel, as you mentioned Al-Arabiya?
Well obviously they wanted to provide it to Al-Arabiya because Al-Arabiya is one of the instigators on what is taking place in Syria, it is part of the division that is taking place in Syria, it is part of the propaganda that is taking place in Syria and they think they can do a smear campaign against the Islamic Republic and against the Iranian.
They have to distinguish those as I said. Those are just innocent pilgrims doing their duties as the Lebanese were doing their religious duty in Iraq. You cannot basically prevent people from visiting very important Islamic hero role model despite what they can do by kidnapping or killing or destroying Muslims around the world will continue to visit Sittna Zainab and they will visit Imam Hussein regardless of the cost.
Those two important figures, it is worth to sacrifice the life for them but I think the Saudi took it and they tried to actually ruin the human side of the story and destroy the fact and provide a mouth for the opposition to say these pilgrims belong to certain political entity which is wrong and should be addressed by the Saudis and by the Qataris who are supplying the money and the media coverage to the opposition and should be actually looked at it by Turkey and the international community.
This act of kidnapping is condemned and against international law.