Triumph of Hope: 46 Indian nurses freed in Iraq, to return home

iraq-nurses-updateIn a triumph of hope over despair, the long ordeal of the 46 nurses stranded in the violence-torn Iraq has finally ended. The nurses have been freed from the clutches of Sunni militants in the oil-rich Gulf state, and are expected to return home July 5.

“I can confirm to you that nurses were freed,” Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson of India’s external affairs ministry, told reporters in Delhi July 4.

The release of Indian nurses has brought a sigh of relief to India’s foreign office and various government agencies which have been working tirelessly to release all the 85 nationals trapped in the conflict zone in Iraq. “It’s been a day of dramatic developments. We were full of endless hope. And it is hope that has triumphed,” said the spokesperson, who looked visibly relieved, and exhorted the media to have faith and patience as the Indian government rescues all Indians from the war-torn Iraq, which has rapidly descended into a spiral of violence and anarchy.

“The release came after multifarious diplomatic initiatives, and 24×7 efforts by various Indian agencies.” There are a lot of efforts that have gone into it. It’s a national endeavour. External Affairs Minister (Sushma Swaraj) has been working 24×7 for it,” said the spokesperson.

The nurses were held up in the Tikrit Teaching Hospital till July 2, and subsequently moved to Mosul by Sunni militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.  They will be handed over to the Indian officials at the Erbil checkpoint, and will be flying back to India on July 5.

A special Air India flight has already taken off to bring the nurses back from Erbil to Kochi. A state official from Kerala and another one from the Central government will accompany the aircraft.

Earlier, the International Red Cross confirmed that all the 46 Indian nurses had been freed by the Sunni militant group The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Some nurses had also called up their families in India to tell the news of their release. Even though they were in captivity, the nurses were in touch with their family, Indian officials, and the media.

The release of nurses has come as a major victory for the diplomatic efforts of the Indian government. Indian officials have been working relentlessly to evacuate Indians from Iraq ever since a violent insurgency broke out in northern and western Iraq.

On July 3, Mrs Sushma Swaraj called up ministers of  many Gulf countries and sought their assistance in ensuring the safety of the captive Indian nationals. Another group of 39 Indian workers, held hostage by the ISIS in Mosul continue to remain in captivity.

With the nurses being freed, the government is set to deploy all tools of diplomacy to bring the 39 Indians held captive in Mosul. “These 46 nurse have been extricated from the zone of conflict but there remain several others. We are working on those. Resources that are freed are being pushed in those efforts. No stones will be unturned to get back our national from an extremely difficult situation,” said the spokesperson.

The success in freeing nurses, the spokesperson stressed, will spur the government to “redouble our efforts for those still in captivity, and we can confirm they are still in captivity.”  “The government is doing all it can. In situations like these, conventional tools of diplomacy no longer exist,” he said.


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