The families of Peshmerga captives speak to Rudaw just hours after the release of Saed Ahmed Omar on Saturday, after two months in ISIS captivity.
KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region - Just hours after the news of the release of a Peshmerga captive from ISIS the families of a number of Peshmerga soldiers still held by ISIS since early 2015 staged a protest in Kirkuk on Sunday and called on the Kurdish government and military leaders to work for the release of their loved ones whose fate still remains unknown.
"We are happy that Saed Ahmed has returned," said the father of Mariwan, a Peshmerga taken prisoner by ISIS in January 2015. "He is a brave Peshmerga. Actually, when we heard this news each family of the 17 Peshmerga captives felt as if it was our sons freed. For me it feels as if Mariwan has returned."
Saed Ahmed Omar came home on Saturday after two months in ISIS captivity. Anti-terrorism forces in Kirkuk claimed that he was released in a raid that targeted ISIS positions south of Kirkuk. The claim has not been independently verified in light of reports on social media that Omar was released in a prisoner exchange.
He was captured in May near Tuz Khurmatu.
"We are upset because no efforts were made to help return our sons, too." Mariwan's father said.
He added they had sat down with tribal leaders south of Kirkuk several times to secure the freedom of their sons but to no avail.
"They were barbarically paraded in cages in Hawija streets and were humiliated a lot which hurt us a lot," lamented the father of captive Mariwan.
In March 2015, ISIS released a video showing 17 Peshmerga in orange jumpsuits inside a cage on public display in Hawija.
The video sparked outrage from the families of the Peshmerga.
A Peshmerga official told Rudaw then that they had tried to arrange a prisoner exchange with ISIS, but nothing had come of their efforts.
"My message to the government is to stop playing with us. Please, enough. We are destroyed," said the father of Aso, also taken hostage by ISIS in the January 2015 attack.
"I feel like it is my son Aso has been freed. I am happily crying from my heart... We do not want anything in life," he lamented.
Sixty-three Peshmerga have either gone missing in action or were captured by the ISIS militants since 2014, President Masoud Barzani told European lawmakers during his recent visit to Brussels.
Barzani added that in offensives to push back ISIS from the borders of the Kurdistan Region and later liberate all occupied areas the Peshmerga have lost 1,745 soldiers and sustained 10,069 injuries.