Human rights lawyer Ansar Burney - click photo for site
If you've read this blog before, you'll be familiar with the MV ICEBERG I case - 22 survivors out of a crew of 24 men, hailing from six different countries, who have the extremely dubious honor of being the longest-held captives in the history of East African piracy - 127 weeks at this point, and no light at the end of the tunnel. 

You'd think that this very hard-earned distinction would have gotten them some international attention and support by now, but you'd be wrong: not only are the men being ignored by their company, Azal Shipping & Cargo of Dubai, but by their respective governments, human rights organizations, and just about everyone else except their families, who suffer daily agonies along with their captive fathers, husbands and sons. I won't go into the whole case here - click on Iceberg I, Iceberg I Movie, and Iceberg I A. Burney in the Categories column to the right side of the page for previous posts with information and many links to videos and other news about the men. It's a fascinating and shameful story, though unfortunately not an uncommon one. 

Why should you care? If you're a seaman, as are many readers of this blog, then you know that you could be in their shoes one day - hundreds of seamen are captured every year. And if you're any other member of the human community, you know that failing to care dehumanizes those victims - and you, too a little. 

I know that human misery is spread all across our planet, and thinking about the totality of it can be overwhelming - but by the same token, doing something about a piece of it, when you see an opportunity to help, can be one of the most empowering experiences you can have. Moving off dead center to go do a small thing can energize you to do much bigger things than you thought possible. Which God do you worship? I don't think He'd counsel inaction - and neither would your conscience!

One reader who chose to take action is Lauren Phillips - see her comments at the end of the Iceberg I A. Burney post. That post had asked readers whether they knew of any action in the ICEBERG I case since international human rights lawyer Ansar Burney had taken on the case, over a year ago. Lauren took the bull by the horns and tweeted Mr. Burney directly - and she got an immediate answer, saying that he was in fact in UAE talking with ICEBERG I's owners right now. 

Following up on that encouraging response, I contacted Ansar Burney on LinkedIn to ask what the rest of us could do to aid his efforts; I haven't had an answer to that message yet. And also, following Lauren's lead, I tweeted him with the same question. 

Mr. Burney answered, but requested no specific action - just a general call for support. In his second tweet to Lauren he said:  "am also looking International support in this regard to get them release as soon as possible as 2 already committed suicide" and then in response to me: "Sure would love to request with every human lover for their help to get release innocent Crew from Somali Pirates" 

These are pretty innocuous-sounding tweets and were a little disappointing to me at first. But then again, he's apparently in the midst of negotiations at the moment and probably doesn't want to say anything to upset the apple-cart; I'm inclined to give him benefit of the doubt. 

So why don't we take the other ball - his request for help raising international support - and run with it. How could we do that? Aside from what we're doing at the moment - talking about it online, tweeting about it, and generally making people in our own circle aware - is there more effective action we could take?

Lauren has suggested a petition. Have you seen a petition from lately? Several have come into my inbox. is a mechanism for circulating petitions online, and anyone can start one. I think this might be a suitable vehicle, and would certainly get the captive crew's story out to many more people. Here is the site - have a look and see what you think.

The question is: who would we petition? Yemen has the most crew represented among the captives - eight - but I think Yemen would be a less responsive target for a petition, given the challenges that government faces at the moment. 

Captives on ICEBERG I - click photo for another piracy story from The National
India has six crewmembers represented  in the captive crew, and as a democratically governed nation, might be more responsive. I also know that the question of captive Indian nationals in the hands of pirates has generated concern and news coverage there (click photo for representative news story). And India is a large nation that is very influential in the region, with resources they can bring to bear - if they will. Perhaps a petition could encourage them.

If we chose India, to whom in the Indian government should the petition be directed? Someone in the ministry of shipping - or external affairs? Here's where you can help, if you've any experience with Indian government affairs. 

Help us identify a target for our petition - we'll launch it on, and all of us can push it from there.  Our immediate goal will be to help the ICEBERG I's crew, but the pressure should bring greater visibility to all captive seamen.

Can you help direct our petition? Please recommend a ministry and an official that might be able to act on behalf of ICEBERG I's crew. Respond in Comments with your information. I'll be researching the question, too. We'll have another post on the subject in about a week, I hope - sooner if someone has the information we need - and I'll post links to the petition and ways to spread the word. Thanks - and God bless you!

9/7/2013 04:17:28 pm

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