Hilal Naim, Iraq, "I was forced to give up my humanitarian work to save my daughter"

BAGHDAD, 5 June 2007 (IRIN) - Hilal Naim, 33, has stopped working with humanitarian agencies in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, after his son was killed and the life of his only daughter threatened by militants.

Naim had never had any trouble in his job or with the local community until militants one day demanded that he give up his job, which involved helping displaced families. When he failed to do so, his 10-year-old son was murdered.

"When I first received a letter demanding that I give up my work, I didn't take it too seriously. Since December 2006, I have received three warning letters, but I always thought it was a joke: no one would kill another person for trying to help others to eat.

"At the beginning of April, however, my son was kidnapped and two days later a man called me to say that my son could be found along a highway in the capital. Desperate, yet relieved, I rushed to bring my son home, but when I reached the place I found police cars blocking the road.

"After stopping my car, I ran to the place happy that the police had found my son. However, when I got there, it wasn't my son at all, but just the smelling remains of his body, his delicate face mutilated.

"Whenever I think about it, I can't stop crying. My beloved Mustafa was dead and I couldn't do anything to save him. I was taken to hospital because they told me that my blood pressure was failing.

"A few hours after my son was buried the telephone in my house rang. My daughter answered and told me that a man was asking for me. When I took the phone, the man on the other end told me this was the price I had paid for not listening to them and that if I continued my work, the lovely girl who had answered the phone would be next.

"I was forced to leave my humanitarian work to save my daughter and since that day I haven't worked again. Sometimes when some NGOs need help in organising convoys, I try to help out a bit, but as soon as I finish, I rush home - afraid that something might happen to my eight-year-old daughter, Ban.

"My wife is a very sick woman, and after Mustafa's death I know life will never be the same again. She cries constantly and cannot work. Sometimes I'm afraid she will do something crazy and I pray to God that he will give us comfort.

"It's hard to imagine the pain of losing one's son. I was just a man who was happy to help his Iraqi brothers with food and clothing. And while I have paid the ultimate price, they blame me for being one of the people responsible for the violence taking place in our country, even though I am just trying to help. My son paid with his life for my humanitarian work, and unfortunately I have had to abandon many people desperate for help because I don't want to lose my daughter now."