Kenji Goto (後藤 健二 Gotō Kenji, 23 October 1967 – c. 31 January 2015) was a Japanese freelance video journalist covering wars and conflicts, refugees, poverty, AIDS, and child education around the world. In October 2014, he was captured and held hostage by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants after entering Syria in the hopes of rescuing Japanese hostage Haruna Yukawa. On 30 January 2015, he was beheaded by his captors following the breakdown of negotiations for his release.
|Native name||後藤 健二|
23 October 1967|
Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan
|Died||c. 31 January 2015
Near Raqqa, Syria
|Cause of death||Murder by decapitation|
|Alma mater||Hosei University|
|Parent(s)||Junko Ishido (mother)|
Goto was born on 23 October 1967 in the city of Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. After graduating from Hosei University in Tokyo in 1991, he worked for a media production company before establishing Independent Press in 1996. He also worked with U.N. organizations including UNICEF and the U.N. Refugee Agency.
Reporting from war-torn countries around the world, especially in Africa and the Middle East, he focused on the life and humanity of the ordinary citizens in difficult times. His works include books and DVDs on blood diamonds and child soldiers in Sierra Leone, the Rwandan conflict and its survivors, a teenage mother in an Estonian "AIDS village", and girls and education in Afghanistan. In 2006, he won the Sankei Children's Book Award for his 2005 book titled Daiyamondo yori Heiwa ga Hoshii (I Want Peace Rather Than a Diamond). His video reports appeared on Japanese national networks including NHK and TV Asahi.
Kidnapping and beheadingEdit
Despite being warned three times by the Japanese government in September and October 2014, both by telephone and in person, not to return to Syria, Goto entered Syria on 24 October 2014 via Turkey to rescue a Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa, who had been captured by Islamic State (ISIL) militants in August. He was reportedly captured by ISIL members the following day. He appeared in a video released by ISIL militants on 20 January 2015, in which they demanded $200 million from the government of Japan for the lives of Goto and Yukawa. His mother, Junko Ishidō (石堂 順子 Ishidō Junko), made a plea to ISIL to spare her son at a press conference held at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo on 23 January.
On 24 January, ISIL released a picture of Goto holding a photo of decapitated Haruna Yukawa. In an audiotape accompanying the picture, Goto read a message in English blaming the Japanese government for the death of his "cellmate" and claiming that ISIL would spare Goto's life and exchange him for Sajida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi, an attempted suicide bomber who participated in the 2005 Amman bombings. On 29 January, Goto's wife, Rinko Jogo, released a plea to his captors through the Rory Peck Trust, a UK-based organization that supports freelance journalists.
On 31 January 2015, ISIL released a video that showed Goto being beheaded. It was later reported that he had been moved to the town of Tal Abyad near the Turkish border with Syria on 29 January in preparation for a possible exchange with al-Rishawi, but when it became apparent that the exchange would not be taking place, he was taken back to a location near the city of Raqqa in Syria, and killed on the morning of 30 January, local time.
Following the release of Goto's beheading video by ISIL on 31 January, many major Japanese television outlets, including NHK, Nippon Television, TBS, Fuji Television, and TV Asahi, suspended their normal programming schedules to provide breaking news coverage on this event. Some foreign media outlets noted a rather skeptical and critical response by the Japanese public regarding the two hostages. The Japanese public responded in a similar way to three Japanese citizens who were also taken hostage in Iraq. Public outrage of their naïveté compelled the Japanese government to bill them for their return airfare to Japan after their release. The general public sentiment in Japan towards these hostages has been that they are to be blamed for putting themselves deliberately in harm's way, while the Japanese government and taxpayers are pressured to pay the price to get them back.
Before Goto was murdered, a tweet he posted to Twitter in 2010 went viral. As of 8 February 2015[update], it had been re-tweeted more than 40,000 times. In it, Goto said, "Close your eyes. Bear it. If we become angry and yell, we are doomed. This is like prayer. Hate is not what humans should do. Judgement lies with God. That is what I learned from my Arab brothers." (目を閉じて、じっと我慢。怒ったら、怒鳴ったら、終わり。それは祈りに近い。憎むは人の業にあらず、裁きは神の領域。－そう教えてくれたのはアラブの兄弟たちだった。)
- Daiyamondo yori Heiwa ga Hoshii: Kodomo Heishi Muria no Kokuhaku (ダイヤモンドより平和がほしい : 子ども兵士・ムリアの告白, English translation: We Want Peace Not Diamonds: A Confession by Child Soldier Muria) (July 2005, Choubunsha Publishing), ISBN 9784811380018
- Eizu no Mura ni Umarete: Inochi o Tsunagu 16-sai no Haha Natasha (エイズの村に生まれて : 命をつなぐ16歳の母・ナターシャ, English translation: Born in an AIDS Village: 16-year-old Mother Natasha Trying to Stay Alive) (December 2007, Choubunsha Publishing), ISBN 9784811384740
- Ruwanda no Inori: Naisen o Ikinobita Kazoku no Monogatari (ルワンダの祈り : 内戦を生きのびた家族の物語, English translation: Prayers of Rwanda: The Story of a Family Surviving Civil War) (December 2008, Choubunsha Publishing), ISBN 9784811384979
- Moshimo Gakkō ni Iketara: Afuganisutan no Shōjo Mariamu no Monogatari (もしも学校に行けたら : アフガニスタンの少女・マリアムの物語, English translation: If I Could Go to School: The Story of Afghanistan Girl Mariam) (December 2009, Choubunsha Publishing), ISBN 9784811386119
- 後藤 健二 [Kenji Goto] (in Japanese). Independent Press. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
- Keleny, Anne (3 February 2015). "Kenji Goto: Journalist murdered in Syria who highlighted the horrors of war by focusing on its effects on children and families". The Independent. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
- Yamaguchi, Mari (22 January 2015). "How the lives of hostages Yukawa and Goto became intertwined". The Japan Times. Japan: The Japan Times Ltd. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
- Yoshida, Reiji (20 January 2015). "Islamic State threatens to kill two Japanese hostages". The Japan Times. Japan: The Japan Times Ltd. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
- Slodkowski, Antoni (21 January 2015). "Japanese reporter's bid to save friend led to Islamic State abduction". Tokyo: Reuters. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
- Kameda, Masaaki; Otake, Tomoko (22 January 2015). "Respected journalist Goto aims to tell world of Syrians' suffering". The Japan Times. Japan: The Japan Times Ltd. p. 1. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
- Sekiguchi, Toko (3 February 2015). "Japan Says It Warned Goto Against Entering Syria". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
- Justin, McCurry. "Mother of Japanese Isis hostage Kenji Goto makes tearful appeal". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
- "Goto's final days saw him swapped between Islamic State factions". The Japan Times. Japan: The Japan Times Ltd. 3 February 2015. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
- "Japanese premier vows to save Islamic State group hostages". AP. 20 January 2015. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
- "後藤健二さんの母・石堂順子さん「日本はイスラム諸国の敵ではない」イスラム国に人質釈放を訴える." Huffington Post. 23 January 2015. Retrieved on 2 March 2015.
- McCurry, Justin (23 January 2015). "Mother of Japanese Isis hostage Kenji Goto makes tearful appeal". The Guardian. Tokyo: Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
- Hjelmgaard, Kim (30 January 2015). "With fate of ISIS hostages in limbo, wife issues emotional plea". USA Today. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
- McCurry, Justin (31 January 2015). "Isis video purports to show beheading of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
- 後藤さん30日に殺害の情報 操縦士も、ヨルダン専門家 [Goto killed on 30th, Pilot too, according to Jordanian expert]. 47 News (in Japanese). Japan: Press Net Japan Co.,Ltd. 1 February 2015. Archived from the original on 23 February 2015. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- Ripley, Will; Wakatsuki, Yoko (25 January 2015). "ISIS' Japanese hostages receive mixed sympathy at home". CNN. Tokyo: Cable News Network. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
- GMT (2015-02-07). "'Hate Is Not What Humans Should Do': Slain Journalist Kenji Goto's Words Live On Online · Global Voices". Globalvoices.org. Retrieved 2015-05-23.