Freedom, at last

Freedom, at last

Kochi: Freedom, At Last for Forty-Six Nurses, Forty-six nurses, who were held captive by ISIS (Islamic State for Iraq and Syria) militants in Iraq, on Saturday returned home by a special Air India flight to a happy reunion with their families here, bringing to an end their about month-long ordeal.

  • Nurses return home, joy erupts among family members
  • Freed nurses don't want to call ISIS militants abductors
  • There is no question of going back, say most of nurses
  • Our safe journey back home is a re-birth for us, say twins
  • Raj families claim dear ones drinking toilet water to survive
  • Intensify efforts for release of Punjabi youths: Amarinder

Kochi: Forty-six nurses, who were held captive by ISIS (Islamic State for Iraq and Syria) militants in Iraq, on Saturday returned home by a special Air India flight to a happy reunion with their families here, bringing to an end their about month-long ordeal.
Kerala nurse (centre) walks with a baggage trolley at Kochi Airport. Photo: Thehansindia E-Paper
The special aircraft, which also had on board about 137 others, touched down the tarmac at the Kochi International Airport at 11.57 am, a senior airport official said.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy whose coordinated effort with the Union Government that ensured liberty to nurses from his state besides another who hails from Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu received them at the airport.

Family members of nurses, on whose face a sigh of relief was writ large had assembled in large numbers to see their beloved ones return and were joined by political leaders from BJP and Congress at the airport.

The Indian nurses, who were abducted by ISIS, have only good things to say about the "bearded boys" after a three-week-long captivity. The 46 nurses, who were working at a hospital in Iraq's former ruler Saddam Some of them said they don't feel like calling them abductors because they actually protected them in the strife-torn country.

"Our apprehension really forced us to hate them. But later we found in such a lawless situation they were protecting us. At their mercy, they could have done anything to us but they never misbehaved or taunted any of us," said NS Shruti, one of the freed nurses who belongs to the outskirts of port city of Kochi. Though polite initially, they changed their tone later.

"It seems they were under tremendous pressure to protect us. Since they also a feared an attack from government forces they were under terrible pressure," she said.

"We will not go back. There is no question of going back. We are not prepared to endanger our lives once again", said Sandra Sebastian. Sandra, hailing from neighbouring Kottayam district, said she had gone to Iraq on August 16 last year. Since the past four months she along with other nurses have not received salaries from the Government Tikrit Training Hospital where they were working.

"They told us that you are all our sisters. You would not be harmed. But we did not believe them", Sandra said, adding, some armed doctors also travelled with them during the seven hours journey from Tikrit to Mosul.

"They were given food and bed to sleep on," Neenu said. Suni Mol Chacko from Kannur said "they cannot be called terrorists. They are part of the local government".
Sona and Veena, twins who returned along with the other nurses, said the sound of shootouts and bomb explosions used to give them sleepless nights and they were scared about their future. They said their safe journey home is a re-birth for them.

In Rajasthan, the families of the stranded claim their loved ones do not have food or drinking water. To survive, they are forced to drink bathroom water. At least 5,000 people from Jhunjhunu, Sikar and Churu, are stranded in Iraq Senior Congress leader Amarinder Singh appealed to the Centre to intensify efforts for the release of about 40 youths from the state held captive by militants in violence-ravaged Iraq.

Meanwhile, UAE-based Indian businessman BR Shetty has offered the 46 nurses from Kerala, freed by insurgents in Iraq jobs in hospitals he owns across the Gulf country, Nepal, Bhutan and India.

600 Indians to come back by tomorrow

New Delhi: Nearly 600 Indian nationals will come back from conflict-hit Iraq over the next two days of whom 200 will return by an Iraqi Airways special chartered flight from Najaf to Delhi on Saturday night, External Affairs Ministry said. "The return of Indians from Iraq has gathered pace," the Spokesperson in External Affairs Minister said, adding apart from 200 Indian nationals, another 400 Indian nationals would be returning to various destinations in India through commercial flights by Monday.
"It is estimated that about 1,200 would have returned to India at government cost by Monday," the Spokesperson said.

In addition, the Indian Mission in Baghdad has been able to persuade Iraqi companies to send back approximately 600 other Indian nationals. "Our Mission in Baghdad is also separately processing papers of approximately 400 other persons who are in some major companies. Once these are processed, the total number of Indians who would have returned to India in the last fortnight would be about 2200," he said.

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