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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2678

Freed Indian nurses from Iraq reach Kochi

From Gopal Ethiraj in Chennai
Chennai, 06 July, ( :

Forty-six nurses from Kerala, whose fate in strife-torn Iraq had kept the entire nation on tenterhooks for the past few days, and who were freed by Iraqi insurgents, arrived at Kochi on Saturday (July 5) to a grand welcome, ending days of tension and uncertainty.

As the special Air India flight from Erbil, capital of Iraq's Kurdistan region, landed at Kochi airport at noon the Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his cabinet colleagues, legislators, Lok Sabha members and state government officials received the nurses to a warm welcome, as also the nurses’ family members who were permitted to go inside the airport.

The anxious family members hugged and kissed their dear ones; some cried in happiness; some were hugging the toddlers and children, most of them the children of these nurses.

The nurses told the media at Kochi airport that they were very scared when they were taken away by the insurgents on July 12. They had been holed up in a hospital in the militant-controlled city of Tikrit for weeks against their will, since the Islamic State insurgents and other Sunni Muslim militant groups seized the towns and cities across Syria and Iraq in a lightning advance last month.

On Thursday, they were ordered to board buses and driven to the militant controlled city of Mosul, where they were held in a building overnight. Many nurses protested at Erbil airport, saying they won’t board the flight unless they were paid their four months’ salary arrears, because of debts back at home. But they had to give up as they were trapped and the fighting was growing more fierce.

The nurses said they had been well treated by their as yet unidentified captors. "They were good people because they did not misbehave with us. They provided for food, accommodation and whatever we wanted ," one nurse, who did not give her name, told a local television network. "They were saying you are Indian nurses and we are not targeting you people."

"I thank god for keeping my daughter safe in her hours of peril. She had gone to Iraq... to make our lives better," Retnamma, the mother of one nurse Monisha from Tamil Nadu (Tuticorin)."I can see her alive. For the last 25 days, we were praying for her safe return," Retnamma said as she joyfully welcomed her daughter.

Father of Neenu Jose (23) from Rajakaad in Idukki said, “I am grateful to God, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj”.Neenu’s mother said, “Today is my daughter’s birthday and the reunion is the best gift”.

The plane however landed in Mumbai first for refuelling and for loading food for the passengers. Nobody disembarked in Mumbai. A special immigration desk was set up for them at Kochi airport.

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said that at one point of time, he had lost all hope as the plane did not get permission to land in Erbil because of heavy wind. He thanked External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for all efforts made to bring back the nurses to India. Mr. Chandy attributed their safe return to "joint efforts" by India's foreign ministry, embassies and his state.

The chartered plane then flew to Hyderabad and finally to New Delhi to drop some 137 other Indian nationals who were in Iraq and returned, according to Air India officials.

- Asian Tribune -

Nurses are seen arriving at Kochchi
diconary view
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