JULIEN NEAVES and JOSHUA SURTEES
ROGER Waters, co-founder of one of the world’s biggest rock groups, Pink Floyd, has written to the TT government, urging it to help him bring young Trinidadian brothers Mahmud and Ayyub Ferreira back home from Syria.
In an extraordinary intervention, Waters said he has made it his new year’s resolution to return the two to their mother and is offering to fund their flights. In conversations with Reprieve, an NGO working to get the boys home safely, the rock star even offered to charter his own private jet from Geneva.
Pink Floyd, with Waters as its bassist, is perhaps best known for its 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon, the fourth highest-selling record of all time.
In June 2014, the boys were taken to Syria by their father, Abebe Oboi Ferreira, who joined ISIS. The father, now presumed dead, sent Mahmud and Ayyub fleeing to safety with his ISIS bride, who has Belgian nationality, but when she got to a checkpoint, she abandoned them because she feared their Afro-Trini descent would scupper her plan to pass herself off as Syrian to evade capture. The boys were picked up by the roadside and taken to Roj camp.
Mahmud, now 11, and Ayyub, seven, remain at the camp in northern Syria along with other children from various countries, including Britain, France and Germany. Time is running out for the camp’s occupants because, as Waters describes it, the US withdrawal from Syria leaves the Kurdish-run camp at the mercy of Turkish forces, poised to re-enter the territory.
BOYS' LIVES AT RISK
The boys' mother, Felicia Perkins-Ferreira, has said she is disturbed by the TT Government’s lack of response to the situation, saying it did not seem to care.
National Security Minister Stuart Young responded to suggestions he was dragging his feet on the urgent situation by saying: “The Government will abide by its process which is governed by national security and public interest. I am confident in our process. No more can be said at this stage.”
Clive Stafford Smith, founder of Reprieve, a human rights organisation providing legal and technical support, said he has been in touch with the government to try to get travel documents for the boys, but the administrative delays are putting the boys’ lives at risk.
Waters met with Stafford Smith recently in London and wrote in his letter, "It is bitterly cold in northern Syria right now…I have joined (Clive) in a New Year resolution to get them back to their mother as soon as possible…Felicia waits, desperate to fly to the region to escort her children home."
Waters appealed directly to the Prime Minister, who earlier told the UK Guardian that Trinidad “does not have the wherewithal” to bring home the families of dead ISIS members.
“Clive and I will do the work,” Waters wrote. “I will fund their flights. But Trinidad must give us travel documents to allow them to come home. It is depressing to read in these pages that the Government 'does not seem to care' about the two children. Certainly, the Government has hardly responded with alacrity to our request for passports."
WAR COULD RESUME
He said the would-be rescuers were "determined to make it work, but it is not going to be easy, in part because (Turkish President) Erdoğan promises a new invasion of Syria to 'eradicate' his enemies. Unfortunately, Erdogan wants to 'eradicate' the Kurds of north-east Syria.
"As we know, Syrian President Bashir Assad is no friend of democracy, and the (Kurdish democratic) project may soon be crushed between the rock of Turkey and the hard place of Assad. The Kurdish-Arabic Syrian Defence Forces will fight hard because their freedom is at stake – they have lost 8,000 soldiers (men and women) in the battle thus far. They may die in still larger numbers, if deserted by their Western allies, as they have no air force and both the Assad regime and the Turks can and probably will bomb them.
“Their dream will die, and so will many of those who previously fled ISIS – including Mahmud and his younger brother Ayyub. I am no lover of American interventionism in the Middle East but at least to date they have acted as a human shield for these Trinidadian kids and many others. This may soon come to an end."
Waters said the situation has put his holiday plans to spend January “in front of a blazing fire in the Swiss Alps” in perspective. “That warm fireplace in the Alps may well have to wait."
"I hope that the Trinidadian Government takes a similarly urgent approach. The passports need to be in London within a week," he warned, "or the boys may become statistics.”