Indian nurses were promised wages by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) fighters, which the Iraqi authorities failed to pay on time, according to the Times of India newspaper.
Hours after sending an SOS to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure their safe return to India, 46 nurses originally from Kerala trapped in a hospital in the northern city of Tikrit said they had agreed to continue to work after ISIS assured them they would be paid their salaries and outstanding wages.
A nurse said the jihadis were “courteous” after they took control of Tikrit Teaching Hospital last Wednesday evening. The nurses have been on razor’s edge since ISIS fighters took control of Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussain.
ISIS is considered a terrorist group by many nations and has eve been deemed “too extreme” and “deviant” by fellow jihadis.
Nurse Jency James said: “For the moment we’re safe in the hospital. We hear gunfire but don’t know what’s going on.”
She said the rebels had asked the nurses not to venture out of the hospital. “Though we have basic necessities, we’re concerned about our safety. The bombing has cut off our internet connections and we don’t know how long our phones will work,” she added.
Ms. James said that 15 of the 46 nurses had not been paid for four months and were finding it difficult to survive. She described how many nurses including her had borrowed money and paid an agent Rs 1.60 lakh for a job with a salary of Rs 45,000 per month. “I have to pay back the loan. I don’t know what I’m going to do…It’s like being caught in a death trap,” she said.
Another nurse, Sumi Jose, who worked with Tikrit Teaching Hospital, said: “We hear sounds of shooting and bombing outside the hospital. We are safe, for now. We have contacted the Indian ambassador in Iraq and the CM of Kerala. But there has been no action so far.”
Red Cross officials however have told the nurses that it is not safe to travel to the airport.
India’s special envoy Suresh Reddy arrived in Baghdad last Wednesday and started talks with the Iraqi government and rebels to secure the release of 40 Indian construction workers ISIS fighters captured in Mosul on June 9.
Indian diplomats are also trying to bring home other foreign workers stranded in Iraq.
The Sunni-led insurgency against the government of Nouri al-Maliki is currently ongoing, with rebel fighters now controlling Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul.