We Are Like Prisoners, Say Stranded Kerala Nurses in Iraq to NDTV

We Are Like Prisoners, Say Stranded Kerala Nurses in Iraq to NDTV

Parents of one of the 46 Indian nurses stranded in Iraq

Tikrit/Pudupally:  From a state-run hospital in Tikrit in Iraq, Marina Jose, relays the predicament of 45 other nurses like her from Kerala. "We are literally prisoners within the hospital premises. There are no Iraqi employees here. Day before yesterday, the Red Cross came here and recharged our SIM cards," Marina said to NDTV on the phone, explaining how tough it is to contact families in Kerala. "We are afraid because we have no security here. All the military, police, everybody escaped from here. Only we are here," she said.

Tikrit fell recently to the Sunni insurgents who are waging war against the Iraqi government.

"We called the Red Cross," she said. "They said they'll check what is the situation. If it is safe they can take us from here. Otherwise we have to stay here," Marina said.

The nurses with Marina say they took expensive loans to finance their move to Iraq and have not been paid for several months. They can't afford to leave the country, they say. Instead, some want to be moved to hospitals in safer areas.

"We don't know where the old management is. They all escaped from here. And the new management says they don't know about our previous contracts and the responsibility lies with the old management," Marina said.

In Kerala, Marina's father PA Jose, his wife Marriamma, and their grand-daughter Raya, gather around the Bible in their living room in Kottayam and pray silently for 10 minutes.

Marina Jose, their daughter, is one of the 46 nurses stranded in Tikrit.

Six-year-old Raya spoke briefly to her mother on the phone last night. But she doesn't know that before that, Marina broke down while talking to her parents as they talked about how and whether she will be able to return to their home.

The Kerala government says it first received an SOS call from the nurses in Iraq on Friday. (Read) "The Chief Minister has been talking to the girls personally... we are hoping for a stronger response from the central government," Mr Jose said.

The Ministry of External Affairs says its officials in Iraq are providing updates on Indian citizens every hour and that all efforts are being made to help Indians.

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