Roger Waters rescued two kidnapped Syrian boys using a private jet

music news 25/01/2019

Roger Waters has explained how he played a role in a rescue mission of two boys who had been kidnapped from Trinidad and abandoned by the roadside in Syria, a country that currently holds the title of the most violent nation in the world.

The ex-Pink Floyd leader had funded flights and hotel accommodation after failing to persuade governments to assist him. Waters flew the boys' mother from the Caribbean to the Iraqi border with Syria, where she crossed with a British human rights lawyer.

The mother, Felicia Perkins-Ferreira, had not seen her two sons, Ayyub (7) and Mahmud (11) since their father, an Islamic State fighter, kidnapped them to Syria in 2014.  The only form of contact she had with them was intermittent.

The father was thought to have died during a fight and the boys ended up in the care of his new Belgian wife. Since the new wife had a low probability of escaping the country as long as she had young children with her, she left them behind and found herself in a refugee camp called Camp Roj.

Via an activist charity, Reprieve, Ayyub and Mahmud were rescued and reunited with their mother. Waters played a role in this situation after a Reprieve lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith told him about it. 

Felicia Perkins-Ferreira had not seen her sons since they were taken in 2014 \\ CREDIT: AFP

“The stepmother, who is a white Belgian, they were told that only the white people could pass the Syrians, so these little children get left on the side of the road,” Stafford Smith explains to Channel 4 News. “Roger paid for a bunch of this stuff. He didn’t just do that, he came with us, and I have to say I have great gratitude to Roger, also a bunch of other people. We made a good team, beating up on people who didn’t want to get it done.”

Water chimes in to say, “I’ve known Clive for a number of years and I’ve followed his human rights work pretty closely." He adds that he had been involved with Reprieve in the past. "By chance, I was passing through London at the end a tour, and I’d been meaning to look him up. … We had some lunch and he told me about the predicament of Mahmud and Ayyub and Felicia, and it moved me deeply. And so I said, ‘I wanna help – is there anything I can do?’”

Waters had written to the government of Trinidad and Tobago, an op-ed article for Trinidad and Tobago Newsday which were also sent to British authorities. Alas, he says he had received no responses from any officials.

It was deeply, deeply moving.

With some complications, Waters was unable to travel to Syria with the rescue party. “Clive and the others went across the Tigris and went to the camp and got the boys. It took hours and hours and hours and hours, much longer than you would imagine to get them back and through all the police checkpoints and whatever. But when I heard they were on the road, I was entirely overcome and treated myself to a glass to cheap white wine. They got back around midnight, and to see those beautiful children and Felicia."

Perkins-Ferreira told Guardian that it was the first time she slept properly in four years. “I often wouldn’t eat for days, thinking, ‘If they’re not eating, why should I?’… I’m really, really grateful and I wish I could meet [all the people who helped] all in one and embrace them,” she explains.