The NY Times reports:
For months, employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross have made weekly visits to a detention camp in northern Syria bearing a photograph of a petite woman in her early 60s.
They show the image to camp officials, comparing it with pictures of tens of thousands of other people in the camp’s database. All of them are escapees from the Islamic State’s last stretch of territory, which fellto American-backed forces last month.
The woman in the photo is Louisa Akavi, 62, a New Zealand nurse and midwife who was abducted in late 2013 in the northwest Syrian city of Idlib. She is one of the last links to the group of at least 23 Western hostages held by ISIS, a majority of whom were released for ransom while others were killed in widely publicized beheadings.
For more than five years, her employer and her government imposed an especially strict media blackout, warning that any mention not only of her identity, but even of her nationality, could endanger her. But now that ISIS’ caliphate has collapsed, the aid group has broken its silence in hopes that the public can help find her and two Red Cross drivers, both Syrians, kidnapped alongside her.
I know Louisa slightly – one of the nicest kindest people around. I worked in the 1990s for the head office of the NZ Red Cross. The absolute highlight of working there was meeting the delegates when they returned home, who had worked overseas in war zones and disaster areas. They did amazing things and make a huge difference helping those most in need. Nurses would save lives, sanitation engineers would provide safe drinking water to tens of thousands etc.
The delegates would live in rough conditions, often in risky areas, and for very modest pay. They did it because they were motivated to make a difference. Louisa was the recipient of the rare and prestigious Florence Nightingale award for her exceptional courage and devotion to victims.
The Red Cross is strictly neutral in all armed conflicts and most warring parties will never deliberately harm someone who is under the red cross (or red crescent). But the barbarians of ISIS are the sad exceptions.
Hopefully someone out there has some information on where Louisa is, or what has happened to her. Thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues who have had to endure her absence for the last five and a half years.