Captors were good at heart and made us feel safe, say nurses

Life at the Teaching Hospital in Tikrit, Iraq’s region battered in the raging civil war, had been sequestered, with the nurses never being allowed to leave its premises in the last ten months, says Vincy Sebastian, one of the 46 Indian nurses evacuated from Iraq on Saturday.

“Everything was provided for in-house, but things took an ugly turn since June 12 when the civil war intensified, forcing all Iraqi staff to leave. Our duty hours suddenly became infrequent and we mostly stayed back on the second floor accommodation of the hospital as sound of gunfire and blast rang out in the streets,” she recounts.

Gradually, they sensed the presence of the rebel ISIS in the hospital building. “But they never crossed our path till last Tuesday or Wednesday when they asked us to move out, as the building was to be bombed. Officials at the Embassy, when told about the directive, were apprehensive and suggested that we stay put. However, around 12 p.m. [local time] on Thursday, they forced us all out and put Bangladeshi and Indian nurses in two separate buses. Blasts occurred in the hospital building as we were boarding the bus and some of us sustained minor pellet injuries.”

Ms. Sebastian vouches for the conscience and care of the rebels, two of whom were with the Indian nurses on the bus to Mosul. “They were good at heart. They put us at ease, allowed us to make calls to folks at home, gave us whatever refreshments like biscuits and cake they could fetch and were in fact, escorting us to safety. A few days before this, they had shifted us into a cellar overnight for our safety, asking gently if we had food. They also gave us water.”

Before the seven-hour-long journey from Tikrit to Mosul, a rebel stronghold, they asked us to put our phones in silent mode and we were given refreshments, says Sona Joseph, another nurse.

“Though we stayed in the same building for a few days, they never even looked at us straight on our face. They were gentle and kind,” she says. What gave us the jitters was the sight of guns and grenades.

Further, they were painfully silent, which was unnerving. At the border between Mosul and Elbit, from where we boarded the plane, we were lodged in a hall for a few hours. As the embassy officials couldn’t come to Mosul and the rebels were at a loss to enter Elbit, under Iraqi military, they made arrangements for us to travel to Elbit, where we finally met officials from the embassy, says Ms. Joseph.

It was a journey fraught with risk and we have decided never to return to that place, they say.


200 more Indian nationals return from IraqJuly 6, 2014

Iraq returnee recalls ordeal at worksiteJuly 8, 2014

Welcome homecomingJuly 7, 2014

UAE-based Indian businessman offers jobs to 46 Indian nursesJuly 6, 2014

Kerala banks to help nurses returning from Iraq, LibyaNovember 5, 2014

Emotional reunions as nurses return July 6, 2014

List of nurses back from IraqJuly 5, 2014

Air evacuation from Iraq costs govt Rs. 1.2 croreJuly 5, 2014

Nurses reach KochiJuly 5, 2014

Oommen Chandy rejects allegations of complacency on the part of Indian embassy in IraqJuly 5, 2014

An unexpected homecoming for NithyamolJuly 5, 2014

Neenu returns home to celebrate her most memorable birthdayJuly 5, 2014

Twin pleasure for anxious parentJuly 5, 2014

Special Air India plane carrying Indian nurses lands in Mumbai, to reach Kochi by noonJuly 5, 2014

Special plane carrying Indian nurses from Iraq to reach Mumbai at 9.30 a.m.July 5, 2014

Militants treated us well, provided food, says a nurse from KeralaJuly 5, 2014

Nurses safe, homeward boundJuly 5, 2014

Special plane sent to bring back nursesJuly 5, 2014

ISIS forces Indian nurses out of Tikrit July 4, 2014

Militants gave them only 10 minutes, say parentsJuly 4, 2014

Nurses trapped in Tikrit beg for helpJuly 1, 2014

Centre finalises two-phase plan to evacuate Indians from IraqJuly 3, 2014

‘Indian nurses in delicate situation’July 2, 2014

Indian nurses being freed, set to return: Chandy July 4, 2014

Stranded Indian nurses to be airlifted from Erbil by Friday nightJuly 4, 2014

BJP lauds government in bringing back Indians from Iraq July 5, 2014

Nurses vow not to go back to IraqJuly 5, 2014

Bring back kidnapped Indians from Mosul: AmarinderJuly 5, 2014

More In: Kerala | National | News