TALKING with Kurds at Erbil in Northern Iraq in 1992 is former foreign aid worker Graham Kenna.
TALKING with Kurds at Erbil in Northern Iraq in 1992 is former foreign aid worker Graham Kenna.

Aid worker carried bounty



IN 1992 Graham Kenna had a $30,000 bounty on his head, 25 guards patrolling his house at night and machine gun on his rooftop.

The Tweed Heads man was working in Northern Iraq helping displaced Kurds as part of CARE International's foreign aid mission.

During his two-year placement, his car was blown up, grenades launched over his fence and his bodyguards harmed.

But despite the terror in his life Mr Kenna struck up a friendship with the kidnapped CARE International worker Margaret Hassan.

"My fondest memory is when she met me when I arrived. It had been a 16-hour trip by car, I was two or three hours late and she still met me with a couple of Turkish coffees to make me feel welcome," he said.

"Because of the dangers in the north where I was, part of the mandate was for us to talk regularly - three times a day on the radio."

Mrs Hassan was kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents earlier this month and is believed to have been murdered by her captors.

"I laughed when I saw her capture on TV because she can talk people out of anything. She was a fierce negotiator and would yell and scream and then talk rationally, like they do.

"Now I am dismayed and disappointed that someone who spent 30 years helping them could be murdered by those kinds of people. I am angry they would consider her life to be so cheap. She did so much."

Mr Kenna left his posting in Northern Iraq when the continual danger became too much.

"It became too hot for me in my post. I had guards around the house 24 hours and had to travel in a convoy," he said.

"It saps away at your confidence and the more you see everything happening, you see the hard work you are doing is not being appreciated as much as you would like."

Mr Kenna did not keep in touch with Mrs Hassan after leaving Iraq because he moved throughout Africa on aid missions. He quit the lifestyle two years ago and has turned down repeated offers to return to Iraq.

"I married an African woman and we were at the end of our tether having guns thrown at us. We were on Coolangatta Beach and I told her I didn't want to go back - not for a million dollars a day."



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