Iranians parade captured navy woman in a hijab
Last updated at 00:09am on 29th March 2007 Comments (42)
Kidnapped British servicewoman Faye Turney was forced to cover her head with an Islamic hijab in the first video released by Iran since she and 14 comrades were seized last week.• VIDEO: Watch the footage from Iranian TV here
Faye Turney and the other British marines held captive as they appeared on state Iranian TV. Faye, who describes her captors as ‘compassionate’ has apologised for entering Iran’s waters
Hours after Tony Blair vowed to ‘ratchet up’ the pressure by freezing official business with Tehran, it responded with a stage-managed broadcast described by one senior politician as ‘totally repugnant’.
Pictures showing some of the 15 sailors and Marines – apparently well and eating a meal – provided brief reassurance for their worried families.
But the video footage on state TV of Tehran parading its captives inflamed the worsening crisis – and led to demands for decisive action from the Foreign Office.
Despite world-wide pressure to act, however, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett went no further than to say she was ‘very concerned’ about any indication that the captives had suffered pressure or coercion.
Mrs Turney, 25-year-old mother of a girl aged three, was singled out by the cameras in the first glimpse of the hostages since they were seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards six days ago. Tehran had earlier claimed it was ready to release the sea survival expert ‘very soon’, but she showed clear signs of strain.
Words she was forced to write and speak for Tehran TV, apparently confessing that the Britons had ‘trespassed’ into Iranian waters, spoke of being well treated by her ‘compassionate’ captors.
But the harrowing footage of Mrs Turney, whose husband Adam and daughter Molly wait anxiously at their family home in Plymouth, told a different story.
Gone was the fresh-faced, enthusiastic young sailor filmed by the BBC on HMS Cornwall only hours before the British forces were captured at the mouth of the Shatt-al-Arab waterway.
She was evidently traumatised – at one point seen nervously sucking on a cigarette – in footage which the Foreign Office described as ‘completely unacceptable’ and British diplomats said was a clear breach of the Geneva Convention.
In the broadcast Mrs Turney, filmed in front of brightly-coloured curtains, is heard saying: ‘My name is Leading Seaman Faye Turney. I come from England. I serve on Foxtrot Nine Nine. I have been in the Navy nine years. I live in England.
‘I was arrested on Friday March 23. Obviously we trespassed into their waters.
‘They were very friendly and very hospitable, very thoughtful, good people.
‘They explained to us why we had been arrested. There was no aggression, no hurt, no harm. They were very, very compassionate.’
A letter allegedly handwritten by Mrs Turney and addressed to ‘Dear Mum and Dad’, says: ‘We were out in the boats when we were arrested by Iranian forces as we had apparently gone into Iranian waters. I wish we hadn’t because then I would be home with you all right now.’
She continues: ‘I have written a letter to the Iranian people to apologise for us entering into their waters. Please don’t worry about me. I’m staying strong. Hopefully it won’t be long till I’m home to get ready for Molly’s birthday party and with a present from the Iranian people.’
She ends: ‘Look after everyone for me, especially Adam and Molly, I love you all more than you will ever know.’
Leading Seaman Faye Turney, who was one of the sailors captured, is being kept separately from the other hostages
Not all the 15 captured sailors and Marines were shown during the brief broadcast. Only two other captives have been publicly identified, Marines Danny Masterton, 22, from Muirkirk, Ayrshire, and Paul Barton, 21, from Southport.
Condemnation of the broadcast was immediate. Defence Secretary Des Browne said: ‘It is totally unacceptable to parade our people in this way.’
Tory former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said the pictures were ‘totally repugnant’. He said: ‘This is a PR exercise. If they believed in their own propaganda, they would release all of our personnel.
‘We need to make clear there will be no concessions and they will suffer harsher penalties unless our personnel are handed over.’
War zone: British marines patrolling aboard an inflatable off Basra
Mrs Turney’s husband declined to respond to the Iranian pictures but a friend, Kim Slater, 49, said: ‘It is a very shocking film. She looked very uncomfortable with what she was saying. There is something not right in her eyes. I am sure she has been forced to do that and say those things.’
The dangerous game of brinkmanship at a time of world tension over Iran’s nuclear programme moved to a new level when Ministry of Defence officials told how the Iranians had launched an ‘unprovoked, unprecedented and improper’ attack last Friday.
They published detailed evidence of how heavily-armed Iranian gunships had ‘ambushed’ the British personnel while they were patrolling in Iraqi waters.
Defence chiefs also released satellite pictures and graphics which prove the British boats were well within Iraq waters – despite Iranian claims that they had strayed into their territory.
The data shows that the Navy personnel were 1.7 nautical miles inside the Iraqi part of the Shatt al Arab waterway, which forms a boundary between the countries.
The Ministry of Defence said it ‘unambiguously contested’ claims from Tehran that the UK vessel was in their waters.
Deputy chief of the defence staff Vice Admiral Charles Style said their detention at gunpoint was ‘unjustified and wrong’.
He said the British personnel had carried out an ‘entirely routine’ boarding of an Indian dhow carrying a suspicious cargo of cars off the coast of Iraq.
The ship’s co-ordinates had been confirmed by the Iraqi foreign minister and verified by the Indian vessel’s captain. They confirmed the ship was inside Iraqi waters.
The Vice Admiral also disclosed that the Iranians had changed their account of where the incident had taken place after it was pointed out that the first set of co-ordinates they gave were in Iraqi waters. The Prime Minister, who spoke to George Bush yesterday about the growing crisis, told MPs: ‘It is now time to ratchet up the diplomatic and international pressure in order to make sure the Iranian government understands their total isolation on this issue.’
He also defended the boarding party’s ‘entirely sensible’ decision not to fight back against their captors, as they were heavily outnumbered and it would have led to ‘severe loss of life’.
However the decision is being angrily criticised around the world, particularly in the U.S., with talk of ‘timidity’ and ‘ impotence’ in the face of Iran’s aggression.
One irate critic declared Britain had ‘covered itself with shame’ for failing to show a more aggressive response to Iran.
In a New York newspaper article, military historian Arthur Herman claimed: ‘The escorting ship HMS Cornwall could have blown the Iranian naval vessel out of the water.’ One reader wrote: ‘The United Kingdom is acting like the French. Say what you want about President Bush, but I bet the Iranian madmen are not mad enough to try this on our Navy.’