Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

Welcome Mustafa! We know who hurt you!

Posted: 01/22/2022 by editormary in Uncategorized
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Italian author Roberto Saviano has shared this picture with the following commentary on Facebook. Of course, the Assad regime fans in Italy go into full-on denial, but there is not a word in the caption to his picture that is untrue. (Translated in English below)

“Mustafa, this child who wonderfully smiles in his father’s arms, was not mutilated, he was born without hands and without arms [and legs]. The malformations were caused by the gases inhaled by his mother during Assad’s bombings. The Syrian regime has dumped its chemical arsenal on the country’s civilian population.

This shot, “Hardship of life” by Mehmet Aslan, portrays Mustafa and his father in a refugee camp. Mustafa’s father lost a leg due to a barrel bomb dropped from a regime helicopter.

Last year, this photo last year won the Siena International Photo Award (SIPA), and, thanks to SIPA itself that organised a fundraiser, yesterday Mustafa and his family were able to disembark at Fiumicino airport and will be welcomed in their new home made available by Caritas and the Archdiocese. At the Budrio Prosthesis Centre, little Mustafa will have his limbs given back to him.

The war in Syria continues, though completely forgotten. For years, most Italian populists have argued that the use of gas was a lie, despite evidence brought by independent bodies and hundreds of journalistic investigations. The Assad dictatorship has remained standing thanks to the propaganda of those who claim it’s better to keep him than to be getting ISIS, but in reality, Assad has destroyed any hope of democratic life. It is Assad who has destroyed the democratic Syrian spring that sought to create a secular and free democracy in Damascus. It is Assad who has driven many of the opponents of his regime to flee in exile or enlist in the ranks of Islamist troops.

Assad is among the worst tyrants history has ever known, yet he enjoys a strange fortune: to have managed to be considered a “lesser evil” compared to ISIS; having obtained protection from the Putin regime without facing a real contrast from Western democracies; and to have clung to power at least until the pandemic wiped Syria out of the media narrative.”

📸 @mehmetaslan.photoarts

Written by Mary Rizzo

Vaccinations are widely perceived as useful and necessary, but there is growing civil unrest, as all criticism and dissent to public policies is silenced or demonised. The progressive vision of potential for a positive transformation of a hard-hit society after the tragedy of the pandemic has been all but lost, as worries about the lack of pluralism in the political debate and the fragility of democracy in a what resembles a cultural hegemony are concrete

The vaccination campaign in full swing. PHOTO BY GIOVANNI DIFFIDENTI

A shortened version was first published in German on Bildungswerk Berlin der Heinrich Böll Stiftung

Crawling from the Covid wreckage, “Whatever it takes”

Two years after the outbreak of Covid and its rapid diffusion in Italy, the country still finds itself under a State of Emergency, despite the fact that the data of the vaccination campaign show that Italy outperforms other countries. While Prime Minister Draghi has had the opportunity of boasting of the effectiveness of government policies both at the European Council and the G20, the fourth wave could reserve some negative surprises, so the Health minister is not taking off the table the possibility of extending the State of Emergency into the spring, with other hotly contested restrictive measures continuing through (at least) June. All of this in the midst of establishing a budget law that sees workers losing more rights, and incrementally moving the finish line for retirement further in the distance, an issue in which the reformist left is woefully disinterested and which shockingly met with barely an outcry from the labour unions.

With the vaccination campaign in full swing, since July 2021 there has been a gradual loosening of the closures put on most forms of sport, commerce leisure and cultural activities. A policy of total closure was enforced starting on 9 March and lasting until 18 May, rather than opting for using the WHO recommended preventive and sanitary measures. In essence, investments had to be made to adapt facilities to the new reality, but then the facilities, from cultural centres to gyms, restaurants to shops, were ordered to be shuttered, some for 18 months, as if the loss of these sectors for such an extended time would not damage actors in part of the economy, in what might be seen as a form of “austerity”. The grip applied by the State to some economic sectors has indeed been deadly, after the tragic parenthesis and linguistic shift that determined workers, and not just sectors, being classified as “essential” and “non-essential”. Unfortunately, the fate of those positioned in some forms of labour and entire economic sectors, namely, workers with precarious or no contracts, and the SMEs – that alone represent 78.5% of workers -, is clearly not even close to being a priority.

Draghi, as former head of the European Central Bank and part of the directorate of the Group of 30 think tank, has expressed clear ideas about which workers are expendable. For the think tank that moves from a role of consultant to one of policy-maker when its members become Prime Ministers, the post-Covid philosophy is that not all suffering businesses should be saved and that the choice of recipients of public support should be determined by their potential to be profitable after the pandemic. The two Italian governments in power during the pandemic (Conte’s second legislation, governing during its onset, and Draghi since 13 February 2021) each introduced economic aid packages intended to bring relief to most of the affected actors, but in reality, the aid was deemed by the beneficiaries as insufficient to even meet costs (in the Ho.Re.Ca. sector, for example, of 243 billion euro being lost, only 29 billion was financed, a mere 7%). Access to aid became increasingly limited through the perdurance of the epidemic, as efforts were made to avoid indiscriminate disbursement, and the infamous red tape involved discouraged their pursuit.  This left some businesses unable to even contemplate reopening after the closures were lifted, much less derive a profit from their activities.

In light of all these hardships for the workers and citizens and the clear programmatic tendency toward supporting only the profitable, Covid remains the crux of public policy and discourse, considered as the primary problem to be addressed by those in power, at the expense of other concerns. The State attributed to itself the successes of the vaccination campaign and hard lockdown, while framing any failures a result of the action of individuals and successively, imputing to the anti-vaxxers and the conspiratorial thinking that largely defines and influences their position, all criticism of the governance of a vaccination campaign that is, in the eyes of many, including researchers and public administrators, severely flawed and poorly managed. It did not help matters that the Extraordinary Commissioner for the Covid-19 Emergency  (Army General Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, replacing Domenico Arcuri), responsible for the implementation and coordination of the necessary measures for the containment and contrast of the epidemiological emergency, was issuing contradictory indications for recipients of the available vaccines from one week to the next. Suddenly pulling vaccines, as was the case with the AstraZeneca vaccine which was already given to millions being taken out of circulation in many countries, including Italy, only created confusion, fear and hesitation in the Italian public that takes the saying, “Con la salute non si scherza – Health is the most serious thing” as an oath.

Italy is currently the scenario of a full-blown protest movement, upon which the Ministry of the Interior has put a clampdown as of 12 November, “From tomorrow, all marches will be prohibited, and this is true for all protests, not just the no vax ones,” in the words of Carlo Sibilia, undersecretary of the Ministry, with static sit-ins in areas away from city centres being still allowed. These words reveal the conflation being made between two distinct issues: protests about the vaccination and protests about other measures introduced and the continuation of the State of Emergency. Opposition is not coming only from the anti-vax faction, or the fascist movements, which indeed are present in the dissent, and in the case of Rome, have a massive presence. Dissent is much more capillary, diversified and democratic than the mainstream media lets filter through, and a great deal of it is coming from anarchist and antifascist movements and the reformist and revolutionary left.

The Parliament seems to accept that the Prime Minister’s authoritative “Whatever it takes” statement is peremptory and that all debate is therefore closed. By and large, the mainstream media and the pundits of the centre-right and centre-left political areas have all faithfully reiterated the government line in a narrative that promotes its single-minded approach as sound, as well as unquestionably the only course of action that must be considered so as to safeguard the health and safety of the population. This notion extends to most of the progressive media as well. All this seemingly universal agreement appears so coordinated and harmonious, much more than would even be rational to be expected in a country that often feels like it is in a never-ending electoral campaign.

“The problem, comrades, is not that there is also the right, the problem is that we are not there!”

Italians need to keep in mind the words of Umberto Eco, that freedom and liberation are never-ending tasks. And this holds true even during a health emergency. In these two dramatic years, the lack of real pluralism in the political debate and discussion of containment and recovery measures is noticeable, with citizens and workers feeling excluded from the body politic. When practically all the institutional and communication points of reference exhibit a dangerous lack of critique and display a choral backing of anything the government says or does, it shifts the space for dissent about government measures “to the fringes” of the left and the right, where they are then easily demonised. While all Italians agree that “everything’s changed” and that a return to the past is out of the question, some people see what they label as the government’s obsessive focus on security as continuing to use Covid-19 as a diversionary tactic to bring about policies that otherwise might meet with resistance, since they involve more government control but fewer safety nets, resulting in more polarisation within an exhausted population, which has in effect led to protests demanding change.

While the progressive and revolutionary left is present, it is disheartening that is not organising the street, or as better expressed by a far-left organiser, The problem, comrades, is not that there is also the right [organising], the problem is that we are not there!”.  However, the majority of the protesters may not have any ideological identification at all and, in the narrative, the divergence of the dissent is downplayed. In a constant stream of televised discussions, the line is hegemonic, there’s no hint that the imposition of some measures that many ordinary people are concerned about could be a problem, they are too busy framing the people being worried as the true problem. In essence, all resistance or opposition to measures either dealing with Covid or a consequence to Covid are being articulated as deriving from nationalist-populist-fascist tendencies, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether they actually do or not. This is precisely what is happening with the current wave of protests that are sweeping Italy, and the media coverage that frames it and consolidates public opinion. As was stated by sociologist Luca Fazzi, “When in a democracy it is necessary to emphasise that one agrees with the dominant opinion in order to even have the right to speak, it is cause for alarm … with the result of destroying the very principle of dialectics that is the basis of every truly democratic system.”

The State of Emergency has become the ordinary state

The government didn’t make vaccinations mandatory, possibly out of fear about managing or controlling dissent, but it might also be because the constitution indicates that it would require an intervention of Parliament to impose it, and not just a Prime Minister’s Decree, as has been the mode of governance during the pandemic. Very few politicians would be willing to take the risk of deliberating on such a delicate issue where politicians are never popular (the attitude of the populace toward politicians has been defined as “a culture of perennial resentment” in Foreign Policy). Urging the government to do so was never an aspect of this crisis, although there were some seeing obligatory vaccinations favourably. A journalist of a major far-left site wrote, “A government seriously concerned about safeguarding its own citizens would not have any doubts, it would make [vaccines] mandatory. And it would also assume that substantially small percentage of unpopularity (that 25% of sceptics, the uncertain, doubtful, etc.) as long as they achieved the result.”

Instead, it was chosen to extend the adoption of a certificate that has taken on a totemistic role and extended its range of action, the Green Pass. This is a document valid for 9 months when one is vaccinated or for 48 hours after a negative swab for those who are not. It was introduced by decree and without democratic process or public debate. Initially seen by the general public primarily as an inconvenience when applied to allowing access to restaurants and leisure activities, it revealed itself to also have dangerous discriminatory potential when it became obligatory for all workers as of 15 October and has since become that bridge too far, since each required molecular swab, paid by the individual workers, has an average cost of €72, putting it well out of the reach of many workers. The Green Pass is not in any way medical and the critical issues that exist about its use are serious, though kept far from the political debate. It can be used in a vexatious and discriminatory way in the workplace, and all workers who do not comply with it will be fined, suspended and have their pay frozen. Foreign workers also run the risk of having the renewal of their stay and work permits denied. Its application also involves issues of violation of privacy and tracing. According to Niccolò Bertuzzi, researcher on social movements, Italy would be “the only country in the ‘developed world’ that binds the exercise of any profession at all to the exhibition of a pass that certifies the absence of one sole illness.”

Others in the left claim that the imposition of the Green Pass has a nefarious political project behind it, “Numerous citizens crushed by the crises, whose grievances have been reduced to silence by the continual “emergency” nature of the situations, understand that submitting to an instrument that separates, with substantially arbitrary motivations, who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’ is the definitive weapon to break the back of all resistance.” Its imposition in place of mandatory vaccination “without even bothering to explain the reasons,” is also labelled as “cunning, hypocritical and chaotic” in an editorial in MicroMega, a leading progressive magazine.

If the issue is vaccinating as many as possible, herd immunity has more or less been obtained in Italy. Neither is it a question of bringing the anti-vax movement into the fold of science (which is not going to happen, fears have to be respected, even if they are irrational); the true issue is how the political class will be able to manage, in the respect of human and political rights, the strong dissent to the punitive bureaucratic controls of a slice of the population that refuse them.

Pushed to the margins is the reasoning that a more effective way to fight the pandemic and increase vaccinations could have been to adopt a policy of persuasion, rather than imposing the Green Pass, widely viewed, even by those involved in social solidarity and bioethics as a necessary punitive coercion to vaccinate, (though there is still the contradiction of leaving the citizen free to refuse being vaccinated). Citizens do at some point, even during a health crisis, expect to be treated as beings with agency, and democratic processes and silencing of criticism being put on the back burner to impose diktats (the State of Emergency only serves ostensibly to streamline purchasing and distributing vaccines) is an idea that is tearing at the seams. The hegemony of the institutions does have some cracks though, as authoritative figures outside of politics are questioning these policies, including the virologist Andrea Cristanti, who stated, “After two years, the State of Emergency has become the ordinary state, and this is not acceptable, this demonstrates that they haven’t understood us well enough.” 

Who’s the enemy?

Despite the initial progressive and revolutionary belief of leftist movements that the pandemic would lead to cooperation and a revived sense of community to face the common enemy, (the virus), the reality was instead that the State, which has a low level of trust (in a poll from 2020, only one person in three trusted it), assumed the role as the sole representative of the general interest of the community. This disappointment in a missed opportunity was expressed by activist and author Nicola Casale: “To regain legitimacy, [the State] established measures in which the only possible solution was to put all the responsibility of stopping the pandemic on individual behaviour, up to the point of unleashing a phobia of the other, each one terrorised by the possibility that the other is the public enemy, ready to attack him in case of lack of respect of the social distancing rules. The theoretical potential of the community that could open the way toward a new community of class consciousness was immediately resolved in the opposite direction.” Social cohesion has started to fray as the pandemic has evolved, given the social stigma associated with the carriers of the virus, who were identified to those in their communities, quarantined and often feared or blamed, particularly if they were exposed to the virus through travel or leisure activities.

With a strong belief in the necessity of mass vaccinations, the left, both reformist and revolutionary, has found itself promoting many of the same policies as the government, but unable to suggest an alternative in Italy to the crippling economic measures or the contradictory mode of imposition. It has instead been the fascist movements (organised in parties and movements and eager to ride the wave of discontent) who are attempting to represent themselves as organisers of the people against an authoritarian system that does not engage in a dialogue, much less a deliberation.  “Dissent” in times of Covid is being treated either as a privilege or a deviant activity. There is indeed considerable political disaffection of the populace in a country where the governments formed don’t usually represent the will expressed by the voters, since coalitions can be forged and smitten without any reflection on the popular vote, seen most recently in the record low turnout for widespread administrative elections in October.

No one can deny that the two administrations governing during Covid have wielded an unspeakably immense power in imposing a generalised national lockdown during what has been, objectively, the most stringent lockdown in the world. According to Global Risks Insights, “The government’s ‘stay at home’ strategy became increasingly hard to implement after it became clear to the public that the vaccine rollout had stalled and there seemed to be no end to the lockdown in sight.” The Italian people exhibited an extreme amount of obedience and compliance, making sacrifices both for the greater good and to avoid punishment, “always confined to the home in a timeless night of the virus.” But over time, public goodwill changed to dissatisfaction and a growing anger at the fact that the government constantly changes the indicators for this required obedience. Nationalised hard lockdown and closures until vaccine. Selective, often inequitable and arbitrary closures and lockdowns. Access restrictions in some closed spaces (Green Pass) until herd immunity is reached. Herd immunity as established by the commission to manage the emergency somehow arbitrarily moving from 70% to 85%, even to 90% and beyond. Division of society where only the vaccinated have the right to work. The policy-makers have done anything and everything to make individuals responsible for the prevention of the collapse of the healthcare system that Covid put to the extreme test, except resolving the problem at the structural level, which would mean reversing the cuts in public health spending, modernising the hospital system, hiring more healthcare professionals and doctors. But that would require too much negotiation and a change of course. In Italy the health system is national only in name, it is actually fragmented into twenty-one different systems, making it all very much based on political patronage, and therefore, extremely discontinuous from region to region.

Technical government mon Amour
At this point, understanding the dynamic between the governed and the distrust of those who govern them is essential for comprehension of the particularly complex Italian situation during the pandemic. The number of governments Italy has had (69 since the republic was formed in 1945, making it an average of one new government every 13 months) can strike people as surprising, but it is telling as to the amount of political fragmentation that exists in this country’s politics.  Following the collapse of the second Conte government through the ultimatum of a junior member of the coalition, the technocrat Draghi was called in by the President of the Republic who said it would be too much of a risk to hold elections at this point in the pandemic. If a parliament cannot reshuffle the coalition, the President has the liberty to decide whether to call elections or postpone them to an undetermined point in the future. Italians actually never know when they will be voting or which parties will be created and dissolved in the meantime. This tends to distance the public from the political sphere. It was never made clear how voting during a pandemic might be too much of a risk, and considering a period of time when voting is not permitted at all (six months before the election of the President of the Republic by the parliament for a seven-year term) this leaves enormous power in the hands of a few. The one thing that the pandemic situation has made clear to all is that a handful of people can sink and form governments without a popular mandate or a large parliamentary representation, and then govern by decree or with votes of confidence.

The current government is a “national unity” coalition representing the entire political spectrum present in parliament with the exception of one party, defined as “the Cutting Edge of Post-Democratic Governance” in The Jacobin. The catch-all movement that won the majority in the last general election (MoVimento 5 Stelle) has lost almost all public support in polls and the governing style assumed by each successive government is more “top-down”, using a strategy of personalisation of leadership and consolidating it in the management of the Covid crisis where “the source of legitimacy has shifted from traditional democratic procedures to the use of emotional capital,” in the view of researchers for Frontiers in Political Science.  Almost all policy by the Conte II government has been due to the use of Prime Minister’s Decrees (avoiding legislation), with panel of “experts” providing guidance. Nearly weekly televised messages to the Nation were focused on announcements of more Decrees and a call to personal responsibility. With the health emergency, democratic institutions were left out of the decision making, and the die was cast for the normalisation of a paternalistic pinnacle of power that prefers decrees to deliberation, and it doesn’t matter whether this individual’s entitlement to power is based on charisma or expertise.

As in other countries, parliamentary right-wing forces that act like opposition serve a long-established function. They represent a fake opposition able to intercept the real discontent and channel it to where it cannot cause any damage to the system. But they also provide an outlet for those in the centre or left who defend the system to silence or slander all of the discontent that cannot be tapped into by the right-wing and by the fascist-inspired forces, by associating all dissent with them. In essence, all resistance or opposition to measures either dealing with Covid or a consequence to Covid are being articulated as deriving from nationalist-populist-fascist tendencies, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether they actually do or not. If, as the majority of Italians, one gets all news from the television or mainstream press, they would think there was a sole fascist “mastermind” behind dissent. This is precisely what is happening with how the media coverage is framing the current wave of protests that are sweeping Italy, while a closer look reveals a much different picture. The heart of the protests has actually been organised by social movement unionism.

Democracy means that the freedom of the individual has to be filtered by collective freedom, but also that the freedom of the community is achieved only with the freedom of all its members: in a true democracy, there is no demand that everyone comply with a sole possible worldview or idea, even when that idea is elevated into to being for the common good. Instead, as long as we are in a democracy, the thoughts of everyone are to be respected and divergence of opinion is to be allowed and especially, dissent is not to be silenced, vilified or misrepresented.  Two years into this pandemic, the dialogue between different analyses has been shut down, in a Manichaean way, every issue has two clear sides and no compromise is possible: on one side or the other of the Green Pass, the discourse is reduced to either saving the community through the necessity of restrictions that unfortunately might be discriminatory, but these are the times and this is the demand, and all those against it are anti-science and a danger to society or, alternatively, that Italians are living in a “health dictatorship” where our free choice and freedoms are no longer a value and we are living in a regime that has put democracy on hold. There is no middle ground in the public discourse when maybe each side contributes some valid points which require addressing. In the same way, parliamentary deliberation to address the structural causes of the health service being in such precarious condition is off the tables right now, given the health emergency and political climate.

The weakness of the system itself and its difficulty in dealing with dissent are barely touched upon (if at all) by all the pundits and journalists, and now we are at the boiling point and the only way out is for those who govern to loosen the reins, declare the state of emergency to be over and begin democratically managing the Covid crisis as part of ordinary administration of a pluralistic democracy acting in its full powers and not an eternal sword of Damocles where obedience is required and persuasion is eschewed. Then the polarisation will be fitfully ended because the actual thing that exists that pits the system against “the people”, its unilateral power to control freedom of movement and prevent people from going to work, school or even leaving the house, will have no reason to exist. At present, there is a total avoidance to utter the concept of this clash between State and population, as if we aren’t witnessing it and to speak of it at this delicate moment (if not now, when?) would break the spell. It would mean that the government is in reality not strong, but weak, and must resort to a monopoly on discourse or vilification of dissent every time its control is too severely challenged.

van a casa greta a casa

Written by Mary Rizzo

Hundreds of articles, thousands of comments and dozens of conjectures have emerged since the liberation of Greta Ramelli and Vanessa Marzullo from their imprisonment in Syria. Reading them, I am continually shocked by the content, mostly because the relationship of the content of these articles with reality is close to nil. And, of course, since those of us who know these women have acted responsibly, following the instructions of our government to keep press silence for their sake, it has given space to the vultures and monsters of orientalist, conspiracy, reactionary yellow journalism, who see in them all the ingredients for their “articles”: beautiful young maidens who are victims of the evils they embraced. Articles are coming out basing their research on the trash articles full of falsehood and insane conjecture, because during those endless 5 and a half months, the trash writers had free reign and their inventions, which will naturally be held up to scrutiny now that it is possible to respond to them, and certainly lawsuits will arise from the defamation they contain.

Five and a half months where those who know, and those who know better, were discouraged from expressing in public our solidarity, prohibited from making marches, creating petitions, even from something so simple as making a supportive page in Facebook. Asking activists to go against their instincts of protesting, getting into the streets and involving the general public in awareness raising activities is asking a lot of them, especially if the thing they are being asked to do is to keep silence regarding persons they know and love very much. But this was done, some of us suspending our feelings of disappointment in how our government works, and simply trusting them and obeying them. Our government pulled through and fulfilled their obligation to bring back our co-citizens who were victims of criminals in a foreign country. We are so grateful to them for their efforts and thrilled at their success.

There are other Italians who are not so happy about it though. One of them, for instance, is a former minister, Luca Zaia who says, (taking the words of some unknown “Tweeter” account statement as legitimate against the word of his own government that states that no ransom was paid and international laws were adhered to) “there has to be a norm for whoever gets themselves in trouble, they have to find their own way to get out of the mess.” He suggests that the goods of the families of Greta and Vanessa should be confiscated for life, to repay the Italian State, in fact.  All of that is pretty rich coming from someone who, when he was minister of Agriculture brought upon the Italian State fines amounting to 2.4 billion Euros for not adhering to EU limits of milk production, “The smooth operators and cheaters in the milk quotas have cost us Italians 4.5 billion Euros. In 2009 then Minister of the Northern League Zaia bailed out the “tax evaders” and denied the Revenue Agency Collection the right to get back the amounts paid by the State on their behalf.”

Then there are those who say they were involved with Jihadis and militias of every kind. Others who say they ought to have stayed in Italy and taken care of our many poor and needy. Still others say they had no preparation to go where they went to do what they claimed they were there to do. Neither of the first two groups have the faintest idea of who Greta and Vanessa are. They don’t know that they have been involved in the humanitarian aspect of what is a war zone. They have absolutely a point of view, given their interest and knowledge of the situation, and it is impossible to remain “neutral in the face of oppression” or pretend that there is not a war going on and know how it started and what areas are suffering the most. They don’t know that they also have volunteered and been trained in Italy and other countries, and that they were not “sent” by anyone. It seems peculiar to these people that young adult women can have a grasp on a very complex situation. Just because those condemning them don’t have a grasp, they assume it should be the same for Vanessa and Greta. The third group of critics has a slight advantage in that while they are wrong about them being totally unprepared, they are right that this kind of volunteer work in a war zone has absolutely no rules and anything can happen, even to the most prepared person, so this is all the more true of two individuals representing a humanitarian group they were the founders of, without a history of safety regulations and a staff to organise every particular up to the smallest detail.

Those who doubt their sincerity, however, or why they should be so involved in Syria, evidently have not had the same exposure to the information that the women have had. Ones who are informed of the situation of the Syrian population, who have learned about the suffering and the slaughter of innocent people, particularly children, simply can’t just shut it off. It becomes a sort of obsession, a constant suffering. There are simply people in the world, empathic and humanitarian people, and Vanessa and Greta are two of them, who when they see the suffering of others, enter into a state of profound com-passion. They feel it fully, they share in the pain and it becomes so deeply felt that they feel that their duty is to help, they cannot NOT help. They believe in the power of love and the human duty to not look away but to do like others have done before them throughout the history of the world, where the people we are given as examples for life go to the den of the leper and embrace him, to make him feel that he is not alone in the world and to try to heal his wounds. They knew that their aid might be a drop in the bucket, but the power of sharing the suffering, taking part and witnessing, that is something that they felt compelled to do, and all the friendly advice of those who love them could not change the path that they set before them, to BE THERE for others. If there are those who doubt this sentiment can exist, I say, they are surrounded by grey people, and when they find themselves alone and in pain, they may not have someone there to stand by them, that kind of thing is not contemplated in their world. But this is the world of Greta and Vanessa, the world of compassion and sharing in the burden.

It is disgusting to read the various comments by people who only criticise them or even smear or defame them. But it is good to realise that they come from a world that is alien to mine and to that of Greta and Vanessa, who are thankfully enjoying the support of many, despite the louder voices of the vile and vulgar ones. In schools across Italy (if I take for an example my own child’s high school) the “hour of religion” – yes, Italian public schools have this, and given that the students prefer to stay together during the day, even those who are not Catholic participate and they are basically classes where ethics and current events are discussed – all of the students applauded the girls, said they were proud of them, admired them, thought they were the best representative of humane ideals, but simply that they were wrong to have underestimated how dangerous it was and to have caused their families the worry. In Italy, unlike America, young people often live at home even after they reach 18, and independence is not complete, though the right to make important decisions is recognised, it is still considered necessary to obtain parental approval for some things, and in this case, the students of my child’s class thought that this was the only thing they did wrong. It seems that 17 year olds have a better understanding than 50 year olds sometimes…..

But there is one subject that remains to be discussed, and that is how it happened. All we know is that despite the media circus, the “jihadi” theory is ridiculous and so is the one that they were working for the FSA. The dynamics are going to come out in time, and rather than the weak little Pollyannas that some may have thought they are, the two Italian women are proving to be stronger than lions. They not only had to undergo the horrors of their imprisonment, but they are fully collaborating with the magistrates who are investigating the kidnapping. They, in the first place, who believe in justice and dignity, are not going to withhold any information that leads to the arrest of those who are responsible for their abduction and detainment against their will. It is possible that those who are responsible don’t live in a war zone, so justice may indeed be served.

It is said that in their auditions before the investigators, who have opened the case to investigate and ultimately prosecute those responsible, they were aware of the reason they were abducted the moment they were taken away, because they asked, “Why??” and the response was, “For money”.

Yes, this is where those of us who not only love and admire Vanessa and Greta now have to take a stand. We, like them, believe in justice, human rights and most of us also support the revolution against Assad. We are quite willing to condemn any and every group and individual who not only has violated the rights of humanitarians but who have betrayed the very cause of opposition to Assad if they engage in actions that are against human rights and harm innocent people. If it is true that, as they admit, they were in a place considered as safe, only for it to instead have been a trap artfully set up by those who acted like friends only to betray them, then this is not going to be buried under the rug because it is shameful. Instead, we trust more than ever our authorities to investigate, find the evidence that will prove that they have been set up by guys who boast of their importance inside Syria with the oppostion and their excellent and safe connections, and there is going to be no rest if it turns out that these are individuals who are hiding behind the Syrian revolution flag or acting like they are for the overthrow of Assad or even if they are (as they may claim) greatly respected by the revolutionaries and even influential in Syria. If their tactics are the same, treating innocent people like merchandise, a cheap form of human trafficking, it is all the more shameful because it has brainwashed itself that it’s for “the cause”. It’s not for any cause that Vanessa and Greta and the rest of us stand for. If it is a person or persons involved in the opposition militia, my personal wish for them is that they simply keep on as they are doing, because even if they achieve martyrdom, they are not going to ever achieve Janna (paradise) because they have committed a crime so heinous that there is no way to atone. They will learn what imprisonment is, eternally.

If they have even the thought that the lives of these women have X value and they tricked them or led to them being tricked, then they are no different than what we are against, and they, hopefully soon exposed, should be made to pay their debt with justice until their last day on earth. They are not going to find any “friends” who cover for them or pat them on the back or who justify what they have done. Whoever it is, may they feel that the circle is closing in on them, and the sooner the Syrian people are rid of such traitors, the better. It is also unfortunate that thanks to situations like this, other humanitarian efforts are thwarted, relief to the suffering Syrian population is going to be denied and the end of the Assad regime is going to be set farther ahead. Yes. Thanks to the betrayal of such kinds of persons against all that is good and right, who abuse trust and good faith and the purity of decent people. They betray all of Syria by their actions.

Lastly, we thank Greta and Vanessa from the heart for proving to us that there is indeed humanity, for being the beautiful people they are. We wish for them only the joy, happiness, serenity they deserve so much and we are thrilled that they are reunited with their families who strongly supported them and went through their own suffering, but who are not punitive, because there is nothing to punish heroes for, because it is a blessing to be in the midst of heroes, humanitarians and persons who know the meaning of the phrase, “stay human”. No matter what choices Vanessa and Greta make in life, we stand by them, we trust them and we love them, and hope we are going to be worthy of them.

we must work to get all instigators to this atrocious crime prosecuted legally and their evil doings blocked

(segue l’ italiano) Today I finally was able to talk to people at the Italian foreign office. Journalists who are card carrying ones get directed to an office, the rest of us have to fill out a form. this is the phone number: +39 06 36911 if you are a journalist. (They also have ability to receieve calls in English). If you are an ordinary citizen, you talk to someone at THIS number +39 06 36911, where a kind man listens to you and then tells you he is unable to do anything but ask you to use 3000 characters to fill out a written declaration. You may do it in Italian or English. I have written this (the English translation will follow) and I kindly ask all of you to please 1) call them to let them know this is an emergency, 2) fill out the form and ask all your contacts to fill it out as well, 3) pressure at least the Italian Foreign Ministry to do their duty to investigate an instigator to an Italian citizen’s assassination. 4) do the same with any other country you think can help, USA in particular, since this is where the site is. 

this is the URL for the complaint: 

Vorrei segnalare il sito che celebra la morte di Arrigoni ed in più, il suo autore ha istigato alla morte già in data 2009, (con foto della istigazione compreso). Chiedo che Lee Kaplan viene indagato come istigatore della morte ed il suo site chiuso immediatamente. (in italiano). 

in English what I wrote, feel free to use it or modify it as you wish: 

I would like to indicate the site that celebrates the death of Arrigoni and in addition, its author has instigated to the death already on the date of 2009, (with photos of the instigation included). I ask that Lee Kaplan is investigated as an instigator to the assassination and that his site is immediately closed. (in Italian).


Oggi, finalmente ho potuto parlare con la Farnesina. Giornalisti che hanno le qualifiche professionali sono diretti ad un ufficio, noi altri dobbiamo riempire un modulo. Ecco il numero: 06 36911 se giornalista (possono anche ricevere in inglese). Se solo un privato cittadino, puoi parlare con qualcuno a questo numero: 06 36911, dove un signore gentile ti ascolta e dopo averti detto che non potrebbe fare nulla, ti istruisce di riempire il modulo di segnalazione, con 3000 caratteri a disposizione. (in italiano o inglese). Ho scritto il seguente e chiedo gentilmente a tutti di 1) telefonare per farli capire che è un’emergenza, 2) riempire il modulo e chiedere a tutti i contatti la stessa cosa, 3) mettere pressione almeno sulla Farnesina per fare il loro dovere nell’indagine nell’assassinio di un cittadino italiano, 4) fare lo stesso con ogni paese che crediate potrebbe fare qualcosa, in particolare gli USA dove è registrato il sito.

Vorrei segnalare il sito che celebra la morte di Arrigoni ed in più, il suo autore ha istigato alla morte già in data 2009, (con foto della istigazione compreso). Chiedo che Lee Kaplan viene indagato come istigatore della morte ed il suo site chiuso immediatamente. (in italiano). 

in inglese, usatelo o modificatelo come ritenete sia giusto: 

I would like to indicate the site that celebrates the death of Arrigoni and in addition, its author has instigated to the death already on the date of 2009, (with photos of the instigation included). I ask that Lee Kaplan is investigated as an instigator to the assassination and that his site is immediately closed. (in Italian).

Ghedaffi and Italian Foreign Minister Frattini

Eni and Impregilo, Unicredit, Astaldi, Finmeccanica, Fiat, and even Juventus: Italian business deals with GHEDDAFI

I reject this devious Italy, petty trafficker, always nostalgic for its own colonial failure, heavily involved in this massacre of civilians underway, accomplice of the ferocious oppression of a legitimate popular revolt. I reject this accomplice, Italy, debased, asleep

Francesca Antinucci

This reading can be enhanced by this musical accompaniment


for which I thank the wisdom of Doriana Goracci

Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi who kisses Ghedaffi's hand. Classic gesture used in the mafia to denote submission

Summary by Reuters

ENI: The major Italian oil company which has various activities in Libya, among which, long-term (take or pay) contracts. (Clause that is included in purchase contracts, under the basis that the purchased is obligated in all cases to pay, entirely or partially, the price of a minimum quantity of raw materials indicated within the contract, even in the possibility that this material is not withdrawn). The six-legged dog illustrates an investment plan running up to 25 billion dollars in the country. Tripoli had also indicated its intention of purchasing shares in the company.


IMPREGILO, ASTALDI: Impregilo,the leading construction company in Italy, would greatly benefit from the friendly relationship between Berlusconi and Gheddafi, in that they have been pre-qualified for the realisation of a super-highway project in Libya financed by the Italian government of a 5 billion Euros value. The second largest construction company in Italy, Astaldi, has also expressed interest in participating in the project. Impregilo has also been cited as a possible investment target by Libya.  


FINMECCANICA:  The Italian aerospace company in 2009 signed an agreement with Libya for the cooperation in the aerospace sector and in other projects in the Middle East and Africa. The agreement entails the creation of a 50-50 joint venture in which the partners are Finmeccanica and Libya Africa Investment Portfolio. Finmeccanica has also had various contracts with Libya, one of several, last year, for the construction of railways having a value of 247 million Euros. Not to be ignored is the fact that the Libyan Investment Autority holds 2.01% of the shares in Finmeccanica.

UNICREDIT. The Libyan holdings in the banking group are 7.5%, after the acquisition by the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) of 2.59% of the capital. The Central Bank of Libya is another shareholder in Unicredit, with shares for 4.988% of the capital.  

FIAT. Libya came to the rescue of Fiat in 1977, upon the invitation of Giovanni Agnelli, with the acquisition of approximately 15% of the shares by the Lybian Arab Foreign Investment Company (Lafico). The investment gave rise to a strong wave of criticism. Fafico thus sold its shares in 1986, but in 2002 repurchased shares exceeding 2%. At the moment its shares amount to less than 2%. 

Libya, lastly, is active in football as well. Lafico in fact holds no less than 7.5% of the capital of Juventus. Al-Saadi Gheddafi, the Colonel’s son, once a player in the Perugia and Udinese teams, is also a member of the Board of Directors of Juventus. Libya at a certain point also thought of investing in Lazio and had invested in Triestina.

Lafico is also active in the textiles sector, holding shares worth 21.7% in Olcese, according to what is written in the company’s Internet site.  

Further reading:

Translated by Mary Rizzo for We Write What We Like and Gulagnik