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The abduction of Western freedom

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Silvia Romano (pictured), the Italian NGO volunteer who spent 18 months in captivity in Somalia, landed at Rome’s Ciampino airport on Sunday (10 May), dressed from head to toe in full Islamic garb. The fact that the 25-year-old woman—who was abducted in November 2018 by Al-Shabab terrorists in Kenya, where she was working on behalf of the Italian charity, Africa Milele, at a local orphanage—returned home in a hijab is cause for alarm, not an expression of freedom of religion, writes Fiamma Nirenstein. 

The radical Islamist world in which the kidnapped Italian girl was indoctrinated during her captivity is antithetical to the Western values on which she was raised. Its mantra boils down to placing death on a higher plane than life, and in subjugating women, non-Muslims and “apostates.” “I have converted to Islam of my own free will,” Romano said upon disembarking her plane from Mogadishu. This is doubtful. It is more plausible that 'Stockholm Syndrome' is behind her becoming a Muslim. Being held captive by for 536 days by Islamist terrorists will do that–particularly, perhaps, to idealistic youth from the West who travel to the Third World for "good causes", and post photos of themselves surrounded by underprivileged children on social media. Romano—whose release was obtained through painstaking efforts of the Italian and Turkish intelligence services and secured with a four-million-euro ransom—nevertheless was defended her abductors.

They treated her well, she said, while only slightly acknowledging their problematic practices in relation to women. These involve subjecting the members of her gender to beatings and torture; turning them into sex saves; and using them to provide offspring for “warriors”—proud mothers of terrorist children. Shuttled across forests and dirt roads between Kenya and Somalia, in the hands of a pack of murderers—that the al-Shabab men certainly are—she might have married one of her kidnappers. If so, he would be one of 7,000-9,000 members of the organization whose founding charter promotes such punishments as limb-amputation for robbery and stoning for adultery. It also sets as its goal the advent of global Islam—an aspiration for which they are willing to die and commit mass murder.

Indeed, Al-Shabab—that routinely recruits suicide terrorists for its missions—has perpetrated so many atrocities that it is impossible to list them all. But the few following examples that come to mind are sufficient to illustrate the group’s blood-lust. These include: the October 2017 bombing in Mogadishu that left 500 dead; the January 2016 slaughter of 180-200 Kenyan soldiers at a military base in Somalia; the April 2015 massacre at the Garissa University College in Kenya, in which 148 mostly Christian students were killed; and the September 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, which left 67 people dead. It is not clear whether Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio were aware of Romano’s change of identity when they went to the airport to greet her and celebrate the victory of her release. In any case, they should have been prepared with remarks to stave off the propaganda that the young woman spouted, either voluntarily or out of transformed stupidity.

Freedom of religion should not be a cloak for pernicious political ideologies. As an Italian citizen and a daughter of democracy, Romano has the right to convert—a right that would not be granted by radical Islamist regimes. But she and her supporters should remember that she was rescued by her country precisely because it is a free democracy.

Nor is the Islam of Al-Shabab merely a religion like any other. It belongs to “Dar al-Harb” (the house of war), rather than “Dar al-Islam” (the house of peace). In other words, it is the enemy of the values that Romano should hold dear. Both Conte and Di Maio, then, should have reiterated the values in the name of which Romano was saved, not shy away from denouncing those responsible for her ordeal. Indeed, they should have announced that the latter have no place in Italy. Their inability to do so demonstrates the way in which Western leaders do not really wish to confront terrorist Islam; they don’t even like uttering the words “Islam” and “terrorism” in the same breath.

As a result, Romano has become a vehicle for the wrong message. Rather than representing freedom from radical-Islamist bondage, she remains a tool for the spread of Al-Shabab propaganda that will resound across Europe. The lesson is that terrorism pays, both literally in the form of cash, and figuratively as a method. Each smile flashed by a government official at the sight of Romano in a headscarf adds another wound to the heart of Western freedom.

Journalist Fiamma Nirenstein was a member of the Italian parliament (2008-13), where she served as vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies. She served in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and established and chaired the Committee for the Inquiry Into Anti-Semitism. A founding member of the international Friends of Israel Initiative, she has written 13 books, including Israel Is Us (2009). Currently, she is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone, and do not represent the opinions of EU Reporter.

EU

Nine EU-supported films compete in the 2021 Berlin International Film Festival

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The 71st Berlin International Film Festival began on 1 March, this year in its digital edition due to the coronavirus pandemicnine EU-supported films and series, three of which are competing for the highest prize, the Golden Bear: Memory Box by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Nebenan (Next Door) by Daniel Brühl, and Természetes fény (Natural Light) by Dénes Nagy. The EU supported the development and co-production of these nine titles with an investment of over €750 000 that was awarded through the Creative Europe MEDIA programme. Targeted to film professionals and media, the Berlinale film festival is hosting the European Film Market, where the Creative Europe MEDIA programme is active with a virtual stand as well as with the European Film Forum. The Forum that will take place online on 2 March will gather various professionals from the industry to discuss the future perspectives for the audiovisual sector in Europe. The Berlinale will run until 5 March, when the winning films will be announced. The second round of this year's festival, ‘The Summer Special', will take place in June 2021 and will open the films to the public and host the official Award Ceremony. More information is available here.

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Yemen: €95 million in EU humanitarian aid for people threatened by conflict and famine

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The European Commission is allocating €95 million in humanitarian support to address the most pressing needs of people in Yemen amid record highs of child malnutrition, an imminent threat of famine and renewed fighting. More than 2 million children as well as over 1 million pregnant women and mothers are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021, while escalating hostilities are forcing thousands of families to leave their households.

The new funding was announced by the Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič, at the high-level pledging event for Yemen on 1 March co-hosted by the United Nations, Sweden and Switzerland. Commissioner Lenarčič said: "The EU does not forget the dire situation of people in Yemen who are once again on the brink of famine after bearing the brunt of the world's worst humanitarian crisis. New EU funding will be essential in maintaining life-saving aid for millions of people, exhausted  after a disastrous year marked by fighting, COVID-19 and further economic collapse. Parties to the conflict need to facilitate the access of humanitarian organisations to those most in need and avoid further civilian suffering. Now more than ever it is crucial that International Humanitarian Law and unrestricted access to those in need are upheld.”

In 2021, EU humanitarian aid will continue to provide food, nutrition and healthcare, financial assistance, water and sanitation, education and other lifesaving support to the conflict-displaced and those in severe need. The press release is available online.

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EU co-ordinating the urgent delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to Moldova

EU Reporter Correspondent

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A consignment of 21,600 doses of COVID-19 vaccines has been delivered to Moldova from Romania to support the country's response to the pandemic. This delivery follows Moldova's request for vaccines through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, to which Romania has responded rapidly with this offer.

Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič said: “I thank Romania for its generous and rapid offer to Moldova. The EU Civil Protection Mechanism continues to facilitate solidarity during the current pandemic. It is only through cooperation and mutual support, within the EU and also outside, that we can have an effective response to COVID-19. Supporting vaccination globally is essential for containing the COVID-19 pandemic: no country in the world will be safe until everyone is safe.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Moldova has already received a range of other offers co-ordinated through the Mechanism:

  • 8 million items including surgical masks, FFP3 masks, protective suits and gloves offered by  Romania;
  • 55 ventilators and 405,000 items of surgical masks, protective gloves and protective suits sent by Czechia;
  • almost 57,000 items of protective face shields and disinfectant liquid made available by Poland, and;
  • more than 6,000 items of examination gloves, hand disinfectant and blankets offered by Austria.

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism has co-ordinated and co-financed the delivery of over 15 million items of assistance to 30 countries to support their COVID-19 response, be it personal protective equipment, ventilators, the reinforcement of medical staff, or, more recently, vaccines. The first vaccine delivery under the mechanism was facilitated last week, when the Netherlands sent 38,610 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, together with other vaccination tools, such as syringes and needles, to the three Caribbean islands of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint-Maarten in response to their request for support.

In addition to the co-ordination of requests and offers made through the Mechanism, the EU also finances up to 75 % of the costs for transporting the assistance.

Background

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism is one of the tools that has been instrumental in providing support to countries requesting assistance during the coronavirus pandemic. Through the Mechanism, the EU is helping coordinate and finance the delivery of medical  and protective equipment and material across Europe and the world, to countries that seek assistance.

In addition, the EU's rescEU medical reserve and the Emergency Support Instrument (ESI) have provided additional key support to member states' health response to the pandemic.

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