What You Can Do for Laura Ling and Euna Lee
A few years ago, I was sitting on my computer when I received an email from my brother, Gotham Chopra. I panicked as I read the words. Gotham was writing from a holding cellbeneath an airport in an Islamic country – he had been detained by theauthorities who were questioning him for suspected activities. Thiswas several weeks before 9/11. Suprisingly, they had put him in a cellwith a computer and an internet connection – and so Gotham was able toemail me!
Gotham was a news reporter for Channel OneNews at the time. (He later helped launch Current TV, and helpedrecruit Laura Ling, one of his best friends, to the network.) Gothamwas overseas doing a story on the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, andhad met several notorious leaders. He was gifted a trigger from anantique rifle by one of them, and had thrown it into his backpack as herushed back to the city to catch their flight. When he was detained,he had the trigger, was of Indian origin with an American passport, andwas carrying $1500 in cash. Considering this nations frayedrelationship with the US, their suspicions were understandable.
Within an hour, I had tracked down myfather, who was able to contact friends in the government to tell themabout Gotham's predicament. Fortunately for us, the authorities hadlet Gotham go before anyone needed to get involved. However, I willnever forget the gripping fear I had thinking about my younger brotherheld in a foreign land that had a tense relationship with the US.
When Laura Ling and Euna Lee were detainedin N. Korea in mid-March, and Gotham was made aware of the situation byhis good friend and Laura's sister, Lisa, we initially had hopes thatLaura and Euna would be returned quickly. Unfortunately, theirsituation took on the worst scenario – they became negotiating pawns ina much higher stakes game, multilateral talks concerning North Korea' srecent missile test and nuclear program. From what we know, and hasbeen reported in the press, Laura and Euna have now been heldseparately for over two months in a boarding house outside of the NorthKorean capital Pyongyang. Without direct relations with N. Korea, theUS State Department has in large part relied on a Swedish diplomat whohas had two brief meetings with the girls.
Laura is a vivacious, passionate, kindperson whom I have admired and enjoyed being around. She is one of mybrother's best friends, and he would do anything for her. And yet, heand Laura's devoted family and other friends, feel helpless.
Euna, from all accounts is equally animpressive and admirable person with a family situation that has madethis predicament all the more agonizing. Both the Ling and Lee familyhave been urged to stay as discreet as possible by the US government,citing that their direct involvement in any sort of public form maycomplicate matters.
As a big sister, who experienced the panicof uncertainty for only a short while when Gotham was detained, myheart goes out to the families of Laura and Euna. Their feeling ofhelplessness must be unbearable.
These are two young women who have sufferedimmeasurably. They have had little to no contact with the outsideworld since their detainment and are now facing an unimaginable fear astheir case is taken to trial in a legal proceeding that has noprecedent in North Korea. They are undoubtedly scared, and hoping thatthose of us back home can do something before their trial.
I pray that Secretary of State HillaryClinton and President Obama, both of whom I admire enormously and havesupported with campaign contributions and votes, heed the call toengage with N. Korea in a responsible way to secure these young women'srelease, as well as address the long term instability of the region. Talks of a mission by Al Gore, former Vice President and founder ofCurrent TV, would demonstrate to the N. Koreans that the US is seriousabout a dialogue. Now is the time to come up withcreative, long term solutions, and new ways of conflict resolution, tosecure the stability for our future generations. Letting Laura and Euna go would be a noble step for the N. Koreans to begin this process.
This coming Thursday, May 21 2009, therewill be a series of candlelight vigils held across the US to pray forthe prompt release of Laura and Euna. I hope you will join if youcan. Please also support my intent – linked here – topray for the immediate release of both girls so they can come home. Forthose of us who feel so helpless, perhaps this is a way that we canmake a statement and take some action for these two young women. Please help spread the word so that we can peacefully bring awarenessto their situation.
If you are on Facebook, you can join the group: Detained In North Korea : Journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, please help. Ifyou are on Twitter, follow @LiberateLaura for updates. They will both announce more details on the vigils. Here is the current schedule and locations.
Los Angeles vigil: 6:30-8:00pm, Stories Bookstore 1716 Sunset Blvd.
Orlando vigil: 6:30-8:00pm, Baldwin Park.
Portland vigil: 6:30-8:00pm, Patton Square Park
NYC candlelight vigil: 6:00-8:00pm, 49th St. at Rockefeller Plaza
Chicago vigil: 1:00-2:00pm, Richard J. Daley Plaza.
- You can help Roxanne Saberi, Euna Lee, and Laura Ling by Gotham Chopra
- What the Captured American Journalists in North Korea Could Mean for Diplomacy by Deepak & Gotham Chopra