Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Abduction diaries

The Palestinian campaigner, Jaweed Al Ghussein, has just died; it would have been his 78th birthday this Friday. Persecuted by the Palestinian Authority (PA) for many years because of attempts to draw attention to corruption in Yassar Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), he was also abducted twice. His daughter, Mona Bauwens, a journalist in London, runs a website about her father which, in particular, aims to publicise the injustice suffered by him and to extract an apology from the PA. Right now though, she says, she’s working on what she calls the Abduction Diaries.

Ghussein was born in Gaza in 1930 to a wealthy family. With the creation of Israel in 1948, he was sent to the American University in Cairo, where he first met Arafat. In 1964, he moved to London with his famil to pursued his (successful) business career. Nevertheless, he held on to his Palestinian heritage, and, in particular, helped finance the education of young Palestinians. In 1984, he was appointed chairman of the Palestinian National Fund, the PLO’s financial arm. Subsequently, though, he began to suspect Arafat of serious financial corruption. Millions of pounds given by Saddam Hussein, for example, were neither acknowledged or audited, according to Sandra Harris’s obituary of Ghussein in The Guardian. And then, when Ghussein criticised Arafat’s backing of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, their relationship broke down.

Ghussein persevered under Arafat until May 1996, but then resigned very publicly on Abu Dhabi TV calling for ‘accountability and transparency’. Thereafter, according to the Ghussein website, he was ‘a marked man’. A vicious media campaign orchestrated by the PA followed, as well as two abductions, one from Abu Dhabi, and the other from a hospital in Cairo. Eventually, international pressure, not least from Amnesty International, secured his release, and allowed him to return to London. However, the period of persecution permanently damaged his health and left the family stripped of its wealth. He died on 1 July, leaving his wife Khalida, a son Tawfiq, and a daughter Mona (Bauwens).

Since his death, several obituaries and many messages of condolences have been added to the Ghussein website, as have copies of campaign letters still being sent out. One from 7 July, for example, to the office of President Mahmoud Abbas starts as follows: ‘Mr Jaweed Al Ghussein passed away July 1. It is a sad indictment on the Palestinian cause, which is a noble one that the Palestinian Authority has failed to honour him and acknowledge the tremendous contribution he has made to the Palestinian people. Mr Al-Ghussein may have passed away but his legacy remains and we will continue to request from the leadership and the Palestinian Authority for ‘RAD ITBAR’ and a public acknowledgment to gross injustice he underwent. I once again remind you of UN Secretary General Koffi Annan said ‘those who seek to bestow legitimacy must themselves embody it; those who invoke international law must themselves submit to it.’

Also on the website is a page about Mona. It says she is based in London and writes regularly for magazines and journals in the UK and the Middle East. And then it says this: ‘Right now I am working on the Abduction Diaries, which recounts my detailed experiences at the time of my father’s abductions. For years I have found it difficult to even open them let alone write about them as they reminded me of the dark period of continual threats from Abu Dhabi and the PA. But ultimately what has emerged in spite of the ordeal is all the many instances of kindness and help I was shown, sometimes by total strangers or people who knew of my father . . . I hope readers will find the diaries both heart-warming as well as informative.’

1 comment:

mona bauwens said...

hello Paul I just came across your diary junction blog. thank you for what you wrote
mona bauwens