November 11, 2010

UK Aid Workers Taken Hostage in Libyan Waters


The Road to Hope Convoy has finally made it to Gaza. Check out Ken O’Keefe’s blog for the latest details.

Birgit Lenderink, elephant journal’s most direct source of info regarding this post, has a few comments to offer on the events of the past few weeks:



While CNN and BBC are perfectly willing to spoon feed me the latest details about the fate of the Haitian people or the botched elections in Myanmar, they are poignantly silent about such things as the skyrocketing hunger and malnutrion rates in Gaza as a result of the now 3 year old blockade.

The media’s silence on what is really going on there means that we the public are a lot less likely to rally round and lend our support.

And while the Obama administration makes the occasional perfunctory admonishments about the continued settlement building on occupied land, thus hampering the “peace process,” they are usually accompanied by statements strongly affirming the U.S.’s unwavering and unconditional support of Israel. The net result is zero change for Palestinians living under subhuman conditions for subhuman lenghts of time.

A few months ago, I was called an anti-semite for posting something that was critical of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinian people on Facebook:


The fellow who, until then, had been a neighbor and a friend of mine chose to make an example of me by tagging me with a public service message about anti semitism. It turned into a Facebook brawl that only his friends could see untill I finally angered him to the extent that he unfriended me. In a final note sent by e-mail he said that as a meditator, “I should know better.”

As a meditator, I am all for doing tonglen practice for people in Gaza. But I think we can and should do more.

I applaud people like Cynthia McKinney, Ellie Merton, Ken O’Keefe, Anna Baltzer, Rachel Corie and many many others whose names we shall never know, ordinary citizens from all over the world, with extraordinary inspiration, willing to risk their lives to right the wrongs that are being perpetrated on the people of Gaza with our money and in our names by our governments who quietly condone it by fundamentally saying and doing nothing to stop them.

We are not all in a position to do exactly what they do but by lending them our support, even if it is just to say that we care, we spread awareness. Without awareness of the situation there can be no tipping point.

What would Ghandi’s march to the sea have come to if not for the world’s awareness of it?

And how would that awarenes have been won if not for the millions of ordinary citizens who joined in along the way, and also those all over the world paying attention to what was happening through newspapers and news reels?

Delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza, either by sea flotilla or land convoy, despite the total blockade that Israel has put Gaza under (Israel is currently letting nothing in or out except for Israeli goods going in) is like the modern day Salt Satyagraha. And like that Satyagraha it is not without its casualties.

Despite attempts at silencing the media on the part of British telegraph operators in 1930’s India, the Salt Satyagraha succeeded in drawing the attention of the world.

If only we could say the same for the flotilla and convoy satyagrahas of the past few years. Only in the most dire circumstances, such as the attacks on the Mavi Marmara in international waters and in which 19 humanitarians lost their lives in May of this year, does the mainstream media feel obliged to report on them..

On Oct 10, 2010, the Road to Hope Convoy, loaded down with humanitarian aid, set out from London to reach Gaza overland via France, Spain, Morocco, Libya and Egypt. Everything went swimmingly untill they hit the Egyptian border. Egypt found reasons not to let them through to Gaza. The convoy tried to negotiate passage for 2 weeks to no avail. Finally money was raised to continue the journey by sea from Al Arish then Derna. In Derna things took a wild turn when the captain of the ship illegally broke the ship’s moorings, ramming the dock and taking off with 10 of the convoy participants who now find themselves arrested in Greece and are under suspicion of being terrorists.

Though I have not heard a peep about it on the news, I have been able to follow what’s going on on Facebook by participants who are managing to text in updates on their situation there.

This is where you find your modern day satyagrahis, congregating, sharing information, brainstorming and responding to requests for action. Ken O’Keefe’s Facebook page has become information central for the convoy.

When they were stuck at the Egyptian border I asked Waylon Lewis, creator of Elephant Journal, if he could post something about the current situation, pleading total media blackout.

Elephant, Salem news and a smattering of other “micro” media institutions started posting updates on the situation. When things took a bizarre turn in Derna, as expected, finally BBC, CNN and Reuters started posting too.

Still nothing on TV though..

It is 11:52 PM Costa Rica Time (where this Satyagrahi currently lives). The latest Post on Ken’s page urges people to “Please contact the Greek Embassies and demand the RELEASE of the 10 Road to Hope humanitarians, kidnapped and taken to Greece

CALL THE EMBASSY: (USA) 202.939.1300


Ken O’Keefe’s statement and clarifying remarks on the kidnapping.


Video footage of ship leaving Libya:

Updated info on Ken O’Keefe’s blog.

What follows is the original post:

Last week we ran this story on the recent Road to Hope Convoy to Gaza. At the time of the post, the convoy was stranded on the Libya/Egypt border en route to Gaza. Egyptian authorities were refusing to let anyone from the group pass through Egypt to Gaza. Since then, the situation has changed dramatically. Ten members of the convoy have been taken hostage aboard a ship that had been chartered to take them to the Egyptian city of Al Arish.

Ken O'Keefe, one of the hostages on board the Strofades IV

Writer Ken O’Keefe is a member of the convoy. He has been texting updates via Facebook on the situation as it develops.

The following are Ken’s most recent reports (beginning a few days before the convoy embarked on the ship):

“We are racing to catch the ship to Al Arish, 30 of us, including
myself, are on the ship. The will fly to meet us there. Barring
further delay, we will be in Gaza within the next few days.
Several survivors of the Mavi Marmara still with a green light to go.
Wish us all good fortune. To our family in Gaza, we hope to see you

The group plans to disembark in Al Arish (point C), and make their way from there to Gaza (point A)

“55,000 dollars have been transferred for ship payment, despite this
the Greek owner of the ship (the Strofades IV, Malta flagged) is
currently refusing us to board the ship…
Call Egyptian officials and embassies and urge them to confirm our
right to travel with this ship.

“We are with the ship owner on the ship now, negotiating terms to travel.”

“We have negotiated for all of the convoy members to travel with the ship to Al Arish, for an additional fee. All in all this is good news. Myself and Saeb Shaath remain on the ship to ensure it does not depart without all of us and our aid/vehicles. Now we just need to urge Egypt too allow all os us to reach Gaza as one.”

“Now the captain is threatening to leave without us despite 75,000 dollars being paid to his agent for the charter of this ship. We are on the verge of stand off using our bodies on the back of the ship.”

“Captain still crazy, has rammed the dock and nearly another ship. Call the media, have them call my Libya mobile 0020918020981”

“We are being forcefully taken out of the harbour with the captain going crazy ordering the ship to leave!!!”

“The captain has left the harbour, we are 10 captives.”

Ellie Merton, London Liason for the Road to Hope Convoy

Ellie Merton (apparently the organizer of the convoy, and one of the people who had planned to fly in to Al Arish to meet the convoy’s ship) has also been posting updates:

“EMERGENCY – the Greek ship Captain’s gone nuts. He’s had a row with the Egyptian agent who was passing over the charter payment. Instead of waiting till morning, the Greek Captain has yanked the ship off moorings, with 10 Convoyers and some Libyan police already onboard. They are hostages now. Captain ploughing on out of Derna port. Very dangerous.”

Ellie’s latest post:



“Strofades IV” has broken its moorings, without port permission, and is heading out of Derna Harbour.

The rear door of the ship is half closed, with convoy vehicle B7 stuck on it precariously.  It is extremely dangerous.

In the lower deck of the Ro-Ro (rollon rolloff) ship are held hostage:

  • 3 Libyans – (2 port authority policemen, with Colonel Salahuddin Rashin, Manager of Derna Port)
  • 1 Moroccan
  • 1 Algerian
  • 2 Irish
  • 6 UK nationals

The violent Greek owner who is also its captain of “Strofades IV” has just disembarked (as at 22.50 GMT) through a side door of the ship, onto a speed boat.  His speed boat has made for another cargo vessel in Derna the harbour – “Odin Finder”.

None of our guys now know who is in charge of Strofades IV, or where it is destined to go.

The ship is empty, apart from the hostages and single convoy vehicle jammed in the doorway.  It is making rapid headway to get out to sea.

The matter is a serious breach of every maritime law possible.

We have asked all relevant Embassies to supply urgent, immediate, consular assistance.

We are EXTREMELY concerned for the safety of all the nationals on board.”

Further updates will be posted as soon as they become available.

The Salem News has been posting frequent updates on the situation.

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