Opinion: Germany Can Learn From Osthoff | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 19.12.2005
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Opinion: Germany Can Learn From Osthoff

On Sunday night, Germany's new Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced that after more than three weeks in captivity, abducted archeologist, Susanne Osthoff is free. DW's Peter Philipp comments.


Osthoff became a victim of the war which Germany refuses to fight

While the worry about Susanne Osthoff is over, there are still many unanswered questions regarding her release, and indeed her capture. It is conceivable, that in the name of protecting her abductors, who after three weeks had a change of heart, those details will remain sketchy.

Among the little we do know is that her kidnappers were neither following political nor financial motives, but held the German archaeologist because they believed her to be a spy. Whatever the reason, and perhaps the finer points of the thinking behind her capture are not of prime importance right now, there is no justification for kidnapping and threatening civilians.

Her liberation is a relief for all those who spoke out for the headstrong young woman, as it is for the German government, which in spite of its resistance to military involvement in Iraq, suddenly became a target. It was an echo of the situation in which France, which vocally shared Berlin's opposition to the Iraq war, found itself in with the kidnapping of French nationals -- most of them journalists -- in Iraq.

Osthoff as a source of pride

It all goes to show that nobody is immune to terrorism, its most fundamental characteristic being to randomly strike at innocent targets. The basic principle is to terrorize the world at large and prevent civilians from being able to lead a normal life.

Susanne Osthoff is one of a handful of foreigners in Iraq not to be scared off by such dangers. Some claim she must be possessed, others say her determination displays a deep human commitment.

Whatever Osthoff's motivation, there are not enough people like her. Apart from the military, the majority of foreigners in Mesopotamia are profiteers and opportunists who are there for their personal gain rather than out of a sense of wishing to improve the lot of the Iraqi people.

We should be proud of the few upstanding citizens, such as Susanne Osthoff, who try to break the rules and make a difference for Iraqi nationals. But such a stance appears rare in Germany, which unlike France or Italy failed to stage any mass demonstrations in the name of securing the release of a compatriot. Christmas markets, it seemed, were of greater importance.

This episode should teach us that it is not enough to vote against a war; we have to take care of the victims. Susanne Osthoff did that, and thus became a victim herself. Her release ought, at the very least, to give us food for thought; not least in these days leading up to Christmas.

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