The Trinidadians who the Human Rights Watchgroup discovered in an Iraqi detention camp last month comprised a family of two sisters and their children, plus their mother and father, according to HRW’s Bill Van Esveld.
Van Esveld confirmed this following queries by T&T Guardian yesterday. Van Esveld is the author of HRW’s September report on the discovery of the Trinidadians and other nationalities at an Iraqi detention site. He is a children’s rights researcher at HRW who worked in the Middle East for almost 10 years and with entities including the UN General Assembly.
During Budget debate on Tuesday, United National Congress MP Rodney Charles alluded to HRW’s report, which stated Iraqi authorities are holding more than 1,400 foreign women and their children after they surrendered with Islamic State (Isis) fighters in late August.
Over September 10 and 11, Van Esveld visited the detention site – located south of Mosul – and interviewed 27 foreign women, including the Trinidadians.
“They didn’t want to tell me their names or ages. But there were two adult sisters, one of whom had one young child. The other (sister) had three young children – and was pregnant- and there was the sisters’ mother,” Van Esveld said.
“Their father, who they said was age 53, was with them when they surrendered to Kurdish Peshmerga forces north of Tal Afar in late August.”
Van Esveld said he was told the father was separated from the women.
“They don’t know what happened to him,” he added.
Van Esveld said the sisters told him they had lived in Mosul for “close to two years” before fleeing to Tal Afar on February 28.
Van Esveld said that group wasn’t aware of any other Trinidadian nationals in detention. He said all detainees were transferred by Iraqi authorities to another site north of Mosul.
Yesterday, attorney Nafeesa Mohammed called on Government to look at the HRW report.
“Government should verify information – via T&T’s UN mission perhaps and if necessary, examine cases on merit or profiling, the circumstances of people’s presence there and engage dialogue. If they’re nationals, they can’t simply be rendered stateless.