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Why ISIS doesn't want Indians to leave Iraq

July 04, 2014 13:43 IST

Why ISIS doesn't want Indians to leave Iraq

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Vicky Nanjappa

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which has declared the formation of a caliphate, realises it will need the help of migrant workers and professionals to run the nation and is thus forcing the Indian nationals to stay back, reports Vicky Nanjappa.

At first the Islamic State -- formerly known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria -- which declared the formation of a ‘caliphate’ after taking over swathes of land in both the countries -- abducted over 30 Indian construction workers, and on Thursday 46 nurses primarily hailing from Kerala stranded at a hospital in Tikrit were taken away reportedly to Mosul.

The question is, what does the ISIS really want and why is it targeting Indians?

While the ISIS engages in a bloody battle in Iraq trying to upstage the existing government led by Nouri al-Maliki, it wants to take complete control over the oil-rich country with deep ethnic divides. Its goal is to govern across Iraq and create a larger Islamic state.

And for that the ISIS realises it will need the contribution of professionals and workers to run the new state. So the outfit, which has snapped ties with the Al Qaeda, is forcing the migrant workers, who came to Iraq from across the world to earn their living, to stay back.

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Image: The parents of a construction worker stranded in Iraq show their son's photo, in Amritsar.
Photographs: Munish Sharma/Reuters

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'ISIS wants to hold on to as many workers as possible'

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With various governments making an attempt to bring back their nationals from the conflict-hit country, the ISIS apprehends that these migrants may not return to Iraq, sources point out.

A recent audio recording, which reportedly contains the voice of ISIS supreme commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, makes a call for skilled labourers, professionals, military personnel, medical staff and persons with managerial skills to flock to Iraq in large numbers and be part of the Islamic state. The audio recording further calls for judges and engineers to come to Iraq.

Officials in the Indian government say they are confident that the ISIS will not harm the Indians.

“The ISIS is well aware that India produces the most skilled nurses and construction labourers and any move to harm them will scare them away and they may never want to return to Iraq. The ISIS at the moment is in takeover mode and they believe that once things settle down and they capture as much territory as possible, they will need to govern and for this they need people from all walks of life. Hence it is an attempt to hold on to as many workers as possible and ensure that they do not leave the country since their return is not guaranteed after that,” an intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.

Most government and intelligence officials whom Rediff.com contacted were of the firm opinion that the ISIS will not harm Indian nationals.

“At the moment their battle is within Iraq and they want no interference from other countries. Harming Indian nationals will only up the ante against them and this would prove to be the end before their battle even completes in Iraq and they are able to establish their so called caliphate,” another official said.

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Image: ISIS fighters celebrate on vehicles seized from Iraqi security after taking over Mosul.
Photographs: Reuters

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Half of stranded Indian nurses want to stay back in Iraq

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Meanwhile, the Indian government has its own share of problems in this issue. Some family members of the Indians who have returned from Iraq have been quick to blame the government for the delay.

A relative of a nurse who was taken away by the ISIS has even asked if the government is waiting to send coffins to Iraq.

Out of the 46 nurses there, only half are willing to return to India while the rest want to stay back and find employment in more peaceful areas in Iraq. This despite the government assuring them that their problems would be addressed.

However, these nurses feel that they would not be able to earn $1000 (around Rs 50,000) a month in any other country and hence they’ll prefer to take the risk rather than returning to India.

The fact that just three days back nine nurses left for Iraq after their leave ended is a clear sign that they want to be there and earn their livelihood no matter what the situation is.


Image: Iraqi security forces engage in a gun battle with ISIS fighters in Tikrit.
Photographs: Reuters
Tags: Iraq , ISIS , India

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