BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Friday, 20 April 2007, 12:30 GMT 13:30 UK
Personal plea to Johnston's captors
Kate Burton, a human rights activist, was kidnapped in Gaza in December 2005. She wrote this plea for the release of the BBC's reporter in Gaza Alan Johnston.

I feel helpless. We are all tired. At this point I don't know what to say, and what I will say cannot do justice to the respect I hold for Alan Johnston, and for the people of Gaza for that matter.

I am much tempted to say the usual things: Alan doesn't deserve this, it damages the Palestinian cause.

I know many people have said as much. But at the end of the day it is a question of politics, or other interests, and I feel helpless.

What I really want, obviously, is for Alan to be released.

Kate with one of her abductors

One month is an unbearable amount of time in such circumstances and I honestly cannot imagine how much the solitude and monotony might be affecting him, despite his strength of character, his calm nature and sharp mind.

To those people who are waiting, hoping for and expecting Alan's release every day, I want to convey a brief detail of what my parents and I went through when we were kidnapped in Gaza.

I can in no way imply that Alan is going through the same: he has been held for much longer and is alone.

I can only say that beyond the actual denial of our freedom, those who held us treated us with the utmost respect, and gave us everything we needed in an attempt to maintain our physical strength as well as our morale and psychological well-being.

Our kidnappers constantly repeated the fact that the respect I had earned in the Gaza community deserved the same respect from them towards us.

I am certain that the same is true for Alan, who is held in enormously high esteem in all the occupied Palestinian territories and the world - evident from the sentiments of anger, desperation and sadness shown by journalists and countless solidarity groups worldwide since his disappearance.

To those who are holding Alan Johnston: I guess you are the only people I really want to talk to, because I know that everyone else apart from you already wants what I want.

Alan Johnston
Alan Johnston has been missing since 12 March

I am personally calling on you to listen. I want to remind you who you are: You have families, children, brothers, sisters, people who are close to you, just like Alan is dear to us all.

I know the kind of place you are holding him, the boredom you are feeling, the anger and frustration you are going through.

I know you are watching the TV and following the news and you know now how much Alan means to the people of Gaza and Palestine. You know how much he is respected for his work among the Palestinians during his three years in Gaza.

When no-one else was covering the reality of what is going on in your world, Alan was there.

He described the sonic booms after the disengagement, the electricity shortages after the power plant was hit, the constant and never-ending closures that affect every part of your lives, the massacres, the medical patients suffering at Rafah crossing.

Support for the Palestinians, for your brothers, sisters, daughters and sons, is being destroyed more every day that goes by with Alan in captivity

He was telling your entire story to the world, piece by piece, and now there is no-one left to tell it.

I know your answer will be: What good has it done us? But you know it has done a lot.

The results are always slow but you know there are results nonetheless.

Support for the Palestinians, for your brothers, sisters, daughters and sons, is being destroyed more every day that goes by with Alan in captivity.

If you continue targeting foreigners such as Alan Johnston I fear you are doing the same that Israel did when its troops killed Tom Hurndall, Rachel Corrie and others.

You are pushing away from Gaza those who want to help you get out of the situation your people have been suffering for decades.

You are isolating yourselves, and your people. And I do not believe this is what you want and who you are.

During the time I was kidnapped, I realised that those who had kidnapped me wanted what I wanted for their people: Freedom, economic opportunities, an end to corruption and power imbalances, and an end to the occupation.

But they were trying to achieve it in the wrong way and it was clear that in reality they knew that.

I am asking you now to maintain some self-respect, let down your barriers and let Alan go, and take the opportunity following his release to give your voice afterwards, when people will want to listen.

It is the only way.

I plead with you, for the Palestinian people, for your families, for Alan, for me. This is a well-known expression in Gaza: One who lives 40 days among a people becomes one of them.

Alan is one of you a thousand times over. We are tired. Khalas [enough].

Cairo, 15 April 2007

Alan Johnston was kidnapped after he left his Gaza office on 12 March and has not been heard from since. A little-known militant group has claimed to have killed him, but the BBC says it cannot verify this. There have been international protests over his abduction and tens of thousands of messages of support have poured in for him.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific