Nofa Zaghla [left] is reunited with her 12-year-old son Emad Mishko at Winnipeg's James Armstrong Richardson International Airport August 17, 2017. Photo David Lipnowski/ The Canadian Press
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Emad Mishko Tamo, a 12-year-old Yezidi boy has been reunited with his family in Canada on Thursday after being rescued from ISIS three years following his abduction.
"Thank you, Canada, thank you Steve Maman,” Emad told Canada’s CBC News through a translator mentioning one of his advocates, Steve Mamam, with the Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq (CYCI) organization.
"I'm happy, I'm very thankful for anyone that had any part in me reuniting with my mom," he continued.
Emad [right] stands next to his mother as he holds a banner thanking Steve Maman who campaigned for his reunion. Maman shared this photo and briefly wrote on his Facebook page that "I wasn't prepared for this. Holding back tears!!!".
Emad’s mother, Nofa Zaghla wept as she received her son at the airport in front of dozens of supporters and reporters early Thursday morning.
“I am very happy and very thankful to God that he got here safely and soundly,” said his mother through a translator.
Dozens of people came to the airport to receive Emad as he reunited with his family for the first time since he was abducted abut three years ago. Photo: Yazidi Association of Manitoba
Zaghla had been under ISIS captivity for two years before she was able to escape following an explosion caused by an airstrike. She then lived for a year in a displaced camp in the Kurdistan Region before leaving to Canada several months ago.
Iraqi security forces rescued Emad in July after the liberation of Mosul from ISIS, and then shared his picture on social media believing that it would help in tracking down his family.
Emad’s uncle, living at a displaced camp in the Kurdistan Region, saw the photo on social media and then called his mother who was living in Canada with four of her six children.
Iraqi security forces shared this photo of Emad after he was rescued in Mosul, hoping his family will recognize him. He was first taken to a displaced camp in the Kurdistan Region and then received treatment for injuries he had sustained.
Global News quoted her as saying that her younger children were able to stay with her during captivity, but that she had lost track of her two older sons and husband early on as they were separated.
She feared that Emad was dead judging by what ISIS had done to so many Yezidis since August 2014 when they initiated genocide against the religious community.
It seems the Canadian authorities has made an exception to make this renuion happen earlier than it normally takes.
"Normally this kind of a case, we call a one-year window process, it takes about a year for the family to get reunited depending on the cases,” Boris Ntambwe, the family’s case worker in Winnepeg said. “But this particular case was processed within a month.”
The Yazidi Association of Manitoba, in partnership with the Kurdish Initiative for Refugees, Winnipeg Friends of Israel and the Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq (CYCI), launched an advocacy and fundraising campaign to help reunite Emad with his family in July.
Soon after, immigration officials advised the advocacy groups that Emad’s case, along with all other Yezidi immigration cases, were being expedited.
CYCI founder, Maman said that the reunion was made possible by “the power of many.”
Canada has made it a priority to allow 1,200 Yezidi refugees and survivors of ISIS to be resettled in Canada by the end of this year.
Jean-Nicolas Beuze, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees representative in Canada commended the country’s work on providing a safe haven for resettlement of refugees and for families to be reunited.
He happened to be in Winnipeg on other business and came to the airport to join in on the welcome when he heard Emad would be reunited with his family.
"As the UN refugee agency, we're very grateful to Canada because it's very important that we keep the family unity, whether it be for this Yazidi family or many other families around the world," Beuze said.
Emad’s mother Zaghla still does not know if her husband and other son are alive.