From war-torn Iraq, Seeliya reaches to safety in Kasargod

From war-torn Iraq, Seeliya reaches to safety in Kasargod

From war-torn Iraq, Seeliya reaches to safety in Kasargod

“Yes, it’s been a rebirth,” smiles Seeliya George, one among the 46 Indian nurses who landed to safety of homeland on Saturday from the civil war-torn Iraq.

After a month-long ordeal of being stranded in the hospital in Tikrit, with death staring at them, the white dressed angels are back at home still unable to come to terms with reality that they are at the lap of dear ones.

Seeliya, the youngest of the three daughters of George- Leelamma couple of Perumbally, near Kallar in Kasargod said that they were never intimidated by the rebels of Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), who took control of the Iraqi government run teaching hospital in Tikrit, where Indian nurses were working.

“They provided us snacks and juice and allowed us to call back home. Their approach was gentle and polite. But the frequent sounds of bombings and gunfire in the streets put us on our toes,” Seeliya told Deccan Herald.

“It was in early June, the intensified civil war affected us as all the Iraqi staff left the hospital apprehending the advancement of ISIS in Tikrit. By June 12, ISIS gained control of the hospital and we had to retreat to the second floor of the hospital, where we stayed.” Seeliya recalled that a decisive moment came on last Thursday when the rebels asked them to move on.

“Though ISIS people told that the hospital would be destroyed at any moment, we knew nothing about their real intention. In the afternoon, we were forced to leave the hospital in two buses which headed towards Mosul. Within minutes, we boarded the bus, our hospital was exploded behind and an inferno was seen engulfing it,” Seeliya shared the horrific experience.

In Mosul, they were accommodated in a war ravaged building. They were then packed off to Elbit, which was under Iraqi military control and Indian officials were anxiously waiting there. The Air India flight flew from Elbit with the 137 stranded Indians at 4 am on Friday and landed at Kochi Airport at 11.45 am on the next day.

Looking back at the ordeal, Seeliya is certain about one thing, no going back to Iraq under any circumstances. George also nods to his daughter’s decision.

Future a big question

Like all other nurses, grim future is staring at Seeliya and family. Most of the nurses are from humble backgrounds and the repayment of education loan and debts is the reason that drove these young girls to a distant country, which is notorious for civil unrest.

Seeliya’s father, George, an agriculturist who migrated from South Kerala decades ago has pledged his land at Chullikkara agricultural co-operative bank for Rs 4.5 lakh to meet the education expense of Seeliya.  He had to pledge the land as an attempt to secure an education loan did not work out. A significant amount of the loan is still pending in the bank, says Seeliya.

After completing GNM nursing course from Kasargod, she worked at a private hospital in New Delhi for two years. She set-off to Iraq 10 months back through a recruiting agency in New Delhi on a one-year contract. “Though only two-month’s salary is due for me, a bunch of nurses who joined five months back did not get even a month’s salary. We did not get our experience certificate also,” she said.

Seeliya thanks the Central and state governments for their efforts in rescuing them from a war ravaged region and ending the trauma of family members back at home. She too pins hope in the words of Kerala Chief Minister Ommen Chandy that government would do whatever it can for the future of the evacuated nurses.

Already several hospitals in Kerala and abroad have come forward to absorb them.

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